Checklist: How to Read a Rule or Statute Thoroughly
- Read through once to get the "big picture."
For example, in reading a civil procedure code:
- Ask, "What stage of trial are we talking about?" (Examples: discovery, summary judgment, post-trial)
- Ask, "What kind of procedure are we talking about?" (Filing a motion, submitting discovery, initiating a proceeding)
- Try to imagine a situation when you might look to the rule.
- Look for words that suggest a "fuzzy standard" that can be further explained by case law, such as:
- "Good cause"
- Look to your note cases to see if any of those "fuzzy standard" words are further defined or explained by the courts.
- Circle every "may" and "shall" that you see to find whether the action is mandatory or discretionary. The distinction could be hugely important.
- If the rule contains a list of any kind, figure out how the listed items are related. Are they:
- Factors the court may consider and balance ?
- Elements that must ALL be present in order for the court to act? (Look for "and.")
- Items which, each taken individually, provide grounds for action? (Look for "or.")
- For each clause, imagine the rule in use.
For particularly confusing sections, invent a hypothetical and apply the rule to it, determining the outcome when the rule is applied.
Please email Kiyana Kiel, call (619) 260-6876 or stop by Warren Hall, Room 117.