Seeking a Summary Judgement? Get a Lawyer to Help You
What Is a Summary Judgement?
A summary judgement is a procedure that can rapidly dispose of a court case without it going to trial. This occurs when there is no dispute between the two parties and when one party is naturally entitled to judgment as a Matter of Law.
Any party may request a judgement, but often, both parties desire it. At times, a judge may also push for one during the court case.
In the U.S., a summary judgement helps reach a verdict without the case proceeding with a trial. If there is evidence to include (under law) in court, this could trigger a motion toward a summary judgement. For this motion to pass, the court usually has oral arguments before reaching a conclusion. The two parties can also prepare briefs and provide documentation on which a motion can decide.
The main reason for a summary judgement is avoiding an unnecessary trial. If a trial must proceed, there may be cause for a partial motion, which can significantly reduce the length of the trial.
Granting a Summary Judgement
While at a summary judgement hearing, you get a chance to request a motion. Granting a judgement requires two criteria.
The first is there can be no issue of material fact, which is a fact that a reasonable individual would recognize as being crucial for making a decision. It is not trivial or insignificant information. If there are material facts, then granting a summary judgement becomes unlikely.
The second criteria are that the movant, the individual who makes a motion to the court, should qualify for judgment, which is a Matter of Law requirement. The movant convinces the judge to grant an order in favor of the motion.
Upon meeting the criteria, the judge can grant a summary judgement. If a judge finds there are no factual questions for her or him and/or a jury to analyze, then the judge grants a judgement and the trial does not proceed.
The Procedure of a Summary Judgement
So, how is one created, and how does it move forward?
The moving party bears the initial burden toward the summary judgement, making sure it is proper. This is required even if the moving party would otherwise not have the Burden of Proof at a potential trial.
The court analyzes the moving party’s burden and documentation. The moving party’s burden must prove that there is no cause for the opposing party to present the Burden of Proof at a potential trial. The judgement should show that the claimed evidence by the opposing party is either nonexistent (not material facts) or insufficient for a trial to proceed.
As with most aspects of the law, summary judgement intricacies depend on the jurisdiction’s rules. Specifically, a jurisdiction has its own requirements on how to oppose a judgement. In federal rulings, Civil Procedure 56 decides if a summary judgement applies in a federal case.
An experienced lawyer understands the intricacies of the jurisdiction or federal case. For example, in some jurisdictions and some federal rulings, the opposing party has the burden of proof to challenge the movant’s judgement if the opposing party wishes to move to a trial. Whether you hope to prevent a trial with a summary judgement or need to oppose one, find a lawyer to come to your aid.
How to Respond to a Motion
If you are the plaintiff and need to respond to a motion put forth by the defendant, oppose the judgment. In this case, a plaintiff must produce documentation and other evidence to convince the judge that the case must proceed to trial and that the summary judgement does not hold water.
It is imperative to produce strong evidence to oppose a summary judgement motion. A lawyer is the best aid for producing this.
The Burden Shift
There is also the possibility of a shift of burden for the summary judgement motion. This means the defendant, who is also the moving party, now has to challenge the plaintiff’s opposition.
The defendant must prove that the plaintiff cannot produce any evidence or any strong evidence to support their opposition. This can prove challenging and is often brought up at a late stage in a case. Legal advocates should help the defendant fight back against the plaintiff’s opposition.
How a Motion Is Filed
A motion for summary judgement must have a hearing date. Whichever party brings the motion, it must provide a Memorandum of Points and Authorities. This memorandum states the legal basis for pushing the motion for summary judgement through. Regardless of the contents, if the moving party does not provide the Memorandum and does not comply with statutory requirements, the court may disregard the motion altogether.
Once again, depending on the jurisdiction, there may be additional requirements for the moving party. These can include filing a Separate Statement of Undisputed Material Facts. The opposing party may have to provide a Separate Statement of Disputed Material Facts.
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