Pennsylvania Law School 1L Study Guide for Civil Procedure

  1. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Subject matter jurisdiction refers to a court’s power to hear specific types of cases. In federal courts, it is mainly based on either a federal question (the case arises under the U.S. Constitution, federal laws, or treaties) or diversity jurisdiction (the parties are from different states or countries and the amount in controversy exceeds $75,000).

Case: Pennoyer v. Neff (1877) – A fundamental case that emphasized the importance of personal jurisdiction in the enforcement of judgments.

  1. Personal Jurisdiction

Personal jurisdiction is the power of a court over the parties in the case. Under the Due Process Clause of the 14th Amendment, a defendant must have minimum contacts with the forum state for the court to exercise jurisdiction.

Case: International Shoe Co. v. Washington (1945) – Introduced the “minimum contacts” test for personal jurisdiction.

  1. Long-Arm Statutes

Long-arm statute is a statute that allows for a court to exercise jurisdiction over an out-of-state defendant, provided that the prospective defendant has sufficient minimum contacts with the forum state. Each state has its own specific long-arm statute.

Pennsylvania Long-Arm Statute – 42 Pa.C.S.A. § 5322 – Allows Pennsylvania courts to exercise personal jurisdiction over non-resident defendants who conduct business in the state or cause harm or injury within the state.

  1. Venue

Venue refers to the appropriate location for a trial. It is typically a matter of convenience for the parties.

Case: Atlantic Marine Construction Company, Inc. v. U.S. District Court (2013) – This case reaffirms that forum selection clauses in contracts are generally enforceable and can dictate where a case should be litigated.

  1. Erie Doctrine

The Erie Doctrine is a principle that a federal court sitting in diversity applies state substantive law and federal procedural law.

Case: Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins (1938) – This case established the Erie doctrine.

  1. Pleading

Pleading refers to a formal written statement filed with a court by parties in a civil action.

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure govern pleadings in federal courts, including Rule 8(a) for the claim for relief, Rule 12(b) for defenses, and Rule 15(a) for amendments.

Case: Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly (2007) – This case held that a complaint must contain sufficient factual allegations to raise a right to relief beyond the speculative level.

  1. Discovery

Discovery is the pre-trial phase in a lawsuit in which each party investigates the facts of a case, through the rules of civil procedure, by obtaining evidence from the opposing party and others by means of discovery devices.

Case: Hickman v. Taylor (1947) – This case held that the work-product doctrine protects an attorney’s trial preparation materials from discovery.

  1. Joinder

Joinder refers to the inclusion of additional parties (joining parties) or claims (joining claims) in an ongoing action.

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 20 governs the permissive joinder of parties and Rule 18 governs the joinder of claims.

  1. Res Judicata

Res judicata is a legal doctrine that prohibits the re-litigation of claims that have been finally adjudicated in a previous lawsuit between the same parties or their privies.

Case: Parklane Hosiery Co. v. Shore (1979) – This case held that offensive nonmutual issue preclusion is permissible if its use would not be unfair.

  1. Right to Jury Trial

In federal civil cases, the Seventh Amendment guarantees the right to a jury trial if the value in controversy exceeds twenty dollars.

Case: Markman v. Westview Instruments (1996) – A case where the Supreme Court held that the interpretation of a patent claim is a matter of law reserved entirely for the judge, and there is no right to a jury trial on that issue.

  1. Appeal and Preclusion

Appeal is a legal procedure by which a case is brought from a lower court to a higher court for review. Preclusion refers to the effect of a judgment and the extent to which it bars another suit.

Case: Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Saudi Basic Industries Corp. (2005) – In this case, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Rooker-Feldman doctrine did not bar federal jurisdiction over a state-case loser’s federal suit that was parallel to the state case.

This is by no means an exhaustive list but it should provide a good foundation for your study of Civil Procedure in Pennsylvania.

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