Washington Law School 1L Study Guide for Civil Procedure

I. Introduction to Civil Procedure

Civil procedure is the body of law establishing 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. Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction refers to a court’s legal authority to hear and decide a case. It can be of two types: personal jurisdiction and subject matter jurisdiction.

  1. Personal Jurisdiction: It refers to the court’s power to exercise authority over a specific person. A landmark case in this regard is “International Shoe Co. v. Washington” where the court established the ‘minimum contacts’ test to determine personal jurisdiction.

  2. Subject Matter Jurisdiction: This refers to the authority over the matter at issue in the case. Courts may have general jurisdiction (broad authority over a wide range of issues) or limited jurisdiction (limited to a specific subject matter, like bankruptcy).

III. Venue

Venue refers to the specific geographic area where a court with jurisdiction may hear a case. It can be changed if it’s more convenient for parties or witnesses, or if a fair trial cannot be held at the original location.

IV. Pleadings

Pleadings are formal written documents filed with the court that outline the parties’ positions. The complaint is the initial pleading filed by the plaintiff, followed by the defendant’s answer.

V. Discovery

Discovery is the pre-trial phase in a lawsuit in which each party investigates the facts of a case, through depositions, interrogatories, requests for admissions, and requests for documents.

VI. Motions

Motions are requests made to the court asking for a ruling or order on a particular matter. Some common pre-trial motions include motion to dismiss, motion for judgment on the pleadings, and motion for summary judgment.

VII. Trial and Appeals

In a civil trial, the plaintiff bears the burden of proof and must prove their case by a preponderance of the evidence. The defendant can challenge the plaintiff’s evidence and provide their own evidence. After the verdict, the losing party can appeal the decision to a higher court.

VIII. Res Judicata

Res judicata, also known as claim preclusion, prevents parties from relitigating a claim that has been previously adjudicated by a competent court.

IX. Collateral Estoppel

Also known as issue preclusion, collateral estoppel prevents a party from relitigating an issue that was already decided in a previous proceeding.

X. Erie Doctrine

The Erie doctrine, from the case “Erie Railroad Co. v. Tompkins,” states that federal courts sitting in diversity apply state substantive law and federal procedural law.

XI. Class Actions

Class actions allow a large number of individuals to sue as a group when they have suffered similar harm. The rules for class actions in federal courts are found in Rule 23 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

Remember, this is a basic study guide. Always cross-reference with class notes and assigned readings to ensure full understanding of the topics. Additionally, always use the IRAC (Issue, Rule, Application, Conclusion) method in exams to structure your answers systematically and clearly.

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