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Summary Judgment Practice in Three District Courts

NCJ Number
J S Cecil; C R Douglas
Date Published
13 pages
This report describes the use of the summary judgment in three Federal district courts and compares recent practices in those courts with their practices in 1975.
It also examines rates of reversal of summary judgment in two courts of appeals. Data came from docket sheets for 600 civil cases terminated between July 1, 1985 and June 30, 1986 in district courts in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, the Central District of California, and the District of Maryland. Statistical information gathered by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts and by the Second and Ninth Circuit Courts of Appeals was also examined. Summary judgment motions were filed in about 16 percent of civil cases. Defendants were much more likely than plaintiffs to file summary judgment motions. Such motions were especially common in multiparty cases. The rate of filings in 1986 was similar to that in 1975. However, the percentage of cases terminated by summary judgment decreased by approximately one-half over the 11-year period. The reasons for this change are not clear. Appeals for review of grants of motions for summary judgment occurred in 13 to 17 percent of eligible cases. Summary judgments were reversed on appeal at a rate similar to that for all civil appeals. The results provide a measure against which future changes may be assessed. Tables and footnotes. (Author summary modified)