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How to Legal: The Rules, Part I

How to Legal The Rules Part I
Where to find the rules (good side of the internet) for non-lawyers so you won’t be duped by fake news or politics.

Welcome back to How to Legal where you’ll learn how to use the good side of the Internet to combat the dark side in this online era of fake news and defamation.

In this installment we’ll learn:

  1. how to find the rules of civil procedure;
  2. the different rules that make up the justice system; and
  3. state versus federal

Remember, don’t burn out when you How to Legal. There’s a lot of information in these next two installments. Pace yourself. You can always bookmark How to Legal, scroll down to what interests you, and come back later and learn more.

Thank you for being a part of the solution to the fake news crisis.

Okay, let’s do this.

Definition of civil

For simplicity sake, I’ll be focusing on civil procedure, but the rules governing criminal procedures may be similarly found online.

For starters, to help separate civil law from criminal law, following is the definition of “civil” according to


adj. 1) that part of the law that encompasses business, contracts, estates, domestic (family) relations, accidents, negligence and everything related to legal issues, statutes and lawsuits, that is not criminal law. In a few areas civil and criminal law may overlap or coincide. For example, a person may be liable under a civil lawsuit for negligently killing a pedestrian with his auto by running over the person and be charged with the crime of vehicular homicide due to his/her reckless driving. Assault may bring about arrest by the police under criminal law and a lawsuit by the party attacked under civil law. 2) referring to one’s basic rights guaranteed under the Constitution (and the interpretations and statutes intended to implement the enforcement of those rights) such as voting, equitable taxation, freedom of speech, press, religion and assembly. Generally these are referred to as “civil rights,” which have required constant diligence and struggle to ensure and expand, as in the Civil Rights movement between 1950 and 1980. Violation of one’s civil rights may be a crime under federal and/or state statutes. Civil rights include civil liberties. Civil liberties emphasize protection from infringement upon basic freedoms, while statutory rights are based on laws passed by Congress or state legislatures. is a helpful and reliable legal resource that anyone can use to learn about the justice system and translate legalese – legal speak.

See? I told you it was easy to translate legalese, thanks to the good side of the Internet.

The Rules of Civil Procedure

While the Rules of Civil Procedure and the Rules of Evidence are similar nationwide, there are nuances, (some differences), in every jurisdiction, including Federal Court versus State Court.  Rules can also be amended. So check the dates to make sure you are reviewing the latest version.

You can find the federal rules here: Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and Federal Rules of Evidence.

To learn the differences between state and federal here’s a short book for students about the Michigan Court System. It includes a breakdown of state and federal courts too. This breakdown is similar in other states, but there may be slight differences so make sure you are looking in the right place, at the right court, in the right state or district.

If there’s a specific case you want to learn more about; or you’re a pro se (self represented) party; and/or you want to save on legal fees and do some heavy lifting yourself, court websites have a ton of information you can use. You can also find the rules the parties must follow when they litigate in that court at that court’s website.

These rules include the local rules, the judge(s) personal rules (sometimes called practice guidelines or the like), self-represented/pro se rules, attorney rules, and various forms and boilerplates litigants need to use. 

So hypothetically speaking, let’s say you had questions about a hyper politicized case in Arizona (linked above), and you wanted to know more, you would go to that court’s website to find the rules for that court.

To demonstrate, below is a screenshot from the U.S. District Court, District of Arizona’s website. This is a Federal Court. The green arrows are mine. I added them for clarity so you won’t miss any rules. As you can see, a court’s website gives you a plethora of information to learn How to Legal.

State versus Federal Rules

So let’s break this down further. You can locate Arizona’s state court rules at Arizona’s state courts. This applies to other jurisdictions.  To demonstrate:

See, for example, U.S. District Court, District of South Dakota (Federal); South Dakota Unified Judicial System (State);

U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Arkansas (Federal); Arkansas Judiciary (State);

Southern District of New York (Federal); Eastern District of New York (Federal); New York Courts (State) and so on and so on.

The United States Court’s website is a one stop website to find the links to all the U.S. District Courts (Federal) websites, including to the appeals and bankruptcy courts.

Lady justice is watching. How to Legal

Cornell Law School’s Legal Learning Institute (good side of the Internet) has conveniently put the different state rules of civil procedure (procedure is sometimes called “practice”) in one place, and you can click here to look them up.

The process of a civil lawsuit

To simplify the civil process for non-lawyers, Idaho’s legal aid created a power point guide that I think did a great job of breaking down the process of a civil lawsuit.   This process is similar in other states and districts, but remember every state has their own rules, so there may be some slight differences. Just be sure you are looking in the location where the case is being heard.

Wow, yes. There are lots of rules in the justice system, but don’t despair, get over whelmed, or frustrated, because in upcoming How to Legals I’ll show you, as a non lawyer, a quicker way to familiarize yourself with the legal process.

On that note, this is a good place to take a music break. Stretch, move around, dance. For me it’s Alicia Keyes, “The Underdog.” What about for you? See Alicia Keyes official website.

Why are there so many rules in the justice system?

The Michigan Courts – One Court of Justice nicely sums up the reasons why the justice system has so many rules:

“The purpose of the Court Rules is to establish uniform rules and procedures for all levels of Michigan’s court system. These regulations ensure that cases are resolved without undue delay and that those who appear in court receive due process and equal treatment under the law.”

Michigan Courts-One Court of Justice

This summary would be similarly applicable in other states.

Okay, that was a lot of information to take in. You are doing great if you made it this far! Let’s wrap up this installment.

I hope this information begins to empower and liberate you so you won’t be deceived by fake news.

Next up:  How to Legal: Part II: Judges & Lawyers Oaths, Codes & Rules.

Dance and move around when you How to Legal
Second from the left, How to Legal’s writer and creator. :-)

Signing off now with another music break. Get up and move around. Your back and neck will thank you.

This time, for me, it’s Kate Bush’s, “Running up that hill.” (Kate Bush’s official website).

Legal Disclaimer +

None of the information on this website is legal advice.  This information is for educational purposes, and to serve as a public service to help combat fake news against ethical judges and innocent people.

If you need legal advice, please consult with a licensed professional.

The Break Free from Media Echo Chambers 30 Day Challenge

If you are stuck in a media echo-chamber and need help breaking out, or know someone who is, check out The Break Free from Media Echo-Chambers 30 Day Challenge. It’s time to heal and make fact-based decisions.

There are problems on both sides of the political aisle and real problems that need to be fixed. Acting on fake news just creates more problems that need to be fixed.

If you learned something and would like to show support for my efforts you may send donations here. Thank you. If you are stressed out by fake news, real news, or for any reason, you might want to check out Stuff for Stress and some merch.

Lastly, if you see any typos or mistakes, kindly send me an email so I can fix it. Thanks.