Wisconsin Law School 1L Study Guide for Civil Procedure

I. Introduction to Civil Procedure

Civil procedure refers to the body of law governing the methods and practices used in civil litigation. It can be divided into two categories: substantive law and procedural law. Substantive law defines the rights and duties of individuals, whereas procedural law outlines the steps for having a right or duty judicially enforced.

II. Jurisdiction

Jurisdiction refers to a court’s authority to decide a case. There are several types of jurisdiction relevant to civil procedure:

A. Personal Jurisdiction

Personal jurisdiction is the power of a court over the parties in the case. The concept of minimum contacts established in International Shoe Co. v. Washington, 326 U.S. 310 (1945), is crucial. The court must ensure that the defendant has minimum contacts with the forum state to not offend “traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.”

B. Subject Matter Jurisdiction

Subject Matter Jurisdiction is the authority of a court to hear cases of a particular type or cases relating to specific, substantive law.

C. Diversity Jurisdiction

For diversity jurisdiction, the plaintiff and defendant must be citizens of different states, and the amount in controversy must exceed $75,000. See 28 U.S.C. § 1332.

D. Federal Question Jurisdiction

Federal courts have jurisdiction over cases that arise under federal law, under the U.S. Constitution, or treaties. See 28 U.S.C. § 1331.

III. Pleadings

Pleadings are the formal written statements of the parties’ claims and defenses. This includes the complaint, answer, and reply.

A. Complaint

A complaint initiates a lawsuit. It includes a statement of the ground of jurisdiction, a short and plain statement of the claim, and a demand for judgment for relief.

B. Answer

The defendant’s response to the complaint is called an answer. It must admit or deny the allegations made by the plaintiff.

C. Rule 12 Motions

Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure deals with defenses and objections that defendants can raise in their answer or by motion.

IV. Discovery

Discovery is the pre-trial phase in a lawsuit during which each party can obtain evidence from the opposing party by means of discovery devices such as interrogatories and depositions.

V. Trial and Post-Trial Motions

A. Summary Judgment

Summary judgment is a judgment awarded by the court before trial, typically when the court finds that there are no genuine disputes of material fact that need to be decided at trial. See Rule 56, FRCP.

B. Motion for Judgment as a Matter of Law (JMOL)

A party can move for JMOL after the other party has been fully heard on an issue during a jury trial if the party believes that a reasonable jury would not have a legally sufficient evidentiary basis to find for the other party on that issue. See Rule 50, FRCP.

C. Motion for a New Trial

A party can move for a new trial after the court has entered judgment but before the entry of judgment is set to occur. See Rule 59, FRCP.

VI. Appeals

An appeal is a request for a higher court to review the decision of a lower court. The higher court examines the record of the lower court to determine if any errors of law were made.

VII. Res Judicata and Collateral Estoppel

Res judicata, or claim preclusion, prevents parties from re-litigating a final judgment. Collateral estoppel, or issue preclusion, prevents parties from re-litigating a previously decided issue.

This study guide provides a basic overview of some of the key topics that often appear in a 1L Civil Procedure class in law school. For each topic, the rule of law is provided, along with the relevant Federal Rule of Civil Procedure or case law. However, always remember to refer to your class notes, textbook, and professor’s instructions for the most accurate information for your specific course.

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