Summary judgment motions are due within thirty (30) days after the close of all discovery. Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(b).
What is a motion for summary judgment?
A motion for summary judgment can be used to end the dispute over that portion of the case immediately. Even if everything the opponent is arguing is factually true, they still cannot win as a matter of law.
The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.
- Contrast a summary judgment motion from a 12(b)(6) motion:
- 12(b)(6) dismisses the entire case (or that claim), and it is saying that whatever the opponent is claiming is not actually legally correct. This is done once the defendant is served with the plaintiff’s complaint, and that is the only filing entered unless it is made concurrently with an answer. A 12(b)(6) motion cannot challenge any facts o the complaint. If under 12(b)(6) you attach any affidavit, document, evidence, this changes it to a Rule 56 evaluation.
- A Rule 56 motion for summary judgment does not have to address an entire claim. It can address merely a portion of that claim, and it is saying that even if all the facts are true, that still does not meet the required elements for proving a claim or defense. Rule 56 takes into account all of the discovery.
Who may move for summary judgment?
Either party, or in multiparty litigation, any party may move for summary judgment.
When may a party move for SJ?
As noted above, a party may move for summary judgment any time until 30 days after the end of discovery (because by then, all the material facts of the case should be known). However, courts may modify this date in their scheduling orders.
A summary judgment motion is analytically similar to a directed verdict motion and a JNOV motion. The difference among these three motions is the timing:
- Before case (SJ), after close of P’s case or D’s case (DV), after verdict (JNOV – judgment non obstante veredicto).
Rule 56(g) allows the granting of partial motion for summary judgment, or the judge to grant summary judgment only as to certain issues of material fact or certain claims. When a plaintiff seeks summary judgment, it is often as to liability only (not damages).
Rule 56(a) mandates the following requirements for summary judgment motions:
- After adequate time for discovery and upon motion,
- Against a party who fails to make a showing sufficient to establish the existence of an element essential to that party’s case, AND
- on which that party will bear burden of proof at trial, THEN
- summary judgment must be entered.