Legal Memorandum: Motion for Summary Judgment

Issue: Should a Rule 56(f) motion be granted in a case when there has not been full discovery and the information needed is principally within the possession of the moving party?

Area of Law: Admiralty & Maritime Law, Government Claims, Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Summary judgment; Full discovery; Public vessel of the United States
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 157 F.3d 1271
Cited Statutes: Rule 56(f); The Public Vessels Act, 46 U.S.C. §§ 781—790; Admiralty Act, 46 U.S.C. §§ 741—752
Date: 11/01/2006

Rule 56(f) provides:

Should it appear from the affidavits of a party opposing the motion that the party cannot for reasons stated present by affidavit facts essential to justify the party’s opposition, the court may refuse the application for judgment or may order a continuance to permit affidavits to be obtained or depositions to be taken or discovery to be had or may make such other order as is just.


Within the Third Circuit the standard for deciding Rule 56(f) motions involves the consideration of at least three factors: “[1] what particular information is sought; [2] how, if uncovered, it would preclude summary judgment; and [3] why it has not been previously obtained.”  Filippo, 30 F.3d at 432 (quoting Contractors Ass’n v. City of Philadelphia, 945 F.2d 1260, 1266 (3d Cir. 1991)).  In addition, when the information sought is in the hands of the summary judgment movant, “a district court should grant a Rule 56(f) motion almost as a matter of course unless the information is otherwise available to the non-movant [for summary judgment].”  Contractors Ass’n, 945 F.2d at 1266; see St. Surin v. Virgin Islands Daily News, Inc., 21 F.3d 1309, 1314 (3d Cir. 1994).  The rationale underlying this liberal policy of granting Rule 56(f) requests “as a matter of course” is that because a dispositive motion is at stake, a party’s need for discovery plainly outweighs the burden any additional discovery or delay would place on the moving party or the […]

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