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Summary judgment

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The decision of the court in a civil case is given in a judgment. The claimant may be asking for damages, restitution or payment of a sum of money. There are many types of judgments, which could either be oral or written. Many judgments come after long deliberation, while some are arrived at quickly, because some cases are simple, while others are complicated involving many witness testimonies and the examination of many documents.

After the documents are filed, the parties could come to an agreement and make a consent order that could be approved by the court. This is sometimes done in matters concerning the division of marital property. On the other hand, the parties could have their matter fully ventilated in court with the facts and legal argument, and a decision reached by the judge based on the merits of the case. A case may end earlier because a judgment could be arrived at, based on the documents before the court, and on the basis of these one of the parties approaches the court for a summary judgment.

What is a summary judgment?

A summary judgment is one reached in the High Court or during case management without a trial. The adjective suggests, a judgment without the customary legal formalities. It is given at a specific time, that is, after issues in the case have been joined. In that instance, the claimant’s claim form, the defendant’s defense and the reply from the claimant in that order would have been filed, along with affidavits, documents and submitted proofs. When these come before the judge, a determination could be made that there are no genuine material issue of facts that should go on to trial.

Grounds

Part 15 of Civil Procedure Rules deals with summary judgment. Pursuant to Part 15.2, the grounds are given for summary judgment, namely, a court may give summary judgment on a claim or on a particular issue if the claimant has no real prospect of succeeding on the claim or the issue; or the defendant has no real prospect of successfully defending the claim or issue. The court has the power to strike out the whole or part of a statement of case if it discloses no reasonable ground for bringing or defending the claim.

Matters that are excluded

The matters where summary judgments are not available are also stipulated. These include admiralty proceedings in rem (sea connected), probate proceeding (estate), proceedings by way of fixed date claim. Summary judgment may not be obtained for proceedings on claims against the Crown, defamation, false imprisonment, malicious imprisonment and redress under the constitution of any Member State or territory.

Application and Hearing

To obtain summary judgment an application must be made and a hearing scheduled. The applicant must file an application with affidavit evidence to support the application. These documents must be served on the party who would be affected by the summary judgment and must reach the opposing party at least 14 days before the matter is to be heard. This is a quick moving matter, and the respondent gets his opportunity to reply, if there is a need to do so. The document must be filed at least seven days before the application is heard. If the applicant is successful then the matter could be brought to an end. The effect of a summary judgment is that it disposes of the matter without a trial. If there is no need for summary judgment then the matter must be refer to a case management conference.

Ada Johnson is a solicitor and barrister-at-law. E-mail address is: exploringthelaw@yahoo.com

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