What is a Motion to Dismiss?

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  • Written By: Toni Henthorn
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 24 February 2020
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In court, a motion to dismiss is a request from one side in a legal dispute for the judge to expel a case from the court’s consideration. The motion may ask the judge to dismiss the case due to a variety of factors. Courts allow these motions in order to boost speed and efficiency of the court system by weeding out cases that are inappropriate.

A motion to dismiss asserts that the plaintiff or prosecutor is not legally entitled to receive a court-imposed remedy, regardless of the veracity of the facts. Judges may dismiss cases with or without prejudice, the difference being whether the claimant has the right to sue on the same cause of action at a later date.

A variety of situations may justify a motion to dismiss a case. Some cases warrant dismissal due to a failure of the plaintiff to present a valid, legal claim for the case. For example, if a plaintiff sues someone for sticking his tongue out at the plaintiff, the courts will likely dismiss the case. Even if the defendant did stick his tongue out, he has not broken a law or done anything worthy of a legal action against him.


Another potential reason to file this type of motion is the filing of a case after the statute of limitations has expired. A statute of limitations is a law that institutes a maximum time that can elapse between an event and the legal proceedings triggered by that event. The event beginning the time limitation may be the crime or tort itself, or the discovery of the crime or tort. For example, if a claimant discovers that a product purchased one year ago is defective, the statute of limitations sets the expiration date from the date of discovery of the defect.

A plaintiff is duty-bound to proceed with the case in a reasonable period. Inordinate delays may damage the defendant’s position or create an undue hardship on the defendant. In such cases, the defendant has the right to bring a motion to dismiss a case when the plaintiff has delayed or failed to proceed with the case, unless the delay has been inescapable. The potential for a dismissal deters the plaintiff from using delay tactics and prevents congestion of court calendars from repetitive rescheduling.

Most motions to dismiss are delivered orally to the judge, with dismissal either granted or denied in open court. Other judges require written briefs, providing the legal argument justifying the motion. Courts have the option to dismiss a case without a motion to dismiss being made by the defendant. For example, if the plaintiff fails to respond to the defendant's requests for information or submit evidence, then the court may summarily dismiss the case with prejudice.


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Post 3

Can you file a motion for dismissal in a criminal case?

Post 2

A motion to dismiss a bankruptcy case is a much more formal process and can be filed by the bankrupt debtor itself or an interested third party.

When a debtor in a bankruptcy case is the party requesting dismissal, it usually cites a lack of assets and a likelihood that no plan for distribution of assets to creditors could be confirmed in the case.

Other parties requesting dismissal often argue that the debtor has not made enough progress to resolve the case or that negotiations to settle disputes are at a dead end.

In a Chapter 11 case, an alternative to dismissal is conversion of the case to Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Here, a trustee is appointed to identify and liquidate

any assets and distribute those to creditors. After that process is completed, the case is usually closed.

In a dismissal, the debtor pays what administrative and priority claims it can before the case is dismissed, and other creditors usually get nothing.

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