Mississippi Law School 1L Study Guide for Civil Procedure
I. Introduction to Civil Procedure
Civil procedure is the body of law that sets out the rules and standards that courts follow when adjudicating civil lawsuits (as opposed to criminal proceedings). This includes everything from the pre-trial stages to the trial itself and the potential appeals that might follow.
A. Subject Matter Jurisdiction
– The authority of a court to hear cases of a particular type or cases relating to a specific subject matter.
– Federal Question Jurisdiction: cases involving federal law (28 U.S.C. § 1331).
– Diversity Jurisdiction: cases between citizens of different states where the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000 (28 U.S.C. § 1332).
B. Personal Jurisdiction
– The authority of a court to make decisions regarding the legal obligations of persons involved in a civil case.
– International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310 (1945): Established the “minimum contacts” standard for determining personal jurisdiction.
– Issue: Whether the state of Washington had jurisdiction over a non-resident corporation.
– Rule: The “minimum contacts” standard requires that a defendant have certain minimum contacts with the state in which the court sits, such that the maintenance of the lawsuit does not offend traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.
– Application: International Shoe had salesmen in Washington and benefited from the state’s market, thus had minimum contacts.
– Conclusion: The Supreme Court found that the state had personal jurisdiction over International Shoe.
– The proper or most convenient location for trial of a case.
– Determined by statutes (28 U.S.C. §§ 1391-1392), generally based on where the parties live or where the events giving rise to the suit occurred.
– The initial document a plaintiff files with the Clerk of Court to initiate a lawsuit, stating the facts and legal claims against the defendant(s).
– The defendant’s written response to a plaintiff’s initial court filing (complaint).
– Includes defenses and counterclaims against the plaintiff.
C. Motion to Dismiss
– A request by the defendant to dismiss the case before it proceeds to trial based on specific grounds such as lack of jurisdiction or failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted (Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)).
IV. Pretrial Procedures
– The process through which parties gather information from each other to prepare for trial.
– Includes depositions, interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and requests for admissions.
B. Summary Judgment
– A request for the court to grant judgment without a trial because there are no disputed material facts and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law (Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56).
– Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986): Clarified the standards for summary judgment.
– Issue: Whether summary judgment is appropriate when the party moving for summary judgment does not have the burden of proof at trial.
– Rule: The moving party can obtain summary judgment by showing that there is an absence of evidence to support the non-moving party’s case.
– Application: Celotex did not need to provide evidence to negate the claim but simply point out a lack of evidence on the part of the non-moving party.
– Conclusion: The Court held that summary judgment was appropriate.
A. Jury Selection (Voir Dire)
– The process of questioning potential jurors to determine their suitability for serving on the jury.
B. Burden of Proof
– The obligation to prove one’s assertion. In civil cases, it is typically by a preponderance of the evidence.
– The presentation of evidence to prove a party’s case, including witness testimony, physical evidence, and documents.
VI. Post-Trial Motions
A. Motion for a New Trial
– A request for a new trial on the basis of errors of law made by the court, juror misconduct, new evidence, or other reasons that prevented a fair and just trial.
– The process of seeking a higher court’s review of a lower court’s decision.
VII. Enforcement of Judgments
– Once a judgment is obtained, the winning party can enforce the judgment through various means, such as garnishment or writs of execution.
VIII. Res Judicata and Collateral Estoppel
– Doctrines preventing re-litigation of claims or issues that have already been decided in a prior action.
IX. Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
– The rules governing the conduct of all civil suits brought in federal district courts.
X. Mississippi-Specific Rules and Procedures
– Mississippi Rules of Civil Procedure govern the conduct of civil suits in Mississippi state courts.
– Notable differences from federal rules may include specific time frames for procedures, state-specific forms and filings, and local customs that govern the practice of law in Mississippi.
For a comprehensive study guide, it is crucial to delve deeper into each of these topics, understanding the particular nuances and legal standards applied. Students should also review the Mississippi-specific statutes and case law that may alter or affect the general principles of civil procedure as understood on the federal level.