Federal Rules of Civil Procedure- Simplified:

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure
Merge Equity and Common Law:

     September 16, 1938, pursuant to its authority under the Rules Enabling Act of 1934, the Supreme Court enacted uniform rules of procedure for the federal courts.  Among the changes wrought by the rules was the elimination the federal courts’ separate jurisdiction over suits in equity (a centuries-old system of English jurisprudence in which judges based decisions on general principles of fairness in situations where rigid application of common-law rules would have brought about injustice).  Under the new rules, suits in equity and suits at common law were grouped together under the term “civil action.” [1]
     Below, you will find an unabridged, simplified version of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (2017) in order to aid you in filing a civil action.  This is compiled for the purpose of helping you proceed in court without the aid of an attorney, which is called “Pro Se Litigation(“for yourself”- or “on your own behalf”).
   Every Federal District Courthouse has a Pro Se Litigation self-help section to help you file within that district.  This is not for County or State Courts– we are speaking of Federal Courts– learn more.  To find your local Federal District Courthouse, use the


Federal Courthouse Locator

    Once you’ve located your local District courthouse, find the pro se self-help section for your local district.  Here are just a few from various courthouses:

Northern District of California www.cand.uscourts.gov/prosehandbook

District of North Dakota www.ndd.uscourts.gov/lci/pro_se.pdf

Iowa Judicial Branch

U.S. Court of Federal Claims:

     What you will find within most pro se self-help sections is that the courts recommend Black’s Law Dictionary or Ballantine’s Law Dictionary.  Therefore, those are the dictionaries we used to build this websitedefinitions are found linked throughout the rules.  The links also include blank court forms from UScourts.gov embedded into their corresponding rules in order to make navigating “how to file a civil action” simpler.  

    Below, each section of the  of The Rules contains a short summary beneath them.  Rules which state “Nothing Functional” do not have any forms associated with them.  Rules which have “Step One Filing” are filed first (so be sure not to miss any “step one” rules when filing your first set of paperwork!).  Rules which have “Step Two Filing” are filed next — and so on.  

    Click on any of the below rules to find a concise summary of the rule, related legal term definitions, & corresponding court forms, followed by the rule in its entirety.  The rest should be self-explanatory.  This work is being brought to you by Wild Willpower.

Title I- Scope of Rules; Form of Action:

Rule 1 – Scope & Purpose

Nothing Functional– explains that Fed. Rules Civil Procedure govern all Civil Cases in all U.S. Federal District Courts.

Rule 2 – One Form of Action

Nothing Functional– explains that the 11 Forms of Action that were historically used for Common Law have been condensed & simplified into the modern “Civil Action”.

Title II– Commencing an Action; Service of Process; Pleadings, Motions, & Orders:

In Forma Pauperis” – Court Fee Waivers for Impoverished Persons including Inmates

Step One Filing – for low income or impoverished persons, including inmates, who need to have court fees waived.

Rule 3 – Commencing An Action

Step One Filing – this section includes the Civil Complaint form used to commence a civil action.

Rule 4 – Summons & Other Process

Step Two and Three Filings – Send the Defendant(s) one signed Notice of Lawsuit & Request to Waive Service Form and two  Waiver of the Service Forms along with one copy of the Complaint & a stamped, self-addressed envelope.  Each Defendant who fails to Waive the Service & Promise to Appear (explained in previous forms) must be sent a Summons form that is signed & sealed by the Court.  Read full rule.

Next steps to be simplified soon.

Rule 5 – Serving and Filing Pleadings and Other Papers

Rule 5.1 – Constitutional Challenge to a Statute

Rule 5.2 – Privacy Protection for Filings Made with the Court

Rule 6 – Computing and Extending Time; Time for Motion Papers

Title III- Pleadings & Motions:

Rule 7Pleadings Allowed; Form of Motions and Other Papers

Rule 7.1– Disclosure Statement

Rule 8 – General Rules of Pleading

Rule 9 – Pleading Special Matters

Rule 10 – Form of Pleadings

Rule 11 – Signing Pleadings, Motions, and Other Papers; Representations to the Court; Sanctions

Rule 12 – Defenses and Objections: When and How Presented; Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings; Consolidating Motions; Waiving Defenses; Pretrial Hearing

Rule 13 – Counterclaim and Crossclaim

Rule 14 – Third-Party Practice

Rule 15 – Amended and Supplemental Pleadings

Rule 16 – Pretrial Conferences; Scheduling; Management

Title IV – Parties:

Rule 17Plaintiff and Defendant; Capacity; Public Officers

Rule 18 – Joinder of Claims

Rule 19 – Required Joinder of Parties

Rule 20 – Permissive Joinder of Parties

Rule 21 – Misjoinder and Nonjoinder of Parties

Rule 22 – Interpleader

Rule 23 – Class Actions

Rule 23.1 – Derivative Actions

Rule 23.2 – Actions Relating to Unincorporated Associations

Rule 24 – Intervention

Rule 25 – Substitution of Parties

Title V – Disclosures & Discovery:

Rule 26Duty to Disclose; General Provisions Governing Discovery

Rule 27 – Depositions to Perpetuate Testimony

Rule 28 – Persons Before Whom Depositions May Be Taken

Rule 29 – Stipulations About Discovery Procedure

Rule 30 – Depositions by Oral Examination

Rule 31 – Depositions by Written Questions

Rule 32 – Using Depositions in Court Proceedings

Rule 33 – Interrogatories to Parties

Rule 34 – Producing Documents, Electronically Stored Information, and Tangible Things, or Entering onto Land, for Inspection and Other Purposes

Rule 35 – Physical and Mental Examinations

Rule 36 – Requests for Admission

Rule 37 – Failure to Make Disclosures or to Cooperate in Discovery; Sanctions

Title VI – Trials:

Rule 38 – Right to a Jury Trial; Demand

Rule 39 – Trial by Jury or by the Court

Rule 40 – Scheduling Cases for Trial

Rule 41 – Dismissal of Actions

Rule 42 – Consolidation; Separate Trials

Rule 43 – Taking Testimony

Rule 44 – Proving an Official Record

Rule 44.1 – Determining Foreign Law

Rule 45 – Subpoena

Rule 46 – Objecting to a Ruling or Order

Rule 47 – Selecting Jurors

Rule 48 – Number of Jurors; Verdict; Polling

Rule 49 – Special Verdict; General Verdict and Questions

Rule 50 – Judgment as a Matter of Law in a Jury Trial; Related Motion for a New Trial; Conditional Ruling

Rule 51 – Instructions to the Jury; Objections; Preserving a Claim of Error

Rule 52 – Findings and Conclusions by the Court; Judgment on Partial Findings

Rule 53 – Masters

Title VII – Judgment:

Rule 54 – Judgment; Costs

Rule 55 – Default; Default Judgment

Rule 56 – Summary Judgment

Rule 57 – Declaratory Judgment

Rule 58 – Entering Judgment

Rule 59 – New Trial; Altering or Amending a Judgment

Rule 60Relief from a Judgment or Order

Rule 61 – Harmless Error

Rule 62 – Stay of Proceedings to Enforce a Judgment

Rule 62.1 – Indicative Ruling on a Motion for Relief That is Barred by a Pending Appeal

Rule 63 – Judge’s Inability to Proceed

Title VIII- Provisional & Final Remedies:

Rule 64 – Seizing a Person or Property

Rule 65 – Injunctions and Restraining Orders

Rule 65.1 – Proceedings Against a Surety

Rule 66 – Receivers

Rule 67 – Deposit into Court

Rule 68 – Offer of Judgment

Rule 69 – Execution

Rule 70 – Enforcing a Judgment for a Specific Act

Rule 71 – Enforcing Relief For or Against a Nonparty

Title IX – Special Proceedings:

Rule 71.1 – Condemning Real or Personal Property

Rule 72 – Magistrate Judges: Pretrial Order

Rule 73 – Magistrate Judges: Trial by Consent; Appeal

Title X- District Courts & Clerks: Conducting Business; Issuing Orders:

Rule 77 – Conducting Business; Clerk’s Authority; Notice of an Order or Judgment

Rule 78 – Hearing Motions; Submission on Briefs

Rule 79 – Records Kept by the Clerk

Rule 80 – Stenographic Transcript as Evidence

Title XI – General Provisions:

Rule 81– Applicability of the Rules in General; Removed Actions

Rule 82 – Jurisdiction and Venue Unaffected

Rule 83 – Rules by District Courts; Judge’s Directives

Rule 84 – Forms – This rule was abrogated on December 1, 2015.

Rule 85 – Title

Rule 86 – Effective Dates

XII – Appendix of Forms (U.S. Courts site– This rule was abrogated on December 1, 2015.

XIII – Supplemental Rules for Admiralty or Maritime Claims & Asset Forfeiture Actions:

Rule A – Scope of Rules

Rule B – In Personam Actions: Attachment and Garnishment

Rule C – In Rem Actions: Special Provisions

Rule D – Possessory, Petitory, and Partition Actions

Rule E – Actions in Rem and Quasi in Rem: General Provisions

Rule F Limitation of Liability

Rule G – Forfeiture Actions in Rem


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Quote Source:Abraham Lincoln, [September 16-17, 1859] (Notes for Speech in Kansas and Ohio),” Page 2.


Source LYNX graphic[1]: Federal Judicial Center, “Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Merge Equity and Common Law”:  https://www.fjc.gov/history/timeline/federal-rules-civil-procedure-merge-equity-and-common-law

Federal Rules of Civil Procedure:  https://www.law.cornell.edu/rules/frcp/rule_1
Federal District Courthouse locator:  http://www.uscourts.gov/court-locator
Black’s Law, definition of “Jurisdiction”:  http://thelawdictionary.org/jurisdiction/
Sample of a “Case Caption”:  http://www.theconnectedlawyer.com/archives/189
Article 7 section 4 “Unfair Exemptions” in the California State Constitution:  http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/.const/.article_7
“Civil Cases” & “Criminal Cases” explained by the Federal Judicial Center:  http://www.fjc.gov/federal/courts.nsf/autoframe!openform&nav=menu1&page=/federal/courts.nsf/page/154
California State BAR, a “public corporation in the judicial branch”:  http://www.calbar.ca.gov/AboutUs.aspx
California State Constitution Article VII “exemptions from civil service:  http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/.const/.article_7
Nevada County Superior Courthouses, “public corporation in the judicial branch”:  http://www.nevadacountycourts.com/