Three Steps for Mastering Civil Procedure on the Bar Exam

Since its addition to the MBE a couple years back, Civil Procedure has been one of the most challenging subjects tested. But although Civ Pro questions can draw from many different areas, most focus on three fundamental concepts, which form the starting point for almost any Civ Pro analysis.

That starting point is: can this dispute be heard in this court? Answering that question starts (and may end) with looking at the who, what, and where of the dispute.

  1. Personal Jurisdiction (Who)

When it comes to personal jurisdiction, think of the 4 Ps: personal jurisdiction is the ability for the court in a specific Place to exercise Power over Persons or Property. Personal jurisdiction is all about whether there is a sufficient relationship between the location of the court and the parties or property in dispute. In other words, is it fair to ask the persons involved to litigate there?

The majority of bar exam questions will concern fairness in regards to people (i.e., in personam jurisdiction), which requires both statutory and constitutional authority.

With statutory authority, most frequently you’re looking a long-arm statute. Constitutional authority requires that the parties have minimum contacts with the forum state and adequate notice.

The minimum contacts analysis is what most personal jurisdiction questions target, so make sure you have that analysis down.

For those with Critical Pass 2017, personal jurisdiction is covered on cards 1-8. You should focus in particular on the minimum contacts analysis covered on cards 4-6.

  1. Subject-Matter Jurisdiction (What)

Subject matter jurisdiction is the authority of a court to hear particular types of cases, i.e., authority over the subject in dispute. It is an absolute requirement and cannot be waived.

The constitution allows federal courts to hear cases only where there’s a federal question involved (federal question jurisdiction) or where there are parties from different states and fighting over more than $75,000 (diversity jurisdiction).

Claims with neither of these can still be tried in federal court if they are tied to a claim that does satisfy one of the two through supplemental jurisdiction. Additionally, a claim started in state court that could have been tried in federal can be moved there through removal jurisdiction.

If you have Critical Pass, the 2017 version covers subject matter jurisdiction on cards 9-16.

  1. Venue (Where)

A plaintiff must bring suit in the appropriate district within the proper forum state.

For federal venue, civil actions are proper in any district (1) where all defendants live or (2) where most of the stuff under dispute happened or exists. If neither of those can be satisfied, in diversity actions, venue is proper in any district where a defendant is subject to personal jurisdiction. In non-diversity cases, venue is proper in any district where a defendant may be found.

Critical Pass covers Venue on cards 17-19.

The above covers the most-frequently tested Civ Pro concepts on the MBE. If you master these concepts, memorize them, and then understand how they apply to different fact patterns, you’ll be in good shape heading into the bar exam.

Good luck studying!

-- The Critical Pass Team


Critical Pass Team
Critical Pass Team

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