The Colorado District Courts had slightly over 100,000 civil case filings in 2015. The overwhelming majority of these actions do not result in a trial. It is more likely that these cases will ultimately be resolved through proceedings such as dismissals, settlements, and summary judgements. A summary judgement is a court order that is issued in response to a motion initiated from either party. The party entering the motion (the movant) will generally do so because they feel that the facts in the case are clearly in their favor, thus there is no benefit with proceeding to trial. Summary judgements, found under Rule 56, are applicable only in civil actions. At the state level, the rules are based largely on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The similarity is clearly evident when comparing the federal and state rules, and Colorado is no exception.
Summary Judgment Basics
A Claimant may bring a motion for summary judgement 21 days after commencing the action. Any such motions are to be submitted approximately 13 weeks before a scheduled trial date. A cross-motion, or response from the opposition, must be filed 10 weeks prior to trial. Summary judgements are generally granted when the facts of the case are not disputable and the outcome is so certain, that the court can render a decision strictly as a matter of law. Supporting documentation for the motion in the form of affidavits may include depositions, interrogatories, and other information.
Purpose of Summary Judgements in CO Cases
- Rules of summary judgment are intended to cut through the factual allegations in pleadings.
- Summary judgments may avoid unnecessary trials; where the material supporting the motion indicates there is not an issue of material fact.
- The rule avoids expenses and delays of trial when the facts are acknowledged, or if a party cannot support contentions of fact with capable evidence.
- Motions for summary judgement are appropriate for a case where depositions, affidavits, or pleadings lack issues of material fact, and a party is entitled to judgment.
- A summary judgment permits parties to pierce formalities such as pleadings, and saves time and costs of trial when undisputed facts show one party cannot prevail.
It is clear that the Colorado courts have traditionally not discouraged motions for summary judgement; however, they have unequivocally stated that they are not a viable substitute for a trial. In Rule 56, the court also explains that if a party uses the process in efforts to delay or “stall” the progress of a case, they may be ordered to pay associated legal expenses and be found in contempt of court.
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