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What is a Summary Judgement?

In short, this is a court order ruling that no factual aspects are left to be tried; therefore, a cause of action in a complaint can be decided upon particular facts without a trial. This judgement is based on a motion by one of the parties that says all necessary factual issues have been settled; either that, or they are so one-sided that they don’t need to be tried.

The motion finds support by declarations under oath, admissions of fact, excerpts from depositions, and legal arguments. The opposing party typically responds with counter-declarations and legal arguments that show there are indeed “triable issues of fact.”

Going More In-Depth

In any trial, there are always two arguments. Both sets of attorneys will argue about the law to help determine which law applies to the situation and whether that law should be changed. All questions are ultimately answered by the judge. Next, they will argue over the facts of the case regarding what actually happened. A jury will decide the facts after they take into account the testimony and other exhibits.
What happens frequently, though, is that the parties agree on some of the facts but not all. When one party thinks there are no important facts to dispute, that party will file a motion for summary judgment. A typical summary judgment motion contains three parts. Let’s say the plaintiff is the one filing the motion and the defendant now has to respond.

  • #1: These are the facts: This is when the plaintiff presents a version of the facts, explained by photos, signed witness statements and evidence that can back up their statements.
  • #2: This is the law: Now, the plaintiff argues about the state of the law, drawing up a memorandum that talks about the statutes and cases governing the parties. This memo will also attempt to convince the judge that the plaintiff should win the case.
  • # 3: Even if…: Within the last portion of the summary judgment motion, the plaintiff anticipates what the defendant is going to argue and will also attempt to prove that even if the defendant is correct in his or her arguments, the plaintiff will still win.

Next, the defendant is poised to respond: The defendant may attempt to show that the plaintiff's arguments about the law aren’t valid; or they can prove that there is indeed evidence showing a possibility of more than one version of the facts.

The judge makes a decision: Once all paperwork and supporting evidence have been submitted, the judge reviews it all and makes a decision. Then, he or she grants the motion, or will agree with the plaintiff, if, (#1) the plaintiff's arguments regarding the law are correct, and (#2) the plaintiff is still entitled to win, even in light of the defendant's version of the facts being true. The judge can deny the motion if he or she sees evidence presenting any questions of fact that should go through trial.



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