What are court rules?
All courts have the authority to make their own rules governing how cases are handled in that court. These rules are called "local rules" and cover court procedures, document filing, and other administrative or procedural matters. These rules are in addition to any state or federal procedural rules and they cannot abolish or supersede a state or federal rule.
While state and federal rules apply to all courts within that jurisdiction, local rules are only applicable in the court that created them - if you appear before a different court, it will have its own local rules that you need to follow, which may be very different from the rules of other local courts.
Attorneys and litigants must follow all applicable federal, state and local court rules when filing or appearing in a court. Not doing so is unprofessional at best and grounds for sanctions, malpractice claims, or contempt of court charges at worst. This means it's vital to know the rules that govern all of the courts in which you're appearing. Fortunately, these rules are usually easy to find.
If it's a court, it's probably got its own rules in addition to the general procedural rules. Below is a list of the most significant types of court rules you may encounter.
Rules Based on Jurisdiction:
Rules Based on Court Level:
Rules Based on Subject Matter:
When practicing before a court, you must be sure you know the appropriate rules for the jurisdiction, the court level, and the subject matter of the case. This seems like a lot, but most of the time you'll only need to look at one or two sets of rules - for example, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure cover all civil cases heard in any federal courts, so if you're trying a civil case in a Fifth Circuit district court, this one set of rules will cover the jurisdiction and subject matter areas and you'll only need to look up the local court's rules.
Most rules are available in both annotated and non-annotated print versions. If you are looking for case law, there are special reporters called the Federal Rules Decisions and the Federal Rules Service that collect cases interpreting court rules.
Free online resources: