Federal civil procedure is the rules of form and conduct that must be followed in federal courts. The rules are procedural rules that address how and when lawsuits, and their various components and forms, are filed. The rules must be followed in order for a case to be heard in federal court.
In the United States, the court systems are divided into two separate branches: federal courts and state courts. Federal courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, which means they can only hear cases and issues arising out of certain circumstances. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and separation of power rules within the constitution set forth the circumstances in which a case can or must be brought in federal court.
Federal courts have jurisdiction over cases arising from federal questions. This means if the grounds of the lawsuit or criminal action come from the Constitution, a federal law, or a federal statute, the federal court has the authority to decide the case. Federal courts can also obtain diversity jurisdiction, which means that if two parties from different states are having a dispute, and the amount in controversy is $10,000 US Dollars (USD) or more, the federal court can hear the case.
Often, federal courts and state courts could both have jurisdiction over a particular matter. For example, in diversity jurisdiction, a plaintiff and defendant do not necessarily have to bring the case in federal court. In other situations, such as bankruptcy cases and securities fraud cases, federal courts have exclusive jurisdiction and cases dealing with those issues must be settled in federal court.
When a case is heard in federal court, federal civil procedure must be followed. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is a legal document made up of a long list of rules governing numerous circumstances. Most US law students spend an entire year studying federal civil procedure and learning these rules during their first year of law school.
Federal civil procedure rules govern every aspect of filing a case in federal court, from jurisdictional rules to the appropriate font size for submitting a brief, motion, or pleading to the court. Each of these rules must be followed when a case is brought in federal court. Failure to follow all the federal rules of civil procedure can result in a case being dismissed, and can even result in professional sanctions for an attorney who is negligent in his duties to the court.