Legal Memorandum: Appropriateness of Summary Judgment

Issue: In Alabama and federal law, in what instances would summary judgment be appropriate?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Summary judgment; No genuine issue as to any material fact; Judgment as a matter of law
Jurisdiction: Alabama, Federal
Cited Cases: 477 U.S. 317; 93 F. Supp. 2d 1201; 2 F.3d 1112; 977 F. Supp. 1051
Cited Statutes: Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c)
Date: 10/01/2000

Under Rule 56(c), summary judgment is proper if the papers on file “show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.”  Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c); see Pennington v. City of Huntsville, 93 F. Supp. 2d 1201, 1205 (N.D. Ala. 2000).  The party moving for summary judgment always bears an initial responsibility of stating the grounds for the motion and pointing out those portions of the pleadings or other filings which show the nonexistence of issues of material facts.  Celotex Corp. v. Catrett, 477 U.S. 317, 323 (1986).

If the moving party bears the burden of proof at trial it can meet is initial summary judgment responsibility by pointing out evidence that demonstrates the absence of a genuine issue of material fact; that is, by pointing to facts “that would entitle it to a directed verdict if not controverted at trial.”  Fitzpatrick v. City of Atlanta, 2 F.3d 1112, 1115 (11th Cir. 1993).

Once the moving party discharges this initial responsibility the burden shifts to the nonmoving party to produce “significant probative evidence” that contravenes the moving party’s evidence and presents a genuine issue of material fact for trial.  Id. at 1115-16.

Rule 56 also authorizes a party to seek, and the court to render, a partial summary adjudication with respect to a particular issue or issues, such […]

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