Montana Law School 1L Study Guide for Civil Procedure

Montana Law School 1L Study Guide for Civil Procedure

Civil procedure is the body of law that sets out the rules and standards courts follow when adjudicating civil lawsuits. This study guide focuses on the key concepts, facts, and case law, including those specific to Montana, that you will need to understand for your 1L civil procedure class.

Jurisdiction and Venue

  • Personal Jurisdiction: The authority of a court to hear a case involving a particular defendant. Look for cases like International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310 (1945), which established the “minimum contacts” standard for determining personal jurisdiction.

  • Subject Matter Jurisdiction: The authority of a court to hear cases of a particular type. Montana-Dakota Utilities Co. v. Northwestern Public Service Co., 341 U.S. 246 (1951), is a key case that discusses this concept.

  • Venue: Refers to the most appropriate location for a trial. Montana law, specifically MCA § 25-2-201, governs venue within the state.

  • Removal and Remand: Discuss the process of transferring cases from state to federal court and vice versa. Relevant statutes include 28 U.S.C. §§ 1441-1453.

Pleading and Practice

  • Complaints and Answers: The initial pleadings in a case. The complaint outlines the plaintiff’s claims, while the answer responds to those claims. Montana Rules of Civil Procedure (MRCP), Rule 8, details the requirements for claims and defenses.

  • Rule 12 Motions: Pretrial motions that can be used to challenge jurisdiction, venue, and the sufficiency of the complaint. Key motions include the Motion to Dismiss and Motion for More Definite Statement.


  • Scope and Limits: Discovery allows parties to obtain evidence from each other. The scope is governed by MRCP Rule 26, which also sets forth the limits to prevent abuses of discovery.

  • E-Discovery: The process of collecting, preparing, reviewing, and producing electronically stored information (ESI). Major case law includes Zubulake v. UBS Warburg, 217 F.R.D. 309 (S.D.N.Y. 2003) on spoliation of evidence.

Pretrial Procedures

  • Summary Judgment: A procedural device used to dispose of a case without a trial when there are no genuine issues of material fact. MRCP Rule 56 outlines the standard for summary judgment. The landmark case is Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317 (1986).

  • Default Judgments: Entered when a party fails to respond to a pleading, governed by MRCP Rule 55.


  • Jury Selection: Voir dire and the process of selecting an impartial jury. Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986), addresses challenges to jury selection based on racial discrimination.

  • Conduct of the Trial: Procedures and rules governing the trial process, including the presentation of evidence and witness examination.


  • Motions for a New Trial or to Alter or Amend Judgment: Post-trial motions are covered by MRCP Rule 59.

  • Appeals: The process for reviewing trial court decisions by a higher court. Montana appellate procedure is governed by the Montana Rules of Appellate Procedure.

Res Judicata and Collateral Estoppel

  • Res Judicata (Claim Preclusion): Prevents re-litigation of the same claim between the same parties once a final judgment has been rendered. Montana follows traditional principles of res judicata, similar to those discussed in Federated Department Stores, Inc. v. Moitie, 452 U.S. 394 (1981).

  • Collateral Estoppel (Issue Preclusion): Bars re-litigation of issues that have been conclusively determined in a previous action. The Montana Supreme Court has addressed issue preclusion in cases like Loney v. Milodragovich, Dale & Dye, P.C., 273 Mont. 506 (1995).

Alternative Dispute Resolution

  • Arbitration and Mediation: Outlines the differences between these two forms of ADR and when they may be used as alternatives to trial. The Federal Arbitration Act (FAA) and Montana’s Uniform Arbitration Act, MCA § 27-5-311 et seq., are relevant statutes.

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure vs. Montana Rules of Civil Procedure

Throughout the guide, distinguish between federal and Montana rules, noting where they are similar and where they diverge. It’s important to understand the specifics of Montana law and procedure for practice within the state.

As part of your study, you should regularly review and analyze the rules themselves, read and brief cases that illustrate the application of these rules, and apply the concepts through hypothetical scenarios. Practice with past exams and multiple-choice questions can also help solidify your understanding of civil procedure for your final semester exam.

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