WHAT IS A MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT?


12 Jun

A Motion for Summary Judgment is often filed by the defense to test whether there is a genuine issue of material facts.  Litigants have a right to a jury trial.  The Seventh Amendment to the United States Constitution provides as follows: “In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of a trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.”  In Baltimore & Carolina Line, Inc. v. Redman, 295 U.S. 654, 55 S. Ct. 890, 79 L. Ed 1636 (1935), the United States Supreme Court held:  “The aim of the amendment, as this Court has held, is to preserve the substance of the common-law right of trial by jury, as distinguished from mere matters of form or procedure, and particularly to retain the common-law distinction between the province of the court and that of the jury, whereby, in the absence of express or implied consent to the contrary, issues of law are to be resolved by the court and issues of fact are to be determined by the jury under appropriate instructions by the court.”             And in negligence cases, "when all th[e] legal rules have been exhausted and have yielded no answer, we call what remains to be decided a question of fact—which means... that it is meant for the jury rather than the judge[.]" Antonin Scalia, The Rule of Law as a Law of Rules, 56 U. Chi. L. Rev. 1175, 1181 (1989).  GERICS v. Trevino, 974 F.3d 798 (6th Cir. 2020).

Likewise, Article I, Section 6 of The Constitution of the State of Tennessee provides as follows:  “That the right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate, and no religious or political test shall ever be required as a qualification for jurors.”

Generally speaking, Summary Judgment looks to whether there is a "genuine issue of material fact."  The jury decides the facts, and the Judge rules on the law.  If there is no genuine issue as to the material facts, then there is nothing for a jury to consider.  Accordingly, a Judge can grant summary judgment on the law.  If there are genuine issues of material fact, then the case can go on to the jury.  


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