New Jersey Law School 1L Study Guide for Civil Procedure
I. Overview of Civil Procedure
Civil Procedure is the body of law that sets out the rules and standards courts follow when adjudicating civil lawsuits (as opposed to criminal proceedings). This guide focuses on federal civil procedure as generally applicable in the United States, with specific references to New Jersey state rules where appropriate.
II. Jurisdiction and Venue
– The court’s authority to decide a case involving particular individuals.
– International Shoe Co. v. Washington (1945): Established the “minimum contacts” standard for determining personal jurisdiction.
Subject Matter Jurisdiction:
– Refers to a court’s authority to hear a case based on the nature of the dispute.
– Federal courts have limited jurisdiction (federal question jurisdiction and diversity jurisdiction).
– Federal courts have jurisdiction over cases where the dispute is between citizens of different states and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000.
– Complete diversity is required (no plaintiff can be from the same state as any defendant).
– Appropriate venue refers to the right location to file a lawsuit, typically where the defendant resides or where the incident occurred.
New Jersey Specifics:
– New Jersey state courts follow similar principles, with the state’s long-arm statute providing for personal jurisdiction to the extent permitted by the Fourteenth Amendment.
III. Pleading Requirements
– The initial pleading that starts a lawsuit, outlining the plaintiff’s claims.
– Must provide sufficient detail to give notice to the defendant and state a claim.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 8(a):
– Provides the general rules for a claim: a short and plain statement of the jurisdiction, a short and plain statement of the claim, and a demand for relief.
– Defendant’s responsive pleading that admits or denies allegations and may assert affirmative defenses.
New Jersey Specifics:
– New Jersey Court Rules also require a complaint to contain a statement of facts constituting the cause of action in concise form, a demand for judgment, and any other matter required by law.
Motion to Dismiss:
– A request for the court to dismiss the case for specified reasons, such as lack of jurisdiction, failure to state a claim, etc.
– A judgment entered by the court for one party against another summarily, i.e., without a full trial, when there is no dispute as to the material facts of the case and one party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Purpose of Discovery:
– To allow parties to obtain evidence from each other to prepare for trial.
Types of Discovery:
– Depositions, interrogatories, requests for production, requests for admissions, and physical or mental examinations.
Scope of Discovery:
– Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b), 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.
VI. Pretrial Procedures
– Courts may hold pretrial conferences to help expedite the case and help the court manage the case.
– Courts can impose sanctions for failure to comply with rules or orders, including discovery sanctions.
– In civil cases, there is typically the right to a jury trial. Jury selection involves voir dire, where potential jurors are questioned to ensure they can judge the case fairly.
Conduct of Trial:
– Opening statements, presentation of evidence, witness examination, and closing arguments are key components of the trial process.
VIII. Judgment and Post-Trial Motions
Judgment as a Matter of Law (JMOL):
– Allows for a decision by the court for one party without the case going to the jury or after a jury verdict that is not reasonably supported by the evidence.
– A party may move for a new trial on various grounds, such as errors during the trial or newly discovered evidence.
Notice of Appeal:
– After the final judgment, a party may file a notice of appeal if they believe there has been a legal error.
Standards of Review:
– Appellate courts review cases under various standards such as de novo, clearly erroneous, or abuse of discretion.
X. Res Judicata and Collateral Estoppel
Res Judicata (Claim Preclusion):
– Once a claim has been decided, it cannot be relitigated between the same parties.
Collateral Estoppel (Issue Preclusion):
– Once an issue of fact or law has been determined by a valid and final judgment, that issue cannot be relitigated between the same parties in future litigation.
XI. New Jersey Specific Procedures
– New Jersey’s court system includes the Supreme Court, Superior Court (Appellate Division and Law Division), and Tax Court.
– New Jersey has unique processes for certain types of cases, such as probate or family matters.
New Jersey Rules of Court:
– New Jersey has its own set of procedural rules, which may differ from federal rules, and governs the practices and procedures in New Jersey state courts.
XII. Key New Jersey Cases and Concepts
In re LiVolsi (1979): A noted New Jersey case concerning the authority of judges to deny a motion for withdrawal of counsel.
G.D. v. Kenny (2010): This case addresses the New Jersey Anti-Bullying Bill of Rights Act and the requirements for a school district to prevent and address bullying incidents.
New Jersey’s Offer of Judgment Rule:
– Rule 4:58 allows defendants or plaintiffs to make an offer of judgment, which can have consequences for the awarding of attorney’s fees and litigation costs if not accepted and the outcome of the trial is less favorable than the offer.
By understanding these concepts and cases, along with both federal and New Jersey-specific rules, a law student in New Jersey can prepare effectively for a 1L Civil Procedure examination.