Summary Judgment

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.

Additional Sources

Answers.com

A procedural device used during civil litigation to promptly and expeditiously dispose of a case without a trial. It is used when there is no dispute as to the material facts of the case and a party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

Any party may move for summary judgment; it is not uncommon for both parties to seek it. A judge may also determine on her own initiative that summary judgment is appropriate. Unlike with pretrial motions to dismiss, information such as affidavits, interrogatories, depositions, and admissions may be considered on a motion for summary judgment. Any evidence that would be admissible at trial under the rules of evidence may support a motion for summary judgment. Usually a court will hold oral arguments on a summary judgment motion, although it may decide the motion on the parties' briefs and supporting documentation alone.

The purpose of summary judgment is to avoid unnecessary trials. It may also simplify a trial, as when partial summary judgment dispenses with certain issues or claims. For example, a court might grant partial summary judgment in a personal injury case on the issue of liability. A trial would still be necessary to determine the amount of damages.

Two criteria must be met before summary judgment may be properly granted: (1) there must be no genuine issues of material fact, and (2) the movant must be entitled to judgment as a matter of law. A genuine issue implies that certain facts are disputed. Usually a party opposing summary judgment must introduce evidence that contradicts the moving party's version of the facts. Moreover, the facts in dispute must be central to the case; irrelevant or minor factual disputes will not defeat a motion for summary judgment. Finally, the law as applied to the undisputed facts of the case must mandate judgment for the moving party. Summary judgment does not mean that a judge decides which side would prevail at trial, nor does a judge determine the credibility of witnesses. Rather, it is used when no factual questions exist for a judge or jury to decide.

Duhaime Legal Dictionary

A court order (judgment) dismissing a claim summarily, without a full hearing on the evidence, upon application, and based on the allegation that there is no claim or defence with a reasonable prospect of success.

This is an extraordinary procedure and will be dismissed unless it is clear, based on admissions within the pleadings, or clear incontrovertible evidence in an otherwise simple case.

Either party may apply to the Court suggesting that the other's claim is without foundation and swearing, on an affidavit, that they can think of no fact that might form a basis of the claim or a defence to the claim, as the case might be, except for the amount.

FindLaw

Judgment that may be granted upon a party's motion when the pleadings, discovery, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the party is entitled to judgment in its favor as a matter of law.

Law.com Dictionary

n. a court order ruling that no factual issues remain to be tried and therefore a cause of action or all causes of action in a complaint can be decided upon certain facts without trial. A summary judgment is based upon a motion by one of the parties that contends that all necessary factual issues are settled or so one-sided they need not be tried. The motion is supported by declarations under oath, excerpts from depositions which are under oath, admissions of fact and other discovery, as well as a legal argument (points and authorities), that argue that there are no triable issues of fact and that the settled facts require a summary judgment for the moving party. The opposing party will respond by counter-declarations and legal arguments attempting to show that there are "triable issues of fact." If it is unclear whether there is a triable issue of fact in any cause of action, then summary judgment must be denied as to that cause of action. The theory behind the summary judgment process is to eliminate the need to try settled factual issues and to decide without trial one or more causes of action in the complaint. The pleading procedures are extremely technical and complicated and are particularly dangerous to the party against whom the motion is made.

Lect Law Library

A decision made on the basis of statements and evidence presented for the record without a trial. It is used when there is no dispute as to the facts of the case, and one party is entitled to judgement as a matter of law.

Legal-Dictionary.org

A court decision made prior to trial based upon a claim made by a party that even if the factual assertions of the opposing party are found true, they still have no legal remedies.

Wikipedia

In law, a summary judgment is a determination made by a court without a full trial. Such a judgment may be issued as to the merits of an entire case, or of specific issues in that case.

In Common Law systems, issues of law, that is to say, what the law actually is in a particular case, are decided by the judge, except when jury nullification of the law acts to contravene or complement the instructions or orders of the judge, or other officers of the court. A factfinder has to decide what the facts are and apply the law. In traditional Common Law the factfinder was a jury, but in many jurisdictions the judge now acts as the factfinder as well. It is the factfinder who decides "what really happened," and it is the judge who applies the law to the facts as determined by the factfinder, whether directly or by giving instructions to the jury.

Absent an award of summary judgment (or some other type of pretrial dismissal), a lawsuit will ordinarily proceed to trial, which is an opportunity for each party to present evidence in an attempt to persuade the factfinder that such party is saying "what really happened," and that, under the judge's view of applicable law, such party should prevail.

The necessary steps before a case can get to trial include disclosing documents to the opponent by discovery, showing the other side the evidence, often in the form of witness statements. This process is lengthy, and can be difficult and costly.

A party moving (applying) for summary judgment is attempting to eliminate its risk of losing at trial, and possibly avoid having to go through discovery, by demonstrating to the judge, by sworn statements and documentary evidence, that there are no material issues of fact remaining to be tried. If there's nothing for the jury to decide, then, the moving party asks rhetorically, why have a trial? The moving party will also attempt to persuade the court that the undisputed material facts require judgment to be entered in favor of the moving party. In many jurisdictions, a party moving for summary judgment takes the risk that, although the judge may agree there are no material issues of fact remaining for trial, the judge may also find that it is the non-moving party who is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.