Civil Procedure on the California Bar Exam
Here, we tell you how to conquer Civil Procedure on the California Bar Exam. Civil Procedure is regularly tested on the California Bar Exam. The good news is that it is somewhat predictable in terms of how it is tested. Here, we tell you how to approach Civil Procedure so that you maximize your points.
Civil Procedure on the California Bar Exam
1. First, master federal law.
It is true that you are expected to know California Civil Procedure in addition to Federal Civil Procedure. This is unfortunate since California is quite different from the Federal Rules. (A lot of the vocabulary is different and the rules are nuanced.)
However, California law hardly is ever tested on the essays. It was tested in July 2016 and there was a brief California issue in July 2009 when Civil Procedure was combined with Professional Responsibility. While California law is not frequently tested, you still want to know it! Rumor has it that California Civil Procedure will be tested more frequently in the future (though who knows if this rumor has any validity!).
We recommend that you first master the federal law (since this is the law most likely to appear on the essays, and you need to know it for the MBE anyway). Then, only after you feel comfortable with the federal rules, work on mastering some of the California distinctions. Also, closely review the July 2016 California Bar Exam essay question and answer. The distinctions tested in that essay question could very well appear again on a future essay question.
2. Be aware of the highly tested issues.
California tests certain issues over and over again. (We have a nice summary of these in our California Bar Exam One-Sheets.)
Some of the “favorite” California Bar Exam issues on Civil Procedure questions include:
- Personal jurisdiction
- Subject matter jurisdiction. Discuss federal question and diversity jurisdiction if you see this tested. Diversity jurisdiction is tested a lot more than federal question jurisdiction. Make sure you understand the concepts of domicile and what it means for a claim to “exceed $75,000.”
- Removal is occasionally tested.
- Erie is tested in the context of the right to a trial by jury (federal procedure will apply if that is the issue!).
- Claim and issue preclusion are also hot topics!
3. Be aware of the approach you should use for highly tested topics.
We recommend looking at past essays that test personal and subject matter jurisdiction so you can see the general structure.
For example, there is a certain “formula” you should follow if you see personal jurisdiction (PJ) tested.
- We recommend discussing general jurisdiction then specific jurisdiction.
- Under specific jurisdiction, you should discuss minimum contacts (including purposeful availment, foreseeability), relatedness of the contacts to the claim, and fairness. We recommend including a separate heading for each of those keywords! You should use this approach any time you see PJ tested.
The same goes for subject matter jurisdiction. Be thorough and make sure to at least briefly discuss both federal question jurisdiction and diversity jurisdiction if you see subject matter jurisdiction tested. If diversity jurisdiction is tested, you should also discuss domicile and the “exceeding $75,000” requirement.
The best way to get good at Civil Procedure issues is to practice answering essay questions. This will get you acquainted with the highly tested issues and you will be able to see how they actually are tested on the exam.
Here are a few essay questions with student answers that we recommend you practice to get exposed to some highly tested topics in Civil Procedure:
- July 2016 Civil Procedure essay question and student answer (see essay question #1 on the exam)
- February 2015 Civil Procedure essay question and student answer (see essay question #3 on the exam)
Practice will help you doubly since Civil Procedure also is an MBE subject. Thus, working on the essays will help you with the MBE as well.
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