A party to civil litigation may ask a court to rule in his favor in lieu of a full-blown trial. This is done through a legal proceeding called a motion for summary judgment. A plaintiff who moves for summary judgment must file a written motion request with the court, along with a detailed brief. These required writings afford the judge the opportunity to review the issues before the occurrence of a court hearing. A plaintiff moving for summary judgment must convince the court that no valid, legal defenses exist to rebut her lawsuit.
Check the court rules, case law and statutes. Become familiar with all applicable law, before writing a motion and brief for summary judgment. Understand the formatting requirements, length limitations, exhibit rules and the legal foundations available for a plaintiff's summary judgment motion. Be aware that federal law and individual state laws differ greatly. Know what law governs a plaintiff's particular summary judgment motion.
Explain the facts of the case. In the motion request itself, list the supporting facts and court rules in numbered, short sentences. End the motion with a prayer for relief. A prayer for relief is a short paragraph that requests the particular relief the plaintiff seeks. Begin the prayer for relief with the word, "Wherefore." For example, "Wherefore, the plaintiff prays this honorable court enter summary judgment in his favor in the amount of $10,000, plus costs and legal fees." Sign and date the motion after the prayer for relief.
Write the brief. Divide the brief into three sections: Facts, Law and Conclusion. Present a detailed narrative of the events which gave rise to the lawsuit. Present the facts in an organized, easily understandable chronology. Offer proof that the defendant is unable to dispute the facts as stated. State the law in an equally detailed narrative. Debunk any defenses the opposing party has raised by favorably applying the law to the facts. Offer a succinct, definitive conclusion asserting why the plaintiff is entitled to summary judgment. Sign and date the motion brief after the concluding paragraph.
Seek legal advice. Consult with an attorney to determine the applicable rules, laws and skills required to successfully write and argue a plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. Depend on the lawyer's advice concerning the specific motion at issue. Retain the lawyer to assist with the motion if she advises it would maximize the chances of prevailing.
Maggie Lourdes is a full-time attorney in southeast Michigan. She teaches law at Cleary University in Ann Arbor and online for National University in San Diego. Her writing has been featured in "Realtor Magazine," the N.Y. State Bar's "Health Law Journal," "Oakland County Legal News," "Michigan Probate & Estate Planning Journal," "Eye Spy Magazine" and "Surplus Today" magazine.