I. Introduction to Civil Procedure
Civil Procedure is the body of law that sets out the rules and standards that courts follow when adjudicating civil lawsuits. These rules govern how a lawsuit or case may be commenced, what kind of service of process is required, the types of pleadings or statements of case, motions or applications, and orders allowed in civil cases, the timing and manner of depositions and discovery or disclosure, the conduct of trials, the process for judgment, various available remedies, and how the courts and clerks must function.
II. Personal Jurisdiction
Personal jurisdiction refers to the court’s authority over the parties in the case, either through their presence in the state or their contacts with the state.
Case: International Shoe Co. v. Washington (1945)
Facts: The International Shoe Company was sued in Washington, where it did not have its principal place of business. However, it had salesmen in the state.
Issue: Whether the court had personal jurisdiction over International Shoe.
Rule: A court has personal jurisdiction over a party if the party has “minimum contacts” with the jurisdiction such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.”
Application: International Shoe had sufficient contacts with Washington because it had salesmen in the state.
Conclusion: The Court held that Washington had personal jurisdiction over International Shoe.
III. Subject Matter Jurisdiction
Subject Matter Jurisdiction is the authority of a court to hear cases of a particular type or cases relating to a specific subject matter.
Case: Exxon Mobil Corp. v. Allapattah Services (2005)
Facts: A group of Exxon dealers filed a class action lawsuit in federal court under diversity jurisdiction. However, not all plaintiffs met the amount-in-controversy requirement.
Issue: Whether the court had subject matter jurisdiction over the claims of those plaintiffs who did not meet the amount-in-controversy requirement.
Rule: A federal court can exercise supplemental jurisdiction over additional claims in a case, even if those claims do not meet the amount-in-controversy requirement, as long as at least one claim meets the requirement.
Application: Since at least one of the claims met the amount-in-controversy requirement, the court could exercise supplemental jurisdiction over the other claims.
Conclusion: The Supreme Court held that the federal court had subject matter jurisdiction over all the claims.
Venue refers to the geographic location where a case is tried.
Case: Leroy v. Great Western United Corp. (1979)
Facts: A shareholder derivative action was filed in Delaware against a company incorporated in Delaware but with principal business operations in Texas.
Issue: Whether venue was proper in Delaware.
Rule: Venue in a civil case is proper where the defendant resides, where a substantial part of the events or omissions giving rise to the claim occurred, or, if there is no district where the action may otherwise be brought, any judicial district in which any defendant is subject to the court’s personal jurisdiction.
Application: The defendant corporation was incorporated in Delaware.
Conclusion: The Supreme Court held that venue was proper in Delaware.
Pleadings are the formal written statements of the parties in a civil case of their respective claims and defenses.
Case: Ashcroft v. Iqbal (2009)
Facts: Iqbal, a Muslim man, claimed he was subjected to harsh conditions in detention due to his religion and race.
Issue: Whether Iqbal’s complaint sufficiently stated a claim.
Rule: A complaint must contain sufficient factual matter, accepted as true, to “state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face.”
Application: Iqbal’s complaint contained bald assertions and conclusory allegations, but lacked sufficient factual matter.
Conclusion: The Supreme Court held that Iqbal’s complaint did not sufficiently state a claim.
Discovery is a pre-trial procedure in a lawsuit in which each party can obtain evidence from the other party.
Case: Hickman v. Taylor (1947)
Facts: A tugboat sank, and Hickman sought to discover statements taken by Taylor during his investigation.
Issue: Whether Hickman was entitled to such discovery.
Rule: Discovery is broadly permitted, but work product—materials prepared in anticipation of litigation—is generally protected from discovery.
Application: The statements taken by Taylor were his work product.
Conclusion: The Supreme Court held that Hickman was not entitled to discover the statements.
VII. Summary Judgment
Summary judgment is a judgment entered by a court for one party and against another party summarily, i.e., without a full trial.
Case: Celotex Corp. v. Catrett (1986)
Facts: Catrett filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Celotex, claiming its product caused her husband’s death.
Issue: Whether Celotex was entitled to summary judgment.
Rule: The moving party can obtain summary judgment by showing that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
Application: Celotex showed that Catrett lacked evidence to support her claim.
Conclusion: The Supreme Court held that Celotex was entitled to summary judgment.
VIII. Trial and Post-Trial Motions
The parties can make various motions during and after trial, such as motions for directed verdict, for judgment notwithstanding the verdict, and for a new trial.
Case: Neely v. Martin K. Eby Construction Co. (1965)
Facts: Eby Construction was found negligent in a jury trial, leading to Neely’s injuries.
Issue: Whether Eby Construction was entitled to a new trial.
Rule: A motion for a new trial should be granted if the verdict is against the weight of the evidence, is based upon false or perjurious evidence, or to prevent a miscarriage of justice.
Application: Eby Construction failed to show any of these grounds.
Conclusion: The Supreme Court held that Eby Construction was not entitled to a new trial.
An appeal is a process for requesting a formal change to an official decision.
Case: Bell v. Cone (2002)
Facts: A federal appeals court rejected Cone’s habeas corpus petition.
Issue: Whether the appeals court properly reviewed the lower court’s decision.
Rule: An appeals court reviews the lower court’s legal conclusions de novo and its factual findings for clear error.
Application: The appeals court failed to apply the proper standard of review.
Conclusion: The Supreme Court remanded the case for further proceedings.
X. Res Judicata
Res Judicata, also known as claim preclusion, bars litigation of claims that have already been decided in previous litigation between the same parties.
Case: Federated Department Stores, Inc. v. Moitie (1981)
Facts: Moitie had previously sued Federated and lost.
Issue: Whether Moitie could sue Federated again on the same claim.
Rule: Res judicata bars relitigation of claims that were or could have been raised in a prior action between the same parties.
Application: Moitie was suing on the same claim that had previously been decided.
Conclusion: The Supreme Court held that Moitie’s suit was barred by res judicata.
This guide is meant to cover the main topics related to Civil Procedure as taught in most 1L law school classes, with a focus on federal cases and rules that are commonly tested. However, each class and professor may differ slightly in their emphasis and coverage. Therefore, be sure always to review your class notes, case briefs, outlines, and any other materials provided by your professor.