motion for summary judgment

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A motion for summary judgment is a motion asking the court to issue summary judgment on at least one claim. If the motion is granted, a decision is made on the claims involved without holding a trial. Typically, the motion must show that no genuine issue of material fact exists, and that the opposing party loses on that claim even if all its allegations are accepted as true so the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Summary judgment can also be partial, in that the court only resolves an element of a claim or defense.

In the federal court system, the rules for a motion for summary judgment are found in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure Rule 56. Under FRCP 56, a motion for summary judgment may be filed until 30 days after the close of discovery, unless a local rule or court order states otherwise. Under a motion for summary judgment, the movant should assert that a fact cannot be genuinely disputed based on the record. The nonmovant is given notice and a reasonable time to respond, after which the court may grant or deny summary judgment. The court can also grant the motion on grounds not raised by a party, grant summary judgment for a nonmovant, or consider summary judgment on its own. Many states have similar pretrial motions that operate like the motion for summary judgment in the federal system.

[Last updated in July of 2023 by the Wex Definitions Team]