Skip to Main Content
It looks like you're using Internet Explorer 11 or older. This website works best with modern browsers such as the latest versions of Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Edge. If you continue with this browser, you may see unexpected results.

Civil Procedure

This guide contains a brief explanation of civil procedure with annotated links to further resources.


The judicial power shall extend to all cases, in law and equity, arising under this Constitution, the laws of the United States, and treaties made, or which shall be made, under their authority;--to all cases affecting ambassadors, other public ministers and consuls;--to all cases of admiralty and maritime jurisdiction;--to controversies to which the United States shall be a party;--to controversies between two or more states;--between a state and citizens of another state;--between citizens of different states;--between citizens of the same state claiming lands under grants of different states, and between a state, or the citizens thereof, and foreign states, citizens or subjects.
U.S. Const. art III § 2.

Types of Jurisdiction

Federal Courts are courts of limited subject matter jurisdiction.  They have jurisdiction over issues stemming from a contested federal law or right and jurisdiction between citizens of different states or a citizen of a state and a foreign national.  These are called federal question jurisdiction and diversity jurisdiction respectively.

The Constitution did not initially place further restrictions on diversity jurisdiction, but in order to reduce the burden on federal courts, 28 U.S. Code § 1332 requires there to be at least $75,000 to be in dispute.

Personal jurisdiction refers to a court's power over the person being sued.  The seminal case of International Shoe offers this summary:

Historically the jurisdiction of courts to render judgment in personam is grounded on their de facto power over the defendant's person. Hence his presence within the territorial jurisdiction of court was prerequisite to its rendition of a judgment personally binding him. Pennoyer v. Neff, 95 U.S. 714, 733, 24 L.Ed. 565. But now that the capias ad respondendum has given way to personal service of summons or other form of notice, due process requires only that in order to subject a defendant to a judgment in personam, if he be not present within the territory of the forum, he have certain minimum contacts [emphasis added] with it such that the maintenance of the suit does not offend ‘traditional notions of fair play and substantial justice.

Int'l Shoe Co. v. State of Wash., Off. of Unemployment Comp. & Placement, 326 U.S. 310, 316, 66 S. Ct. 154, 158, 90 L. Ed. 95 (1945)

Venue generally refers to the place where the litigation takes place.  In general, there should be a connection between the geography of the events being litigated and the court.

If a litigant is unhappy with the location of the court, they may file a forum non conveniens motion asking the court to decline to exercise its jurisdiction so that another court may hear the case.