New Hampshire Law School 1L Study Guide for Civil Procedure

New Hampshire Law School 1L Study Guide for Civil Procedure

I. Overview of Civil Procedure

Civil procedure refers to the rules and processes by which civil matters are conducted in state and federal courts. In the context of New Hampshire, civil procedure is governed by both federal rules and the New Hampshire Rules of Civil Procedure.

II. Jurisdiction and Venue

  • Subject Matter Jurisdiction: The authority of a court to hear cases of a particular type or cases relating to specific subject matter.
  • Personal Jurisdiction: The power of a court to bring a person into its adjudicative process; jurisdiction over a defendant’s personal rights, rather than merely over property interests.
  • Diversity Jurisdiction: A form of subject matter jurisdiction wherein the federal courts can hear cases when the parties are citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.
  • Federal Question Jurisdiction: The jurisdiction of federal courts to hear cases arising under the Constitution, laws, or treaties of the United States.
  • Erie Doctrine (Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins, 304 U.S. 64 (1938)): A fundamental legal doctrine stemming from a Supreme Court decision that mandates federal courts sitting in diversity to apply state substantive law and federal procedural law.
    • IRAC for Erie Doctrine Case:
    • Issue: Whether federal courts should apply state law or federal law when hearing cases under diversity jurisdiction.
    • Rule: The Supreme Court held that federal courts must apply state substantive law in diversity cases.
    • Analysis: The court reasoned that there is no federal general common law and that courts should not create one. This decision promotes uniformity and respects state decisions on matters of substantive law.
    • Conclusion: The Erie doctrine established that federal courts must use state substantive law in diversity cases.
  • Venue: The particular location or court in which a case should be heard.

III. Pleadings and Motions

  • Complaint: The initial pleading by the plaintiff stating his case.
  • Answer: The defendant’s response to the complaint, which may include defenses and counterclaims.
  • Motion to Dismiss: A pre-trial procedure requesting the court to dismiss the case for stated reasons.
    • Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(6): Allows a defendant to move for dismissal on the grounds that the complaint does not state a claim upon which relief can be granted.
  • Amended and Supplemental Pleadings: Procedures for correcting or adding to the original pleadings.

IV. Pre-Trial Procedures

  • Discovery: The pre-trial stage in a lawsuit where each party can obtain evidence from the opposing party through methods like interrogatories, depositions, requests for production, and requests for admission.
  • Summary Judgment: A judgment entered by the court for one party and against another party without a full trial when there is no dispute as to the material facts of the case and the party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
    • Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56: Governs the procedure for summary judgment in federal courts.

V. Trial

  • Jury Selection (Voir Dire): The process of questioning prospective jurors to determine their qualifications and biases.
  • Presentation of Evidence: The order and manner in which parties present evidence to support their positions.
  • Jury Instructions: Directions given by the judge to the jury explaining the law that applies to the case before them.

VI. Post-Trial Motions

  • Motion for a New Trial: The request that a case be tried again on the basis that the trial was not fair or legal errors occurred which were prejudicial.
  • Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law (JMOL): A request for the court to enter a judgment in favor of one party because the opposing party has not presented sufficient evidence to support their claim.

VII. Appeal

  • Notice of Appeal: A formal statement by the party seeking appellate review.
  • Standard of Review: The appellate court’s method to examine the decisions and actions of the lower court.
  • Brief: A written argument presented to the appellate court in support of one party’s position.

VIII. Res Judicata and Collateral Estoppel

  • Res Judicata (Claim Preclusion): The legal principle that a claim cannot be re-litigated once it has been judged on the merits in a court of final jurisdiction.
  • Collateral Estoppel (Issue Preclusion): The legal principle that once an issue has been definitively settled by judicial decision, that decision prevents re-litigation of the same issue in a future lawsuit between the same parties.

IX. New Hampshire Specific Procedures

  • New Hampshire Rules of Civil Procedure: The state-specific rules governing procedural requirements in civil cases filed in New Hampshire state courts.
  • New Hampshire Small Claims Court: A court that handles civil cases involving small amounts of money in a more informal setting.

This study guide provides a foundational overview of U.S. civil procedure with some specifics regarding New Hampshire law. It is crucial to combine this guide with in-depth study of the cases, statutes, and rules, as well as the strategic considerations lawyers must manage throughout the civil litigation process.

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