Written rules are central to order, and the fair, just, and efficient resolution of disputes. Too many rules, however, and the process for resolving disputes can become so arcane and convoluted that these goals fall out of reach. The rules contained in this book are the foundation for the judicial resolution of disputes in the United States. Although they may seem overwhelming at the outset, they will quickly become familiar to you over the course of your law school education. Knowledge of the rules is a great asset for all lawyers, regardless of the specific type of law they practice.

This book, made possible by a University of Iowa OpenHawks grant, contains the primary rules that law students will work with during their first year of law school, as well as in advanced litigation courses. It begins with the U.S. Constitution, then provides the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure: the procedural rules relating to disputes between private parties heard in federal court. Following the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are the Federal Rules of Evidence, which govern evidence at trial, and the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedures, which set out the process for appeals in the federal system. While these rules are all federal, most states have similar procedures. Following the federal rules are a series of federal statutes relating to the judicial system. We have also included some state statutes relating to personal jurisdiction in state courts, as well as several Iowa statutes relating to judicial procedure.

In providing you with this resource, we have been guided by a few key principles. First, we believe that access to the rules that govern behavior ought to be widely available and the rules as accessible as possible. Thus, we have made this resource available to you free of charge  through a variety of electronic formats, as well as providing a print copy at the cost of printing. You can access all of these formats through this book’s Pressbooks page,

We also sought to create a resource that was as usable and accessible as possible. To achieve this, we intentionally selected fonts and layouts that are easy to read, whether in hard copy, or on a computer, a tablet, or even a phone. The latest version includes improvements suggested by readers, including bolded subsection headings in the rules and more detailed information in the page headers. We have also made this book available in eReader formats so that users can customize the format to their preference and take advantage of accessibility features.

Finally, we designed this book as a teaching resource rather than a comprehensive source of all information relating to the rules. We recognize that there is information that a first-time user of the rules is likely not going to notice, such as the litany of dates of amendments to a particular rule or statute or the advisory committee notes accompanying a particular change to the rules. We have provided links to resources containing this information for law students who want to dig deeper, but for students who are just learning the rules, the current text of the rules provides enough material.

This resource was the product of many hands.  Thank you to Maitri Patel, Grace Bryant, Courtney Campbell, and Emily Lauer for their hard work on assembling this book and helping ensure that the resulting product is as useful to law students as possible. Thank you also to Alyssa Varner, who designed the perfect cover, Mark Anderson for helping us with the Pressbooks platform, and Mahrya Burnett for guiding us through the process. If you appreciate this resource and see them, share your gratitude.

We hope that Rules and Laws for Civil Actions is useful for you and serves you well in law school. We always welcome feedback, so if you have thoughts on this resource, please share them with any of us.

Jason Rantanen

Stella Burch Elias

Derek Muller

Caroline Sheerin

Maya Steinitz


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Rules and Laws for Civil Actions Copyright © 2024 by Stella Burch Elias; Derek T. Muller; Jason Rantanen; Caroline Sheerin; and Maya Steinitz is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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