Rule 3 – Commencing an action

A civil action is commenced by filing a complaint with the court.

Selected Committee Notes 

1. Rule 5(e) defines what constitutes filing with the court.

2. This rule governs the commencement of all actions, including those brought by or against the United States or an officer or agency thereof, regardless of whether service is to be made personally pursuant to Rule 4(d), or otherwise pursuant to Rule 4(e).

3. With this rule compare [former] Equity Rule 12 (Issue of Subpoena—Time for Answer) and the following statutes (and other similar statutes) which provide a similar method for commencing an action:

U.S.C., Title 28:

§45 [former] (District courts; practice and procedure in certain cases under interstate commerce laws).

§762 [see 1402] (Petition in suit against United States).

§766 [see 2409] (Partition suits where United States is tenant in common or joint tenant).

4. This rule provides that the first step in an action is the filing of the complaint. Under Rule 4(a) this is to be followed forthwith by issuance of a summons and its delivery to an officer for service. Other rules providing for dismissal for failure to prosecute suggest a method available to attack unreasonable delay in prosecuting an action after it has been commenced. When a Federal or State statute of limitations is pleaded as a defense, a question may arise under this rule whether the mere filing of the complaint stops the running of the statute, or whether any further step is required, such as, service of the summons and complaint or their delivery to the marshal for service. The answer to this question may depend on whether it is competent for the Supreme Court, exercising the power to make rules of procedure without affecting substantive rights, to vary the operation of statutes of limitations. The requirement of Rule 4(a) that the clerk shall forthwith issue the summons and deliver it to the marshal for service will reduce the chances of such a question arising.

Key Civ Pro Laws (MBE/MEE)

Constitutional Provisions

U.S. Code

FRCP

  • Rule 3 – Commencing an action
  • Rule 4 – Summons
  • Rule 6 – Computing and extending time
  • Rule 7 – Pleadings allowed
  • Rule 8 – General pleading rules
  • Rule 9 – Pleading special matters
  • Rule 11 – Signing pleadings, motions, and other papers
  • Rule 12 – Defenses and objections
  • Rule 13 – Counterclaim and crossclaim
  • Rule 14 – Third-party practice
  • Rule 15 – Amended and supplemental pleadings
  • Rule 16 – Pretrial conferences, scheduling, management
  • Rule 19 – Required joinder of parties
  • Rule 20 – Permissive joinder of parties
  • Rule 22 – Interpleader
  • Rule 23 – Class actions
  • Rule 24 – Intervention
  • Rule 26 – Duty to disclose
  • Rule 30 – Depositions by oral examination
  • Rule 31 – Depositions by written questions
  • Rule 33 – Interrogatories
  • Rule 34 – Producing documents, electronically stored information, and tangible things
  • Rule 35 – Physical and mental examinations
  • Rule 36 – Requests for admission
  • Rule 37 – Failure to make disclosures or to cooperate in discovery
  • Rule 38 – Right to a jury trial
  • Rule 41 – Dismissal of actions
  • Rule 42 – Consolidation; separate trials
  • Rule 45 – Subpoena
  • Rule 47 – Selecting jurors
  • Rule 48 – Number of jurors; verdict; polling
  • Rule 49 – Special verdict; general verdict and questions
  • Rule 50 – Judgment as a matter of law in a jury trial
  • Rule 51 – Instructions to the jury; objections; preserving a claim of error
  • Rule 52 – Findings and conclusions by the court; judgment on partial findings
  • Rule 55 – Default; default judgment
  • Rule 56 – Summary judgment
  • Rule 59 – New trial; altering or amending a judgment
  • Rule 60 – Relief from a judgment or order
  • Rule 65 – Injunctions and restraining orders

FRAP

  • Rule 4 – Appeal as of right