Scott v. Harris and the Future of Summary Judgment
Nevada Law Journal, Vol. 15, Pg. 1351, 2015
37 Pages Posted: 26 Feb 2016
Date Written: 2015
The Supreme Court’s decision in Scott v. Harris has quickly become a staple in many Civil Procedure courses, and small wonder. The cinematic high-speed car chase complete with dash-cam video and the Court’s controversial treatment of that video evidence seem tailor-made for classroom discussion. As is often true with instant classics, however, splashy first impressions can mask a more complex state of affairs. At the heart of Scott v. Harris lies the potential for a radical doctrinal reformation: a shift in the core summary judgment standard undertaken to justify a massive expansion of interlocutory appellate jurisdiction in qualified immunity cases. Scott is about much more than perceptions of video evidence. The case marks an inflection point in summary judgment practice for all qualified immunity cases, a new direction in the collateral order doctrine, and a potential change of course in the core summary judgment standard that could erode the pathway to trial for plaintiffs in all settings.
Keywords: Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Rule 56, constitutional law, Fourth Amendment, Supreme Court of the United States, SCOTUS, Scott v. Harris, Plumhoff v. Rickard, Romo v. Largen, genuine dispute of material fact, every reasonable inference, pure question of law
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