Gene Fidell Writes About Summary Judgment Practice in Federal District Court
Hearings on Motions: A Modest Proposal
by Eugene R. Fidell
The National Law Journal
December 22, 2008
Sometimes change comes quietly and by degrees rather than suddenly and with fanfare. One such change — and an unfortunate one — is the increasing rarity of hearings on dispositive motions in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Many — possibly most — of the judges on the court rarely have counsel in for hearings on motions for summary judgment or other dispositive motions. This is not a desirable development, and I hope the court's members will give attention to whether it should be changed.
The temptation to dispose of matters entirely on the papers — that is, without ever laying eyes on counsel — is compelling. After all, many civil actions, whether diversity or federal-question cases, lend themselves to resolution without evidentiary hearings. Federal case law is perfectly comfortable with summary judgment when there are no genuine issues of material facts.
However, the mere fact that a case is a serious candidate for summary judgment or other disposition without a trial does not mean that it is one in which the court should dispense with hearing from counsel in open court and simply rule "on the papers." There are strong reasons for this.
Read the full article here.