Legal Memorandum: Standard of Review for Summary Judgment

Issue: What is the standard of review for summary judgment orders in the federal courts?

Area of Law: Litigation & Procedure
Keywords: Standard of review; Summary judgment orders; No genuine issue as to any material fact
Jurisdiction: Federal
Cited Cases: 143 F.3d 1042; 42 F.3d 981; 173 F.3d 398; 143 F.3d 1013
Cited Statutes: Fed. R. Civ. P. 56
Date: 05/01/2000

The court of appeals reviews de novo the district court’s grant of summary judgment.  Spies v. Voinovich, 173 F.3d 398, 403 (6th Cir. 1999).  Thus, in reviewing the grant of summary judgment the court of appeals must apply the same legal standard that should have been applied by the district court.  Gerbec v. United States, 164 F.3d 1015, 1019 (6th Cir. 1999).

Under this standard summary judgment may be granted only when the record shows 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.

In other words, a grant of summary judgment is affirmed on appeal only if three criteria are met:

(1) the district court applied the proper law;

(2) the district court, made no errors applying the law to the facts; and

(3) there are no genuine issues of material fact.

Equitable Life Assur. Soc’y v. Poe, 143 F.3d 1013, 1016 (6th Cir. 1998).

The moving party has the initial burden of showing the absence of a genuine issue of material fact as to an essential element of the non-moving party’s case.  Gerbec, 164 F.3d at 1019.  The court views the evidence in the light most favorable to the non-moving party and draws all justifiable inferences in that party’s favor.  Gantt v. Widean Sporting Goods Co.,