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Legal Memorandum: Standard for Summary Judgment

Issue: Under federal law, what is the standard for summary judgment?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Summary judgment; Standard; Genuine dispute of material fact
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 979 F.2d 1579; 660 F.2d 517
Cited Statutes: None
Date: 01/01/2009

Because summary judgment is such a “drastic remedy,” Ness v. Marshall, 660 F.2d 517, 519 (3rd Cir. 1981), the applicable standard requires that the motion not be granted unless the pleadings, the discovery and disclosure materials on file, and any affidavits show that there is no genuine issue as to any material fact and that the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.  Fed. R. Civ. P. 56(c).

The summary judgment movant has an initial burden to make a prima facie case at the outset, showing two distinct elements: (1) the apparent absence of any genuine dispute of material fact and (2) movant’s entitlement to judgment as a matter of law on the basis of the undisputed facts. 11 James W. Moore, Moore’s Federal Practice § 56.13[1] (2004).  If there are no disputed material facts, the moving party must still demonstrate it is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.  Saldana v. K-Mart, 260 F.3d 228, 232 (3rd Cir. 2001). Only if the moving party satisfies this initial burden does the burden shift to the non-moving party to come forward with countervailing evidence.  Nat’l State Bank v. Fed. Reserve Bank, 979 F.2d 1579 (3rd Cir. 1992).

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