Civil Procedure Tip of the Week: Summarizing Summary Judgment

Post Authored by Kenny Matuszewski

During their first year of law school, law students learn about various types of judgments in Civil Procedure. It can be difficult and confusing to both conceptualize and visualize each type of judgment and when it applies. This post will focus on summary judgment.

Summary judgment is found in Rule 56 of the Federal Rules. It occurs before trial and determines whether there is a genuine issue of material fact in the case. Material facts are facts that resolve issues in the case. When a party files a motion for summary judgment (usually, the defendant), the court first views all inferences and evidence in the most favorable light to the non-moving party (usually, the plaintiff).

If the moving party shows there are no genuine issues of material fact, then the non-moving party must rebut that showing by presenting evidence of a genuine issue of material fact. The evidence must be admissible under the Federal Rules of Evidence, which includes “depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations, admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)(1)(A). The moving party then has a chance to respond.

If a motion for summary judgment is granted, then the case ends and does not proceed to trial. However, even if summary judgment is granted, the decision can be immediately appealed.

Finally, despite the name, summary judgment is not a short proceeding and may take months to resolve. Understanding the mechanics and proceedings for summary judgment may seem intimidating at first. However, it is absolutely crucial for civil litigators to understand if they want to be successful.

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