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The Unconstitutional Application of Summary Judgment in Factually Intensive Inquiries

28 Pages Posted: 27 Mar 2009 Last revised: 16 Dec 2009

Craig Matthew Reiser

The University of Pennsylvania Law School

Date Written: May 1, 2009

Abstract

Although it is well-settled that summary judgment does not generally violate the Seventh Amendment, this verity is a product of the fact that the Seventh Amendment does not extend to cases where the summary judgment standard is met - that is, where there are no material factual issues to be tried. Thus, the Seventh Amendment guarantee of a right to trial by jury is violated by grants of summary judgment where there are genuine issues as to material fact and a right to jury trial exists, because such grants entail a judge deciding questions reserved for the jury. To explore whether the Seventh Amendment is violated in practice, this paper examines cases in which summary judgment is granted, where strict application of the standard would likely result in the case proceeding to a jury trial. It does so by examining Fourth Amendment excessive force cases because such claims involve a highly factual inquiry, frequently entail disputes as to historical fact and, at least in cases where the only evidence adduced is one's own say-so, are likely to be suits that would fail if they reached a jury. This paper concludes that application of summary judgment in practice has the propensity to diverge from its legal standard in a way that brings question to its ostensibly settled constitutional basis - at least in factually driven inquiries.

Keywords: Summary Judgment, Seventh Amendment, Civil Procedure, Constitutional Law, Excessive Force, Fourth Amendment

Suggested Citation

Reiser, Craig Matthew, The Unconstitutional Application of Summary Judgment in Factually Intensive Inquiries (May 1, 2009). University of Pennsylvania Journal of Constitutional Law, Vol. 12, p. 195. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1369290

Craig Matthew Reiser (Contact Author)

The University of Pennsylvania Law School ( email )

Philadelphia, PA
United States

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