Summary Judgment - Judge Striking Mallet With Stethoscope At Desk

Trial Lawyer

Summary judgment gives the judge the power to decide a case that is factually lopsided before it goes to trial. An experienced trial lawyer explains that the idea behind summary judgment is that there is nothing to resolve, either in whole or in part, so there is no need to go to trial about a particular facet or facets of the case. Summary judgment is governed by Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56. Under Rule 56(a), “a party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense- per part of each claim or defense- on which summary judgment is sought. The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there are no genuine disputes as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The court should state on the record the reasons for granting or denying the motion.” Thus, the essence of summary judgment is that there is no issue as to any material fact, which confers that there are no disputed facts needed to be resolved at trial, whether partially or in its entirety.

Contrarily, if there is a genuine issue of material fact, then the judge is required to deny the motion for summary judgment, in which the jury would be left to weigh the facts. A denial of summary judgment does not mean that the nonmoving party had won the case, but it does means that the factual results of the motion are inconclusive, so the jury should decide on the material facts that have a genuine issue. Initially, the burden is placed on the moving party, or the party looking for the motion for summary judgment to be granted to show that there is no genuine issue of material fact. The nonmoving party would not necessarily have to admit evidence, but rather must show that the moving party had not met its burden to show that there is no genuine issue of material fact. From there, once the moving party makes a showing that there is some fact that cannot be supported, the burden shifts to the party who has the burden at trial to produce evidence supporting its position. 

Thanks to Eglet Adams, for their insight on summary judgment.