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Civil Procedure

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


Civil procedure is the mechanism by which a civil case proceeds in court.  For the Federal Courts, this mechanism is mainly codified in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.  In this guide, you will find links to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and other sources of law, commentary and analysis.  You will find resources that will help keep you abreast of what's happening in civil litigation as well as study aids.

Substantive Law v. Procedural Law

Procedural law addresses the 'how' of the law, whereas substantive law speaks more to the 'why' and the 'what'.  For example, how a person applies for an order of protection is a procedural law question and distinct from the substantive law question of whether a person is entitled to an order of protection.  How does a person receive damages for a breach of contract is procedural, while whether there was a breach or even a contract are substantive law questions.

A case may fail on procedural grounds when filing deadlines are not met, whereas it may fail on substantive grounds if all the elements of a negligence claim are not met.

Procedural rules make for the smooth and orderly disposition of litigation.  Moreover, the perception of a fair process can be assessed independently of the substantive merits of a case and can often go a long way to reconciling a party to an adverse substantive ruling and bolster the perception of justice.