Summary Judgment is a court’s ruling that dismisses a civil lawsuit before it proceeds to trial. A party to the litigation files a written motion with the court, often supported with a legal memorandum, which asks the assigned judge to award judgment because the other party cannot win the case on legal grounds.
Complete the discovery phase of the lawsuit. The parties to the dispute exchange information, documents or other relevant evidence to each other. Taking sworn testimony, pursuant to a deposition, is also considered part of the discovery phase.
File a motion with the court. The party filing a motion makes the legal argument that, based on the information gathered during the discovery phase, there is no “genuine issue of material fact” left to explore at trial. Based on legal grounds, the filing party should win the case as a matter of law, according to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
Attach a memorandum of law along with the motion. Generally, a legal memorandum summarizes what happened that triggered the dispute and cites past court decisions that sustain the party’s request for a summary judgment ruling. Supporting documents received during discovery are often attached as exhibits to the legal memorandum.
Mail a copy of the motion and memorandum to the opposing side. The opposing side has the opportunity to file a memorandum in response to the filing party’s motion for summary judgment. If the response is filed, the opposing side makes the legal argument that summary judgment should be denied because there exists material issues for the jury to decide.
Attend a hearing. Some courts schedule an oral argument before the assigned judge in order to listen to verbal legal arguments from both sides. At the hearing, explain to the judge that as a matter of law summary judgment should be granted in your favor.
Wait for the court’s ruling. Sometimes judges will rule on summary judgment after oral argument has completed or will take the motion under advisement, which means the judge will take some time to contemplate the legal arguments before making a ruling. If the judge decides in the filing party’s favor, summary judgment is granted, and the case is dismissed. The ruling is sometimes conformed to a written order of court, signed and dated by the judge.