Rule 7 – Pleadings Allowed; Form of Motions and Other Papers

(a) Pleadings. Only these pleadings are allowed:

(1) a complaint;

(2) an answer to a complaint;

(3) an answer to a counterclaim designated as a counterclaim;

(4) an answer to a crossclaim;

(5) a third-party complaint;

(6) an answer to a third-party complaint; and

(7) if the court orders one, a reply to an answer.

(b) Motions and Other Papers.

(1) In General. A request for a court order must be made by motion. The motion must:

(A) be in writing unless made during a hearing or trial;

(B) state with particularity the grounds for seeking the order; and

(C) state the relief sought.

(2) Form. The rules governing captions and other matters of form in pleadings apply to motions and other papers.

Summary and Explanation

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 7 focuses on “Pleadings Allowed; Form of Motions and Other Papers.” This rule establishes the foundation for how litigation is structured in federal courts by delineating what constitutes formal pleadings and setting standards for other legal documents filed in a case. Here’s a breakdown and explanation of its main provisions:

1. Pleadings Allowed

  • The rule specifies the types of pleadings that are permissible in federal civil litigation, which include:
  • Complaint
  • Answer to a Complaint
  • Answer to a Counterclaim designated as a Counterclaim
  • Answer to a Crossclaim
  • Third-Party Complaint
  • Answer to a Third-Party Complaint
  • It also mentions that if the court orders it, a reply to an answer may be required, but such replies are not commonly mandated.

2. Motions and Other Papers

  • This part of the rule outlines the requirements for motions and other legal papers, which are not considered pleadings but are nonetheless integral to the litigation process. It specifies that motions and other papers must:
  • State with particularity the grounds for seeking the order,
  • Set forth the relief or order sought, and
  • If presenting facts not appearing of record, be supported by affidavits or as otherwise provided by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 43(c).

3. Form of Motions and Other Papers

  • Rule 7 provides guidance on the form that motions and other papers should take, emphasizing the need for clarity and proper organization. This includes requirements for stating the basis of the motion and the specific relief sought. The aim is to ensure that the documents are easily understandable and facilitate efficient decision-making by the court.

4. Purpose and Importance

  • Structural Clarity: Rule 7 establishes a clear structure for litigation by identifying what documents are considered pleadings and specifying how other documents should be formatted and presented. This clarity helps parties understand what is expected of them at various stages of a lawsuit.
  • Efficiency and Fairness: By requiring motions and other papers to clearly state their grounds and the relief sought, the rule promotes efficient processing of cases and fairness in proceedings, ensuring that all parties have a clear understanding of what is being requested from the court.

Practical Implications

  • Understanding Rule 7 is crucial for practitioners in federal court as it affects the very foundation of how cases are argued and progressed. It influences the drafting and filing of the initial complaint, how parties respond to claims against them, and how subsequent motions and papers are structured.

In essence, Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 7 lays the groundwork for the procedural aspects of federal court litigation, ensuring that the legal process is orderly, transparent, and fair from the initial pleadings to the final motions.


(As amended Dec. 27, 1946, eff. Mar. 19, 1948; Jan. 21, 1963, eff. July 1, 1963; Apr. 28, 1983, eff. Aug. 1, 1983; Apr. 30, 2007, eff. Dec. 1, 2007.)

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1937

1. A provision designating pleadings and defining a motion is common in the State practice acts. See Ill.Rev.Stat. (1937), ch. 110, §156 (Designation and order of pleadings); 2 Minn.Stat. (Mason, 1927) §9246 (Definition of motion); and N.Y.C.P.A. (1937) §113 (Definition of motion). Former Equity Rules 18 (Pleadings—Technical Forms Abrogated), 29 (Defenses—How Presented), and 33 (Testing Sufficiency of Defense) abolished technical forms of pleading, demurrers, and pleas, and exceptions for insufficiency of an answer.

2. Note to Subdivision (a). This preserves the substance of [former] Equity Rule 31 (Reply—When Required—When Cause at Issue). Compare the English practice, English Rules Under the Judicature Act (The Annual Practice, 1937) O. 23, r.r. 1, 2 (Reply to counterclaim; amended, 1933, to be subject to the rules applicable to defenses, O. 21). See O. 21, r.r. 1–14; O. 27, r. 13 (When pleadings deemed denied and put in issue). Under the codes the pleadings are generally limited. A reply is sometimes required to an affirmative defense in the answer. 1 Colo.Stat.Ann. (1935) §66; Ore.Code Ann. (1930) §§1–614, 1–616. In other jurisdictions no reply is necessary to an affirmative defense in the answer, but a reply may be ordered by the court. N.C.Code Ann. (1935) §525; 1 S.D.Comp.Laws (1929) §2357. A reply to a counterclaim is usually required. Ark.Civ.Code (Crawford, 1934) §§123–125; Wis.Stat. (1935) §§263.20, 263.21. U.S.C., Title 28, [former] §45 (District courts; practice and procedure in certain cases) is modified insofar as it may dispense with a reply to a counterclaim.

For amendment of pleadings, see Rule 15 dealing with amended and supplemental pleadings.

3. All statutes which use the words “petition”, “bill of complaint”, “plea”, “demurrer”, and other such terminology are modified in form by this rule.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1946 Amendment

This amendment [to subdivision (a)] eliminates any question as to whether the compulsory reply, where a counterclaim is pleaded, is a reply only to the counterclaim or is a general reply to the answer containing the counterclaim. See Commentary, Scope of Reply Where Defendant Has Pleaded Counterclaim (1939) 1 Fed.Rules Serv. 672; Fort Chartres and Ivy Landing Drainage and Levee District No. Five v. Thompson (E.D.Ill. 1945) 8 Fed.Rules Serv. 13.32, Case 1.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1963 Amendment

Certain redundant words are eliminated and the subdivision is modified to reflect the amendment of Rule 14(a) which in certain cases eliminates the requirement of obtaining leave to bring in a third-party defendant.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1983 Amendment

One of the reasons sanctions against improper motion practice have been employed infrequently is the lack of clarity of Rule 7. That rule has stated only generally that the pleading requirements relating to captions, signing, and other matters of form also apply to motions and other papers. The addition of Rule 7(b)(3) makes explicit the applicability of the signing requirement and the sanctions of Rule 11, which have been amplified.

Committee Notes on Rules—2007 Amendment

The language of Rule 7 has been amended as part of the general restyling of the Civil Rules to make them more easily understood and to make style and terminology consistent throughout the rules. These changes are intended to be stylistic only.

Former Rule 7(a) stated that “there shall be * * * an answer to a cross-claim, if the answer contains a cross-claim * * *.” Former Rule 12(a)(2) provided more generally that “[a] party served with a pleading stating a cross-claim against that party shall serve an answer thereto * * *.” New Rule 7(a) corrects this inconsistency by providing for an answer to a crossclaim.

For the first time, Rule 7(a)(7) expressly authorizes the court to order a reply to a counterclaim answer. A reply may be as useful in this setting as a reply to an answer, a third-party answer, or a crossclaim answer.

Former Rule 7(b)(1) stated that the writing requirement is fulfilled if the motion is stated in a written notice of hearing. This statement was deleted as redundant because a single written document can satisfy the writing requirements both for a motion and for a Rule 6(c)(1) notice.

The cross-reference to Rule 11 in former Rule 7(b)(3) is deleted as redundant. Rule 11 applies by its own terms. The force and application of Rule 11 are not diminished by the deletion.

Former Rule 7(c) is deleted because it has done its work. If a motion or pleading is described as a demurrer, plea, or exception for insufficiency, the court will treat the paper as if properly captioned.

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