Civil Procedure syllabus


Civil Procedure, Fall 2016

Professor Ira Steven Nathenson

St. Thomas University School of Law

Section 1 (Law 600-A-01)

Phone: 305-474-2454
Course website:
Class time: Mon. & Wed. 11:00AM–12:40PM, Room A-112
Office hours: Tues. 3-5PM, Wed. 5:30-7:30PM, Thurs. 3-5PM, and by appointment.

Read this syllabus carefully, before the first class, to understand the course requirements. For your initial assignments, go to the Civil Procedure Assignments page. Be well-prepared to discuss the first assignment on January 11 so that we hit the ground running.


We will study the procedures, principles, and rules that courts in the United States use to resolve civil disputes (not criminal cases). We will focus primarily on federal courts, examining the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (the “FRCP”), Title 28 of the United States Code (the “Judicial Code”), the United States Constitution, and Supreme Court opinions construing them. Beyond learning procedural law, we will examine strategic, ethical, professional, and economic considerations pertinent to United States civil litigation.


Assignments and course-related materials are posted to the course website at In addition the syllabus and assignments, this site offers extensive Civil Procedure study resources including handouts, problem sets, flowcharts, study questions, past essay exams, practice essays, and much more. (See links below for examples.) I also run a YouTube channel with Civil Procedure videos.


You must use the current editions of the books listed below. Civil Procedure is changing constantly, and older materials differ not just in content, but will also contain outdated law. Always bring both required books to class.

Required books

  1. Casebook: Joseph W. Glannon et al., Civil Procedure: A Coursebook (Wolters Kluwer, Second Edition 2014). Do not purchase the first edition.
  2. Supplement: Joseph W. Glannon et al., Civil Procedure: Rules, Statutes, and Other Materials, 2016 Supplement (Wolters Kluwer 2016).

Note that the casebook and rules supplement are available in a bundle from the STU bookstore.

Addendum: as of Aug. 10, the STU bookstore had the casebook but did not yet have the statutory supplement. You can still purchase the casebook/supplement bundle from the bookstore. You’ll get the casebook right away, and once the statutory supplement is available, you can pick it up. In the meantime, a statutory handout for the first week of class is available on the Assignments page.

Suggested books (not in bookstore but easily obtained)

  1. Hornbook with examples: Joseph W. Glannon, Civil Procedure: Examples & Explanations (Wolters Kluwer 7th ed. 2013) 
  2. Multiple-choice practice: William Janssen & Steven Baicker-McKee, Mastering Multiple Choice for Federal Civil Procedure (West Academic 2d ed 2016). This is a new edition.


Outcomes and methodologies

Learning outcomes refers to skills, concepts, and other matters I want you to learn in our year-long course. Learning methodologies are the techniques we will use to learn these matters.

Learning Outcomes (the goal)

Learning Methodologies (the means)
Civil Procedure law and concepts: Examples include subject-matter jurisdiction, personal jurisdiction, venue, notice, pleadings, joinder and supplemental jurisdiction, discovery, dispositive motions, trial, and preclusion. See assignments.  Reading, briefing, marking up, and discussing cases, rules, statutes and provisions of the Constitution, study questions, problem sets with explanations, and handouts such as tables and flowcharts.
Reading rules and statutes: Developing skills of reading, marking up, interpreting, and applying statutory materials such as the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the United States Code.  Handouts and exercises requiring students to mark up rules and statutes, and to identify components of these materials, such as textual structure, logical connectors, levels of discretion, and more; classroom discussion; problem sets and explanations. See also “Basics of reading and marking up statutes and rules” below.
Briefing and reciting: Skills attendant to reading and reciting Civil Procedure cases.  In-class recitation and discussion. Regarding briefing, see handout on IFRAC. Regarding reciting, see “Basics of case recitation” below.
Multiple choice skills: Developing proficiency in multiple-choice assessment. ALI sessions, online problem sets at, examinations, and any quizzes that may be administered.
Essay skills: Mastery of written legal analysis in expanded IRAC format.  Online practice essay questions, in-class “how to do an essay” session, handout on writing essays, essay examinations.
Understanding of U.S. court system: Conceptual and practical understanding of the complexities of the U.S. court system, which has horizontal (fifty state systems) and vertical (dual federal and state systems) components. This understanding should go beyond understanding the systems’ complexities to a readiness to utilize that knowledge in legal practice. Cases and statutes involving subject-matter jurisdiction, exclusive jurisdiction, removal jurisdiction, personal jurisdiction, venue, transfer, and dismissal.
Concepts of procedural Constitutional Law: Constitutional concepts such as Article III jurisdiction, Due Process, federalism, and more. Readings from the Constitution and cases construing the Constitution, along with in-class discussion, problem sets, and study questions.
Understanding of procedural justice: Identifying policies underlying procedural law, such as economy, efficiency, transparency, legitimacy, and participation, and using those policies to understand the law and to make legal arguments. Discussion aimed at understanding why procedural law is created, and how judicial decisions are shaped by choices made between often-competing principles of procedural justice. This is the “why things are the way they are” consideration.
Basics of jurisprudence: Understanding basic principles of law and judging, such as the differences between rules and standards, formalism versus realism, standards of review, and more.  Handouts, class discussion.


Finally, assessment refers to the ways you will receive feedback to help you determine your level of success and to course-correct for improvement. Grading is only one form of assessment.

  • Formal assessment is feedback for which you receive a score or grade, along with other comments and suggestions from the instructor.
  • Informal assessment includes feedback that is unscored, such as class recitation, active learning exercises, ALI sessions, and meetings with the instructor during office hours.
  • Formative assessment occurs while the class or topic is still being studied.
  • Summative assessment occurs at the end of a course or end of a section.

As you review the chart below, think about how some forms of assessment are both summative and formative. Also consider the fact that assessment comes from many sources, including the instructor, class discussions, ALI sessions, self-assessment, and more.

Formative Summative
Formal Midterm and any quizzes, because they guide you on how to study better and how to improve for later assessment. Review of already-administered assessment.
Informal Class recitation, ALI sessions, active learning, problem sets, practice essays, and more because they allow you to assess your performance while studies continue. Therefore, informal formative assessment is often the most important type of assessment. Redoing practice essays and problem sets after each section of a course is complete; working on outlining, meeting with professor.


Quizzes, midterm, other in-semester assessment.

May be administered at any time, with or without notice. Midterm examination will be scheduled. Such assessment will be closed-book unless professor indicates otherwise.

End-of-semester exam.

There will be a closed-book final examination administered on an anonymous basis at the conclusion of the semester. It may consist of multiple-choice, short-answer, and one or more essay questions. I will provide you with relevant provisions of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and other materials for use during the examination. Laptops will be permitted for answering essay questions, subject to law school policy as detailed in the Student Handbook.

Applicable law.

Unless expressly instructed otherwise in writing by the professor, the law you are responsible for is the law that exists on the date of any quiz or examination.


In general.

Each student should be well prepared for class discussion each day:

  • Professional and respectful discussion. Class is a quiet place for focus and respectful discussion. Lawyers persuade for a living. So speak up when you ask questions or you are called on. After all, you cannot persuade if you cannot be heard. Similarly, unless you are called on or are volunteering, do not talk. It’s distracting and disrespectful to the group. Finally, during recitation, questioning, and discussions, be respectful of others. We’re free to disagree and to disagree with passion. Again, that’s what lawyers do. But as the oath for the Florida Bar recognizes, we’re not free to treat others without respect, civility, or dignity. So please don’t make me invoke FRCP 12(f) and ask you to leave or mark you absent.
  • Doing the work. Being prepared includes carefully reading the assigned materials more than once, marking up cases and rules or statutes, briefing assigned cases, and looking up unfamiliar words in a dictionary (legal or otherwise).
  • Bring your books. Bring your Casebook and Rules Supplement to class every day.
  • Read and mark up the rules and statutes. Reading and briefing the cases in the Glannon Casebook is not enough. If you have not carefully read and marked up the assigned rules, statutes, or constitutional provisions in your Rules Supplement, you are not prepared.
  • Don’t know it? Look it up. For unfamiliar legal terms, an online legal dictionary is available at Black’s Law Dictionary is also highly recommended.
  • Keep tabs on confusion. For things that you find to be confusing, write up a list of questions before class. Some of your questions will likely be answered during class. For other questions, raise them in class or in office hours. You should do the same thing after class.
  • How much is enough? If you do not know if you are preparing enough, a good rule of thumb is that you should spend at least twice as much time preparing before class as you spend in class. In other words, for a 75-minute class, you should prepare an absolute minimum of two and a half hours. Difficult or longer assignments will take longer.
  • Reading ahead. Some students like to read ahead, which is a good way of organizing your time. However, even if you have read ahead, you still need to re-review assigned materials immediately prior to class. It is no excuse to say “I read this a week ago but forgot what I read.”
  • Day-to-day overlap. If we do not finish the materials assigned for a particular day, you must re-review those materials again for the next class. Additionally, even if we do not complete discussion of an assignment in class, you must still read any new materials assigned for the next class. We are not “behind” until I tell you so expressly.
  • One time per semester, if you are unprepared, you may tell me before class begins and I will not call on you. However, if you do not tell me in advance, and I call on you and determine in my sole discretion that you are unprepared, you may be marked as absent. If this happens more than once, your final grade may be lowered.

Basics of reading and marking up statutes and rules.

We will discuss in class, at length, how to read and mark up dense statutory materials such as rules and statutes. For a peek ahead, see this handout. For now, suffice it to say that when statutes or federal rules are assigned, you must read them carefully and slowly. Read them multiple times. Every word and punctuation mark is important. Determine the structure of the text, the importance of words of logic (such as OR or AND) and words of discretion (such as MAY or MUST). Mark up rules and statutes to help you understand them. Oftentimes we will spend more time discussing rules and statutes than we might spend on the cases. Many of our in-class hypotheticals will be based on the rules and statutes. So please be prepared. If I walk around the room and see that you have not marked up your statutes or rules, I will know that you are not prepared.

Basics of case recitation.

Early in the semester, we will spend time discussing briefing and how to recite a case. As a starting point for the first week, you should be able to answer the following basic questions when called upon to discuss any assigned case:

  • Court. That’s the decision-maker writing the opinion, and any decisions below. In what trial court was this case filed? State or federal? What was the disposition of that court? If there were one or more appeals, to which courts? What did any appellate courts decide?
  • Litigants. Who are the plaintiffs and defendants in the trial court? On appeal, who are the appellants/appellees or petitioners/respondents? Keep in mind that an appellant or petitioner might be a plaintiff or a defendant, so play close attention to who is who.
  • Material facts and procedural history. What are the material historical facts of this case? What happened to cause the suit? What is the procedural history (such as where filed, removed, transferred, any motions, and what any lower courts did)?
  • Issues. What are the substantive legal issues such as property, tort, or contract? What are the procedural issues? We’ll primarily focus on the procedural issues, but often the substantive issues will affect the procedural issues, and vice-versa.
  • Arguments. What are the arguments that each side makes?
  • The court’s analysis/rationale. How does the court analyze the case? Can you spot the issue, rule, analysis, and conclusion? What law does the court use, interpret, or create? How does the court apply that law to the relevant facts? Does the court also recite policy concerns? Does it address counterarguments or ignore them?
  • Holding. What is the holding: i.e., what does the court do (affirm, remand, reverse, etc.)?

These questions are preliminary to deeper exploration of the materials. You can find a handout explaining the parallels between court opinions, case briefing, and essay writing here.  Additionally, a case-briefing template based on this handout can be found here. You should use it in writing your case briefs for this class.


Attendance, starting time, absences, sign-in.

  • Class attendance. Class attendance is mandatory. In accordance with St. Thomas Law’s absence policy, you may only miss 20% of the classes. However, I strongly recommend that you do not miss that many classes. In addition to assigned materials, anything I say or that we discuss in class is fair game for quizzes, essays, or other forms of testing.
  • Leaving class. If you leave class early without permission or without a genuine emergency, you may be marked absent.
  • Sign-in sheet. Attendance is taken by roll sheet passed around in each class. It is each student’s responsibility to personally sign the sheet (i.e., to certify their presence) during class. I provide the Registrar with a roll sheet for each class, and this is the exclusive measure of your attendance for that day. Do not come to me later and tell me you forgot to sign the roll sheet, and do not offer to show me your notes as proof that you were in class. Further, be aware that it is a serious violation of the Academic Integrity policy to sign in other people or to have others sign you in. The reason goes to the paramount value of honesty, which is one of the most important qualities of an aspiring attorney. In fact, we will study FRCP 11(b) regarding honesty in certification later this academic year.
  • Excessive absences. If you are deemed absent from class more than five times, you will be dropped from the course with a failing grade, and will not be allowed to take the final exam. Please do not hesitate to contact me to let me know that you are ill, that your car broke down, or that a loved one had surgery. However, there is no such thing as an “excused” absence—whether for the above-listed or any other reasons—and I have no discretion in this regard. So please do not ask me to excuse an absence. Although I will have the greatest of sympathy for personal circumstances, it is your responsibility to monitor your absences, and if you anticipate missing more than 20% of any class, you are strongly advised to contact Dean Hernandez regarding the possibility of withdrawal before it is too late to do so.


As a professional, you are responsible for checking your STU email account regularly. From time to time, course-related announcements (such as new online materials or assignment revisions) will be sent to your official St. Thomas Law email account.

Computers, tablets, and phones.

In prior years, laptops and electronic devices were barred from use in this class. However, such devices will be permitted for class-related purposes. The reason devices will be permitted is because I want to incorporate online resources such as statutes, problem sets, and other materials into our class discussions. However:

  • Class purposes only. Your use of electronic devices should be limited to class purposes only. Do not allow yourself to be distracted by eBay, email, Instagram, Facebook, or other shiny diversions: I teach from a tablet that I use as an electronic whiteboard, I walk around the entire classroom constantly, and I will call you out for misusing technology.
  • Quiet zone. Mute phones and devices so that they do not make any sound. Focus on class discussion.
  • No recording. Although electronics are permitted, recording of the class by audio or video is prohibited unless approved in advance in writing by me, and will be permitted only for exceptional reasons or required accommodations.

Notice on accommodations.

If any students believe they need, or are entitled to receive, any accommodations due to a disability they should consult with the Assistant Dean for Student Affairs (John Hernandez) as early as possible. Further information on accommodations can be found at

v1.0 revisions posted Aug. 13, 2016