Friday, February 17, 2012

A Glossary for the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure

By Associate Professor Aaron Caplan

We've all been there -- puzzling over the difference between impleader and interpleader, or crossclaims and counterclaims. Unfortunately, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure contain very few definitions for their many terms of art. When my civil procedure students look for guidance from ordinary English dictionaries, or even Black's Law Dictionary, they are likely to find either no definitions or definitions drawn from other areas of law that may use the terms differently. To help them, I created a short glossary containing definitions geared towards the litigation system created by the Rules. Since every litigator needs to be a perpetual student of civil procedure, I am making the glossary available online.

This glossary does not attempt to define terms commonly understood ("trial"), complex terms that require knowledge of a full body of law ("jurisdiction"), or terms that are adequately defined by the Rules themselves ("initial disclosure" under Rule 26(a)(1)). But if you're ever lost in the woods and need a quick reference to tease apart an affidavit from a declaration, or to figure out if you are filing a pleading to which a responsive pleading is required, it may be just what you need.

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