Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56

Go to Rule 56 Essential Points

Rule 56. Summary Judgment

(a) MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT OR PARTIAL SUMMARY JUDGMENT. A party may move for summary judgment, identifying each claim or defense—or the part of each claim or defense—on which summary judgment is sought. The court shall grant summary judgment if the movant shows that there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. The court should state on the record the reasons for granting or denying the motion.

(b) TIME TO FILE A MOTION. Unless a different time is set by local rule or the court orders otherwise, a party may file a motion for summary judgment at any time until 30 days after the close of all discovery.


(1) Supporting Factual Positions. A party asserting that a fact cannot be or is genuinely disputed must support the assertion by:

(A) citing to particular parts of materials in the record, including depositions, documents, electronically stored information, affidavits or declarations, stipulations (including those made for purposes of the motion only), admissions, interrogatory answers, or other materials; or

(B) showing that the materials cited do not establish the absence or presence of a genuine dispute, or that an adverse party cannot produce admissible evidence to support the fact.

(2) Objection That a Fact Is Not Supported by Admissible Evidence. A party may object that the material cited to support or dispute a fact cannot be presented in a form that would be admissible in evidence.

(3) Materials Not Cited. The court need consider only the cited materials, but it may consider other materials in the record.(4) Affidavits or Declarations. An affidavit or declaration used to support or oppose a motion must be made on personal knowledge, set out facts that would be admissible in evidence, and show that the affiant or declarant is competent to testify on the matters stated.

(d) WHEN FACTS ARE UNAVAILABLE TO THE NONMOVANT. If a non- movant shows by affidavit or declaration that, for specified reasons, it cannot present facts essential to justify its opposition, the court may:

(1) defer considering the motion or deny it;

(2) allow time to obtain affidavits or declarations or to take discovery; or

(3) issue any other appropriate order.

(e) FAILING TO PROPERLY SUPPORT OR ADDRESS A FACT. If a party fails to properly support an assertion of fact or fails to properly address another party’s assertion of fact as required by Rule 56(c), the court may:

(1) give an opportunity to properly support or address the fact;

(2) consider the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion;

(3) grant summary judgment if the motion and supporting materials—including the facts considered undisputed—show that the movant is entitled to it; or

(4) issue any other appropriate order.

(f) JUDGMENT INDEPENDENT OF THE MOTION. After giving notice and a reasonable time to respond, the court may:

(1) grant summary judgment for a nonmovant;

(2) grant the motion on grounds not raised by a party; or

(3) consider summary judgment on its own after identifying for the parties material facts that may not be genuinely in dispute.


does not grant all the relief requested by the motion, it may enter an order stating any material fact—including an item of damages or other relief—that is not genuinely in dispute and treating the fact as established in the case.

(h) AFFIDAVIT OR DECLARATION SUBMITTED IN BAD FAITH. If satisfied that an affidavit or declaration under this rule is submitted in bad faith or solely for delay, the court—after notice and a reasonable time to respond—may order the submitting party to pay the other party the reasonable expenses, including attorney’s fees, it incurred as a result. An offending party or attorney may also be held in contempt or subjected to other appropriate sanctions.

Essential Points

  • The authors of the Federal Rules intended Summary Judgment as a counter-balance to liberal pleading requirements.  The idea was that the Rules would make it relatively simple to start a case, and then the parties would share and obtain all the important facts relevant to the case through discovery.  If an entire lawsuit, or a portion of the lawsuit, is meritless, summary judgment allows the judge to get rid of meritless claims pre-trial.
  • Both plaintiffs and defendants can move for summary judgment. 
  • Rule 56 provides that if “there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact and the movant is entitled to judgment as a matter of law” then the judge should rule in favor of the moving party.  If the law and facts so clearly favor one party, then there is no need for the time and expense of a trial.  The judge can rule in favor of one party pre-trial.
  • Motions for summary judgment typically take place after discovery is complete.  At that point all of the parties should have shared the facts concerning the case.   The moving party will present what it believes  are the undisputed facts of the case and why the law clearly favors the moving party based on those facts.  To defeat a motion for summary judgment, the non-moving party will need to demonstrate that there are material (sufficiently important) issues of fact  such that summary judgment should not be granted.  The non-moving party will argue that the jury should be allowed to hear the case and decide the disputed issues of fact. 
  • The non-moving party might also argue that the law does not favor the moving party.  In fact, after one party moves for summary judgment, the responding party might also move for summary judgment, arguing that the facts and law indisputably favor judgment in its favor. 
  • Below is a video on summary judgment;

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