Summary Judgment

Summary Judgment in the United States

Decision rendered by a court on a matter before it goes to a jury. A summary judgment is a decision on the merits of a case. A summary judgment is requested on motion by either party to a suit. The motion asserts that there is no substantial fact dispute, but rather only a dispute in law. The law questions are then placed before the court for decision instead of taking the matter to a jury.

See Also

Summary Proceeding (Civil Process).

Analysis and Relevance

A summary judgment is a technique intended to obtain prompt resolution in a legal action. If the Pleadings (U.S.) and other supporting materials reveal no bona fide fact question, the court may enter a summary judgment, which will finalize the case. For example, a summary judgment might be used in a suit involving an insurance claim. Both parties may agree as to what happened, but differ on whether the policy covers the situation. The case rests entirely on the scope of the insurance contract, a purely legal question. A judge can review the contract and decide whether the contract covers the fact situation. Use of motions for summary judgments are confined to civil matters.

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Summary Judgment from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California

Practical Information

Note: Some of this information was last updated in 1982

An award of victory granted by the court (in U.S. law) to one of the parties without waiting for trial. Motion (in U.S. law) for summary judgment must be supported by affidavit (in U.S. law), a copy of the pleadings (in U.S. law), and other available proof to show that there is no issue of fact worthy of trial. The motion for summary judgment will be denied if any party has presented issues that require a trial for settlement. The power to resolve summarily a lawsuit without the expense and trouble of a trial makes summary judgment one of the most practical and useful tools in modern procedure.

(Revised by Ann De Vries)

What is Summary Judgment?

For a meaning of it, read Summary Judgment in the Legal Dictionary here. Browse and search more U.S. and international free legal definitions and legal terms related to Summary Judgment.

Summary Judgment in State Statute Topics

Introduction to Summary Judgment (State statute topic)

The purpose of Summary Judgment is to provide a broad appreciation of the Summary Judgment legal topic. Select from the list of U.S. legal topics for information (other than Summary Judgment).

Summary Judgment Practice

This section examines the Summary Judgment Practice subject in its related phase of trial. In some cases, other key elements related to trials, such as personal injury, business, and criminal litigation, are also addressed.

Dismissal for Failure to State a Claim Compared to Summary Judgment

There is some information in the United States Procedure Law section of this American Legal Encyclopedia about Dismissal for Failure to State a Claim Compared to Summary Judgment. For a wide overview, read about Steps in the Litigation Process

Meaning of Summary Judgment

In plain or simple terms, Summary Judgment means: When the judge figures there’s no need to go to trial, and decides the case.

Summary Judgment Explained


See Also

  • Civil Procedure
  • Federal Courts

Summary Judgment (Civil Infringement Actions)

This section introduces, discusses and describes the basics of summary judgment. Then, cross references and a brief overview about Civil Infringement Actions is provided. Finally, the subject of Trademark Protection in relation with summary judgment is examined. Note that a list of cross references, bibliography and other resources appears at the end of this entry.

Summary Judgment (Civil Procedure)

This section introduces, discusses and describes the basics of summary judgment. Then, cross references and a brief overview about Civil Procedurein relation to summary judgment is provided. Note that a list of bibliography resources and other aids appears at the end of this entry.


Further Reading

Summary Judgment Definition in the context of the Federal Court System

A decision made on the basis of statements and evidence presented for the record without a trial. It is used when it is not necessary to resolve any factual disputes in the case. Summary judgment is granted when—on the undisputed facts in the record—one party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

Summary Judgment: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Summary Judgment. This part provides references, in relation to Summary Judgment, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Summary Judgment by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Summary Judgment and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Summary Judgment or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Summary Judgment and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Summary Judgment. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Summary Judgment should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Summary Judgment when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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