General Off-Topic Board / Re: Announcing the most BORING LSD thread EVER! Here we ask & answer legal quest« on: October 22, 2006, 10:14:53 AM »
I know this would make more sense in the current students side of the board, but since all the smart people seem to have stayed on this side, I'm throwing it here.
So let's have 'em... stuff that's been bothering you in class, but your prof is unable/unwilling to explain it properly.... here's mine: what's the difference between a motion for summary judgment (R. 56) and a motion for judgment as a matter of law (R. 50a)? Is the only difference the stage in the trial when you can file them?
PS--also, which 1L cases would make the best Halloween costume? We're having a dress-up party next week
In answer to your query: basically, yes. A motion for summary judgment under rule 56 is brought before the trial begins, usually after discovery, but sometimes after the pleadings have been filed, depending on the circumstances (i.e., if the defendant seeks to bring any other facts not included in the complaint to the attention of the court which entitle him to judgment as a matter of law; if there are no disputed issues of fact and the issue is a purely legal one, etc.). A motion for judgment as a matter of law, however, is brought after the trial has begun (there used to be 2 separate names governing situations where the motion was brought before or after the jury had rendered a verdict - directed verdict vs. j.n.o.v. - but the Federal Rules consolidate both scenarios under the heading "judgment as a matter of law").
Other than this, the only other difference between the two is the basis for the judge's decision. Though the standard is essentially the same (whether the evidence viewed in the light most favorable to the non-moving party shows the non-existence of any genuine issue of material fact, such that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law), the judge considering a motion for summary judgment is supposed to look at the pleadings, the admissible evidence unearthed during discovery, together with any affidavits, if any, to see whether a reasonable jury could decide the case only one way. By contrast, a judge considering a motion for judgment as a matter of law is supposed to consider the evidence presented to the jury thus far AT TRIAL in making his decision, whether a reasonable jury could decide the case in only one way or not.
If any of this is mistaken, or if I've left something really important out, I have no doubt that other current law students will jump in to correct me. But I think this is right (from what I recall of Civil Procedure) and hope it answers the question. Next!
As I understand it, one practical consideration re. the before/after jury verdict distinction on jml is: If you move for a jml before the case goes to the jury, the judge likely will not grant it -- b/c the jury's verdict may make the need for it obsolete. BUT, in order to get a jml/jnov after the jury verdict you must have first moved for it before the case went to the jury.