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What is Summary Judgment?


Who can request Summary Judgment and how is it requested?

Often referred to as a particular phase of the litigation process, Summary Judgment actually occurs in the form of a motion. Although typically filed by a defendant, either party may file a Motion for Summary Judgment, usually following the completion of the discovery phase. The party wishing to file for summary judgment, otherwise referred to as the movant, files a motion with the court and also submits a supporting brief. In doing so, the movant is asking the court to dismiss the case without a trial because there are no issues to be decided.

What is Summary Judgment?

When the movant files a brief in support of a Motion for Summary Judgment, there are typically several specific sections included. These sections include but are not limited to the undisputed facts, standard of review, arguments, and conclusion. However, these may vary depending upon the judge. The undisputed facts are the facts of the matter, set forth in a way that will portray the case in a light most favorable to him/her, while also stating the facts in a way that makes it difficult for the opposing party to dispute. The standard of review sets forth the lens through which the court must evaluate the motion. The standard, which is typically stated in several pages, boils down to the determination of whether genuine issues of material fact exist or, otherwise stated: whether the key, most important facts necessary to prove the case differ in an important way between the parties. If there are no genuine issues of material fact, then summary judgment is due as a matter of law. The argument section sets forth each party’s arguments for or against summary judgment, intertwining both the facts of the case, the standard of review, and the applicable law. Finally, the conclusion, usually only one paragraph, provides a brief summary of the case for the judge’s final review.

Although each section of a brief in support of a Motion for Summary Judgment is important and contributes to each party’s case, the undisputed fact and argument sections are the primary tools used to argue for or against the grant of summary judgment. It is within these sections that a party is best able to articulate and apply the standard, facts, and applicable law.

What happens after a Motion for Summary Judgment is filed?

After the movant files the Motion for Summary Judgment and supporting brief, the party opposing the motion then has a set period of time to file a Response Brief. The Response Brief argues the opposite side of the standard, thus, the argument asserted is that genuine issues of fact do exist and summary judgment is not due as a matter of law. After the Response Brief is filed with the court, the movant then has the opportunity to file a Reply Brief, which addresses the opposing party’s arguments. Once the Reply Brief is filed, the parties then await the assigned judge’s ruling.

What happens if a Motion for Summary Judgment is granted?

If the judge grants the movant’s Motion for Summary Judgment, this means the judge has ruled in the movant’s favor and the case will be dismissed. If this is the ruling, then the case has concluded and will not continue to trial, unless there are grounds for an appeal. However, if the judge denies Summary Judgment the parties then move forward with the case, towards trial of the matter.

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