What Happens at a Motion for Summary Judgment Hearing?

Chloe Meltzer

May 07, 2021

Learn what to say in court to get the judge on your side.

Summary: Not sure what to expect at a Motion for Summary Judgment Hearing? SoloSuit has all the details right here.

When it comes to debt, a judgment is not necessarily something you want as a consumer. It can be frustrating and scary to feel as though the court has decided against you. Whether it is your fault or a mistake, it does happen. If both parties do not agree on the judgment, a motion for summary judgment will occur.

Referred to as an MSJ, this is typically one method of ending a civil case. If you are considering making a motion for a summary judgment, then you need to fully understand how this motion works, and what happens at a judgment hearing.

When a “motion” is put into effect, it is a written request asking the court to make some sort of decision that is related to a case. For example, a motion may be submitted to ask the court to block a piece of evidence from being submitted to a trial. Another motion might be to ask the court to move the trial to a different courtroom.

When a lawsuit goes to trial, it is typically because both of the parties disagree on what is happening in the case. If the important facts of a case have not been disputed, another issue may arise. This is where a motion for summary judgment comes into play. The motion is a request made by a party asking the court to decide on some or all of the lawsuit before a trial occurs. This is mainly because there is no dispute about essential facts in a case, but rather the case altogether.

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To be successful in a motion for summary judgment, two items must be proved by whoever is making the motion (known as the “movant”).

  1. There are no material facts to be disputed
  2. Because of the above, the person bringing forth the motion is entitled to judgment

A motion for summary judgment consists of two main parts:

  1. The motion: a written request for the court to rule in the movant's favor.
  2. The memorandum: must be written in support of the motion, and is a memo explaining why the court should rule in the favor of the movant.

Starting a Motion for Summary Judgment

The “movant” is the individual who is bringing forth the summary judgment. For this to happen, the movant must file their motion for summary judgment with the court. This always must be filed by a specific date, and this deadline is set forth in the case scheduling order. The case scheduling order is signed by the court and lists numerous deadlines.

Responding to a Motion for Summary Judgment

The party that is not the movant, is considered the “non-moving party.” This person is always allowed to respond to the motion for summary judgment. Known as a “response” or an “opposition motion,” the non-moving party only has a certain amount of time to file it. This amount of time varies from state to state but is typically around 21 days.

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Similar to the original motion, the non-moving party's response will need to consist of two different parts:

  1. The motion: a written request for the court why they should rule in the non-moving party's favor.
  2. The memorandum: written memo explaining why the court should rule in the favor of the non-moving party.

In responding to a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party is required to do one of two things. They must either:

  • Show that there is a disputed fact: This usually is done by showing evidence.
  • Accept that there are no disputed facts: Instead, they may dispute the movant's recitation of the law.

Sometimes the non-moving party may believe that they have not had enough time to uncover all the facts of the case. In this situation, this person may ask for a court continuance. This should give extra time to work on the case. There is no guarantee this will be granted, you can only try. It is fully dependent on the court.

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What to Expect During a Motion for Summary Judgment Hearing

After the motion has been filed, and the response has been made, the judge will call both parties to court. The response and motion will be read, and then the judge will preside over a hearing.

Following the hearing, each party will be given some time to discuss their argument. This is done in front of the judge to facilitate a conversation. The judge will typically follow up with questions towards the end of the hearing should they require additional clarification.

At the end of the process, the judge will grant or deny the motion. If the judge needs extra time then both parties may need to wait to be notified. This can take days, weeks, or even months later depending on the situation.

Although you may have submitted written testimony, a hearing on a motion for summary judgment does not involve oral testimony. Because of this, if you have a lawyer, they may not even ask you to be present at the hearing. This varies from case to case and lawyer to lawyer. Despite this, if you are fighting it alone, then you will need to be present.

Note that a motion for summary judgment can be a very effective tool when used properly. If you are really in a bind and it is your last hope, then it is recommended you try, but it is important to understand that a lot of time and money is typically required to draft documents, and participate in a hearing. If you do not have an experienced attorney there is a low chance that you will win your motion, but it never hurts to try.

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