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A summary judgment is a legal judgment which is given before a trial takes place, on the basis that there are no trialable issues of fact in the case. Judges can also make a partial summary judgment, determining, for example, that someone does indeed carry the liability for something, but referring the case to trial to determine the amount of the damages. A motion for summary judgment may be filed by either party in a case, and a judge can also determine that there are no trialable issues of fact in a case and deliver a summary judgment.
For a judge to consider a summary judgment, the party making the motion, known as a movant, must demonstrate that there are no facts in dispute in the case, and that the movant is entitled to judgment. Sometimes both parties file a request for summary judgment. Supporting documentation such as excerpts from depositions, statements from both sides, and other evidence is used to demonstrate that no facts are in dispute and that a trial to weigh the facts would therefore not be necessary.
If the facts of a case are not in dispute, skipping a trial can save time and money. The judge must weigh the information carefully to confirm that neither party would be compromised if a trial did not take place; the goal of the summary judgment is not to tread upon the legal right to a trial. If the judge agrees that the motion for summary judgment is reasonable, the information will be weighed and the judge will render a decision.
People may request a summary judgment when they feel that the facts are not in dispute and they want to be assured of a win, which might not necessarily be the case if the issue went to the trial. Both parties may also agree to file because they feel that a trial would not be productive, and that having the matter decided quickly is preferable to going through the process of a trial. If the judge denies the motion for summary judgment, the case will go to trial.
Like other legal decisions, the judgment can be appealed. Appeals may be filed if someone feels that the judgment was not fair, or if new evidence surfaces which suggests that the details of the case are more complicated than was first believed. The appeals process can involve the same legal representation or a new legal team.