Six Summary Judgment Safeguards
Lewis & Clark Law School
January 6, 2011
Akron Law Review, Vol. 43, p. 1165, 2010
Lewis & Clark Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 2011-2
Summary judgment is under attack. Critics have called summary judgment unconstitutional, overused, a radical rule derived from more modest origins, and ineffectual. One rarely hears anyone willing to praise summary judgment. Existing summary judgment discourse appears moody and negative. Nevertheless, summary judgment provides numerous advantages and efficiencies. Summary judgment helps settlement chances by clarifying factual and legal issues and decreasing risk. A denial of the motion creates a settlement premium by increasing the costs and risk. In addition several “safeguards” exist that prevent erroneous grants of summary judgment. These safeguards include (1) the discretionary ability of the trial judge to deny summary judgment by identifying a single disputed factual issue; (2) robust de novo appellate review; and (3) a liberal ability to call a helpful “time-out” available under Rule 56(f) to take a focused quantum of discovery essential to combat a summary judgment request. Other potential safeguards, including (1) the weighing of inferences favoring the non-movant; (2) allowing the non-movant to introduce inadmissible evidence; and (3) a “handle with care” label applicable to only selected types of cases, work less well.
Number of Pages in PDF File: 25
Keywords: Robust de Novo Appellate Review, Time-Out, Weighing of Inferences, Inadmissible Evidence, Handle with Care
Date posted: December 23, 2010 ; Last revised: January 25, 2011
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