In looking around the internet I see a number of people asking about summary judgments and thought I'd do a short piece on that topic
While the specifics of the laws for summary judgments vary from state to state and are different yet again in federal court, as a general rule a Motion for Summary Judgment is filed by a party in an attempt to get all or a part of a case removed from being contested either by being dismissed or by not allowing evidence on it.
A Motion for Summary Judgment (MFSJ) is filed when a party alleges there is no question or law of fact on a specific issue or on the entire case. One example of when this might be used is if someone is sued for a credit card debt and the lawsuit was brought after the statute of limitations has expired.
If you have had a Motion for Summary Judgment filed against you there are a few things you need to do immediately:
1) Read the motion carefully and make notes. Be absolutely sure you understand what the other side is alleging. It doesn't do you any god to brief out and win an argument against a point that is not the one they are making. Make notes on any evidence that they are using and any statements they have made that are not true.
2) Read the rules of civil procedure for your court that deal with summary judgment. Be sure you understand exactly what is required.
3) After you read the rules, look up the case law on summary judgments. If you don't know how to do legal research, you should and we would suggest you invest in the Guerrilla Guide to Legal Research: Finding the Law for Non-Lawyers. You can lose your entire case if you do not understand what you are facing and what you have to do in response. Learn the proper burdens and what is required to beat a Motion for Summary Judgment. If you know what you are doing it is easy to defeat a MFSJ and even easier to get it reversed on appeal.
4) Look up the cases that the other side cites in their Motion for Summary Judgment. Just because they allege a case says something doesn't mean that is what it actually says.
5) Respond as quickly as possible. I just read today where a person in Texas was stating that they were going to go to court for their hearing tomorrow and surprise their opponent with their brief. Unfortunately, they will be the ones surprised because most courts require that responses be submitted a certain period ahead of the hearing or else the judge cannot consider it and it will be regarded as you did not dispute what is in the motion (in layman's terms, you lose).
Motions for Summary Judgment are not hard to beat, so long as you are prepared and approach them with the seriousness they deserve.