A motion is a specific type of legal document that asks the court grant some type of relief to the filing party in an ongoing legal case. There are many different types of motions you can use to move the case along or, in some cases, have the case dismissed entirely. The type of motion you use depends on what you want the court to do in a specific case.
Examples of Court Motions
There are many types of motions that can be filed in any court case. For example, you can file a motion to extend a deadline, to postpone a hearing to a later date or to ask for a rehearing. The key is to know what you want the court to do.
Two popular motions filed during a civil case are a motion to dismiss and a motion for summary judgment. In a motion to dismiss, you can ask the court to drop the case for specified reasons. A motion for summary judgment asks the court to declare you the winner of the lawsuit without having to go through a full trial.
Typically, you will need to back up these motions with a written legal brief that explains to the court why you are entitled to the relief you are seeking. These briefs are also known as memoranda of law, and they spell out the legal reasons that support your motion.
Basic Elements of a Motion
A motion must include a caption at the top of the page that includes the name of the court, the case number and the names of the parties. Be sure to check your court's rules to make sure no other information is required.
Be sure to title the motion; for example, a motion to dismiss a lawsuit might be titled Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss. Your motion should also include specific information regarding the facts of the case and the specific law that governs your case.
How to File a Motion
Motions are typically filed with the same court that is hearing your case. It is important to note that different court systems (federal, state and local) may have different and specific requirements for filing motions. Therefore, it is critical that you look up the court’s rules so you can fully understand what you need to include in your motion.
Once you have prepared your motion and the accompanying brief, if required, and you are ready to file the documents with the court, make several copies. You will have to file the motion with the court clerk and serve copies on all other parties in the case so they will have an opportunity to respond to your motion. You should also ask the clerk to stamp a copy for your own records.
Hearings on the Motion
Some motions require a court hearing, while others do not. You can request a hearing on the motion, but typically, the decision to hold a hearing is made by the judge. In the case of motions that do not require hearings, the judge makes the decision purely on the written documentation and legal arguments submitted to the court by all parties.
If the court holds a hearing on the motion, it will consider all arguments made by the parties, along with the documentation submitted, to decide on a course of action and render a ruling. The judge will sign a document called an order, which sets forth how she ruled on the motion. The order is binding on all parties.
Legal Motion Procedure Example
If a plaintiff files a lawsuit against a defendant and the defendant files a motion to dismiss the case, the plaintiff will have an opportunity to file a response. The judge will review the motion and the response, and he may also hold oral argument on the motion. When he renders his decision, he will sign an order; if he agreed with the defendant, the order will say that the case is dismissed. If he agreed with the plaintiff, the order will say that the motion was denied, which means the case will move forward.
Read More: Types of Legal Motions
- You can find examples of legal motions in a legal library.
- Make sure that you use the correct number for the law which you are citing.
Melissa McCall is an accomplished lawyer, science journalist and legal analyst. She graduated cum laude from Syracuse University in 2003 and spent two years as a Judicial Law Clerk, followed by 2 years at a general litigation firm and a brief stint as the Director of Environmental Protection for the Virgin Islands. Since leaving the US Virgin Islands, she has worked as a legal recruiter, legal writer and legal analyst.