Nebraska Law School 1L Study Guide for Civil Procedure

Nebraska Law School 1L Study Guide for Civil Procedure

I. Understanding Jurisdiction

  1. Subject Matter Jurisdiction:
    • Federal Question Jurisdiction: Under 28 U.S.C. § 1331, federal courts have jurisdiction over cases arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.
    • Diversity Jurisdiction: Under 28 U.S.C. § 1332, federal courts have jurisdiction when the case is between citizens of different states, and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.
    • Supplemental Jurisdiction: Allows federal courts to hear additional claims that are related to the ones over which the court has original jurisdiction, as per 28 U.S.C. § 1367.
  2. Personal Jurisdiction:
    • In Rem: Over property within the jurisdiction.
    • In Personam: Over persons within the jurisdiction.
    • Long-Arm Statutes: States can exercise jurisdiction over out-of-state defendants who have certain minimum contacts with the state.
  3. Case: International Shoe Co. v. Washington (1945)
    • Issue: Does a state have jurisdiction over a non-resident corporation?
    • Rule: A state may assert jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant if the defendant has sufficient minimum contacts with the state.
    • Analysis: The court found that due to the corporation’s systematic and continuous operations within the state, it was subject to the state’s jurisdiction.
    • Conclusion: The exercise of jurisdiction was fair and reasonable.
  4. Nebraska’s Long-Arm Statute: Neb. Rev. Stat. § 25-536 outlines the circumstances under which Nebraska courts may exercise personal jurisdiction, which includes transacting any business or committing a tortious act within the state.

II. Pleadings and Motions

  1. Complaint:
    • Statement of the jurisdiction.
    • Short and plain statement of the claim.
    • Demand for relief.
  2. Answer:
    • Defendant’s response to the complaint.
    • Can include defenses and counterclaims.
  3. Motion to Dismiss:
    • Also known as a Rule 12(b)(6) motion, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
  4. Amendments to Pleadings:
    • Rule 15 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure allows for amendments. Nebraska has a similar rule (Neb. Ct. R. Pldg. § 6-1115).

III. Discovery

  1. Scope and Limits: Under Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case.

  2. Tools of Discovery:

    • Depositions
    • Interrogatories
    • Requests for Production
    • Physical and Mental Examinations
    • Requests for Admission
  3. Electronic Discovery (E-Discovery): Involves the exchange of information in electronic format.

  4. Protective Orders: Parties may seek protective orders to limit or prohibit discovery to prevent annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense.

IV. Pretrial Procedures

  1. Summary Judgment: Under Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a party may move for summary judgment if there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

  2. Case Management: Courts will often issue a scheduling order to establish timelines for the completion of discovery and other pretrial activities.

V. Trial

  1. Jury Selection:
    • Voir dire: The process of questioning potential jurors.
    • Challenges for cause and peremptory challenges.
  2. Conduct of Trial:
    • Opening statements.
    • Presentation of evidence.
    • Witness examination and cross-examination.
    • Closing arguments.
  3. Judgment as a Matter of Law: Under Rule 50, a party can move for judgment as a matter of law (formerly directed verdict) during the trial when the evidence is insufficient to support a verdict for the other party.

  4. Jury Instructions: The judge gives the jury the set of legal standards it must follow when deciding the case.

  5. Verdict: The jury renders a verdict, which can be general or special.

VI. Post-Trial Motions

  1. Motion for a New Trial: Under Rule 59, a party may move for a new trial on all or some of the issues following a jury or nonjury trial.

  2. Motion for Judgment Notwithstanding the Verdict (JNOV): A party may file this motion if they believe the jury got it wrong. Rule 50(b) allows this post-trial motion for judgment as a matter of law.

VII. Appeal

  1. Notice of Appeal: A party must file a notice of appeal within 30 days after the entry of the judgment.

  2. Standards of Review:

    • De novo: Used for questions of law.
    • Abuse of discretion: Used for matters of trial management.
    • Clear error: Used for findings of fact.
  3. Appellate Procedure: The appellate process includes the preparation of the record on appeal, briefs by the parties, and possibly oral arguments.

VIII. Res Judicata and Collateral Estoppel

  1. Res Judicata (Claim Preclusion): Prevents parties from re-litigating a claim that has been finally decided between the same parties.

  2. Collateral Estoppel (Issue Preclusion): Prevents parties from re-litigating an issue that has been previously decided in a different claim involving the same parties.

IX. Federalism and Erie Doctrine

  1. Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins (1938)
    • Issue: Should federal courts apply state substantive law or federal general law when hearing state law claims under diversity jurisdiction?
    • Rule: Federal courts must apply state substantive law in diversity cases.
    • Analysis: The Supreme Court overruled the Swift v. Tyson doctrine, which allowed federal courts to apply general federal law.
    • Conclusion: The “Erie Doctrine” requires federal courts to apply state substantive law and federal procedural law.
  2. Applying Erie in Nebraska: Nebraska federal courts will apply Nebraska state substantive law in diversity cases.

This study guide provides a general framework for key concepts in civil procedure. Studying for civil procedure involves a deep understanding of the federal rules, relevant case law, and how these apply within Nebraska. Students should also familiarize themselves with Nebraska’s specific rules and procedures that complement or differ from the federal system.

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