How to Bring a Motion for Judgment on the Pleadings

By Kevin Owen
Judgment on the pleadings is a legal procedure that permits a court to quickly render a decision on a case.

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Civil litigation in the United States is governed by rules of civil procedure dictating the steps each party must take and burdens of proof required for one side to prevail over the other. The pleadings of a case are the civil complaint filed by the plaintiff, an answer filed by the defendant and any reply to the answer filed by the plaintiff. Most courts permit a party to a lawsuit to ask the judge to enter a judgment on these pleadings so long as it would not require the judge to examine evidence not already stated in the pleadings.

Wait for all initial pleadings to be filed and served by all parties to a lawsuit. This includes the complaint as well as answers by all defendants to the case.

Present a written argument to the court, with a copy to the opposing side, stating why the other party is unable to win even if all of the facts they present are true. Since the purpose of a trial is for a jury to determine which accounting of facts are true, a court can dispense with a trial and enter judgment for a defendant if all facts presented by the plaintiff show that the plaintiff can not win even if their facts are true.

Argue that any disputes of fact that may exist are not material to the outcome of the case. Parties often do not agree on all facts in a case; however, this may not preclude a judgment on the pleadings if the facts are not controlling to the outcome of the case.

File the motion for judgment on the pleadings as early as possible in the processing of the case. Many court rules will not allow for the filing of such a motion if it would cause a delay in a scheduled trial.

About the Author

Kevin Owen has been a professional writer since 2005. He served as an editor for the American Bar Association's "Administrative Law Review." Owen is an employment litigator in the Washington D.C. metropolitan area and practices before various state and federal trial and appellate courts. He earned his Juris Doctor from American University.

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