Federal Cases From Pleading to Judgment

Paralegal Resource
August 7, 2012 — 1,553 views  
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According to the Federal Justice Center, Federal courts are established under the U.S. Constitution by Congress to decide disputes associated with the Constitution and laws passed by Congress. Typically the Federal courts only hear cases in which the United States is a party, cases involving the Constitution or federal laws, cases between citizens of different states if the amount in the dispute exceeds $75,000 and copywrite, maritime, patent or bankruptcy cases. The procedures of a Federal Court are different than State courts and the procedural rules of a case are set by the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure which are approved by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The Cornell School of Law explains that in Federal cases the formal written statements submitted at the opening of a trial are called the pleadings. The plaintiff will first submit a complaint and then the defendant will submit his or her answer.

The early American law and English common law reportedly contained highly technical pleading requirements that caused parties to lose otherwise good cases often times because they were unable to meet the complicated requirements of the pleading form, according to the resource. Today, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are written so pleading rules are easier to understand and simpler to execute. The procedure is written in a way to avoid a party losing its case due to the technicalities contained within the pleading laws.

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure will approach their 75th anniversary in 2013, and although there have been amendments throughout the years, the basic structure remains mostly the same as the original formulation. All of the current rules for pleadings are outlined in Section III of the Federal Rules.

A Federal civil case begins when the plaintiff files a complaint with the district court. Rule 8(a) regulates the contents of the complaint which require a short and plain statement of the grounds which the court's jurisdiction depends and a statement of the plaintiff's entitlement to relief. The complaint must also contain a demand for judgment for the relief the plaintiff seeks. It is this rule that gives all citizens the right to a fair trial before jury and sets the procedure for this trial. The defendant's first response to the complaint is called the answer. This format is outlined in Rule 8(b).

After various legal proceedings, the court will enter into judgment. Every judgment and amended judgment must be on a separate document. When entering judgment without the court's direction, the jury typically returns a general verdict and the clerk must promptly prepare, sign and enter judgment. The court's approval is required when the jury returns a special verdict or a general verdict returns answers to written questions.

The litigation process, from the pleading and discovery to the final judgment, is a long and complex process. Paralegals can benefit from a detailed overview of the process from start to finish to maintain the knowledge needed to be an effective member of a litigation team.

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