The justice system can be confusing and intimidating at times because of how complex and vast it is.
There is so much terminology to get to grips with that cases can become a bit mind-boggling. One such term is a summary judgement which is when a case is brought to an end without needing to continue with the full trial.
In this article, we’ll be talking you through everything you need to know about summary judgements starting with what they are, how to apply for one, what happens during the hearings and concluding with what the judge can order.
Why do people apply for a summary judgement?
Summary judgements have numerous advantages. They can reduce the amount of time spent on the case. If the judgement is made in your favor then that means you have cut down the months of preparing for a full trial down to a matter of weeks.
Also the amount of legal costs will be heavily reduced and no attendance is required at court, reducing the amount of stress you may feel about the court case in general.
There are a couple of downsides to consider such as not knowing whether you will succeed. The amount of time you have to put into your summary judgement request and subsequent hearing isn’t a guaranteed win and can detract from your time spent on the full trial should that be forced to go ahead.
Also, if you’re not successful then you have to think of the additional costs that a summary judgement plus a full trial is going to total up to.
That being said, summary judgements are usually requested when the party is absolutely sure of success and the attorneys would advise otherwise should they think there wasn’t a good chance of it going in your favor.
What is a Summary Judgement?
Summary judgements are most commonly used in debt cases when a debtor has a strong case against their defense who may be far behind in payments.
To avoid having to waste time going through a trial that they will most likely win, the debtor will apply for a summary judgement to have the case settled immediately without having to go on to a full trial.
Once the judge grants the request, the defense will be given a cost that they will have to pay.
Summary judgements can be passed during any kind of proceedings and are usually carried out by the prosecution when the defense hasn’t got a strong case or when the defense hasn’t filed anything. When considering a summary judgement, the court has to be completely satisfied that there is no other alternative to the outcome of the case.
When a summary judgement date is set, the other party is entitled to at least 14 days to gather evidence for their counterargument and must submit this at least 7 days before the hearing.
Overall, a summary judgement will last between 6 and 8 weeks which, compared to a full trial, is a lot less time.
How to apply for a summary judgement
When requesting a summary judgement, the claimant must ensure that they have concrete evidence against the opposition that is based completely on fact.
If it’s discovered that the claimant is providing false or exaggerated information then they will be charged themselves so it’s crucial that the summary judgement request is thorough.
Once the request has been filed, the defense must then present an argument as to why the case should go to trial. The defense can call on important witnesses that they may not have previously been able to get a hold of.
As no oral testimony can be given during the summary judgement, both parties will need to submit their written evidence giving their side of the case. This can be a collection of testimonies from various witnesses, police reports and overviews of other evidence that cannot be presented.
What happens at the summary judgement hearing?
Although it may seem like it, the summary judgement hearing isn’t a condensed version of the full trial. Rather, both sides need to present evidence as to why the trial should or shouldn’t go ahead.
It can be easy to get caught up in the specifics of the case but knowing what evidence to put forward is a huge part of the preparation for a summary judgement hearing.
The claimant has already made their application and given their evidence as to why a summary judgement should be granted so at the hearing, it is mainly about hearing the other party and why they oppose this.
Despite being called a summary judgement, they can take some time to be filed and decided as the court has to be 100% certain if they plan to end the case before taking it to a full trial.
Also, it is important to note that no oral evidence may be given so ensuring that everything you want to express is on paper is of the utmost importance. If you have a strong witness that you have not been able to get a hold of, you can write about that in the summary judgement hearing documents.
What happens after the hearing?
Once the summary judgement is over, it is up to the judge to decide whether to end the case there and then or proceed to the trial. They can judge in favor of the claimant or dismiss the request as well as granting conditional orders.
A conditional order can demand that one side pays a certain amount before the full trial or following a specific step when it comes to presenting their case in the trial. Conditional orders are given when the case meets a grey area and the judge requires more information from one or both parties.
When the summary judgement has been granted, the trial will be concluded meaning that you don’t have to deal with the stresses that come with a full trial.
If the judgement settlement was brought by a debtor, for example, the settlement figure demanded may be a lot less than if it was demanded at a full trial.
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