A judge makes rulings in a court case by applying the appropriate law to the facts of a particular case, and often the parties argue about both law and facts. When you ask the court to rule on an issue, you usually file a memorandum that starts by giving your version of the facts.
When you are a party to a court case and you want the judge to make a ruling, the written paper you file to present the request is called a motion. You also give a copy of the motion and supporting papers to the other party, and she may file papers opposing your arguments. You then have a limited period of time to write and file a reply memorandum, responding to the points raised.
Motion and Memorandum in Support
While your motion describes the ruling you wish the court to make, it does little more. With it you file a memorandum in support, a longer document setting out the relevant facts of the case and presenting your argument about how the law should be applied to those facts. In some motions, your version of facts may be opposed by the other side; in others, your facts may be undisputed.
Drafting a Statement of Facts
If the facts relevant to the motion are not open to dispute, your statement of facts need not be lengthy. Sometimes both sides agree on the statement of facts relevant to the matter before the court. Usually, however, each side writes its own, attempting to describe the facts in a manner advantageous to itself. Some attorneys describe the statement of facts as an implicit argument and suggest that you arrange and emphasize the facts you present in order to lead the judge to the desired conclusion.
Summary Judgment Motion
In some motions, the statement of facts must not only recite the facts but also tell the judge what evidence supports each fact. For example, in a motion for summary judgment, one party is telling the court that no important facts are open to dispute and that, because of that, the court should decide the entire case by applying the law to those facts. A statement of facts for a summary judgment motion lists the relevant facts and, after each, references the evidence proving that fact to be true.
Read More: How to Draft a Motion for a Summary Judgment
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.