Motion for Summary Judgment

What is a Motion for Summary Judgment?

A Motion for Summary Judgment is a pleading filed where a party is asking the judge to rule the issues in dispute without the need for a trial. This is known as a summary judgment, in that it summarily ends the case before trial. The purpose of a trial is to have somebody — the judge or the jury — decide what the facts are. If the facts are not in dispute, there is no need for a trial.

There must be “no genuine issues of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law”. This means that the undisputed facts presented in a particular case entitle one side to win because of the existing law relating to that issue.

If the facts are not in dispute, there is no need for a trial. Instead the party who believes that the undisputed facts compel a ruling in his or her favor will file a motion for summary judgment. The motion asks the court to consider the undisputed facts and apply the law to them, and argues that the law requires a judgment for the party bringing the motion.

When considering a Motion for Summary Judgment, judges must view all “the evidence and all reasonable inferences in the light most favorable to the non-moving party.” Rowland v. Kellogg Brown and Root Inc. Under Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure 56(c), a judgment can be entered only if the court finds that no genuine issues of material fact exist. If issues of material fact exist then the Motion for Summary Judgment should be dismissed in its entirety.

Courts are cautioned not to use summary judgment proceedings as a substitute for trials, the motion should be granted if the facts produced in support of the claim or defense have so little probative value, given the quantum of evidence required, that reasonable people could not agree with the conclusion advanced by the proponent of the claim or defense.

The burden of persuasion on the party seeking summary judgment is heavy and if there is any genuine issue as to a material factual issue is present, the motion should be denied.

Why File a motion for Summary Judgment?

Just because the opposing party filed a Motion for Summary Judgment it doesn’t mean that you did something wrong or they have an extraordinarily strong case where the judge will enter judgment in their favor without even going to trial.

It is quite common for Motions for Summary Judgment to be filed in Arizona cases. In part because a judge can rule on just one aspect of the case. This will allow the Movant to “chip away at the edges” of the lawsuit to see if they can get any of the claims for relief awarded.

Statement of Facts and Affidavit

A Statement of Facts and Affidavit(s) are submitted along with the Motion for Summary Judgment.

  • Statement of Facts– For the movant party, (person filing the MSJ) they must file a Statement of Facts providing the facts of the situation as they see them.
    • Supporting Documents-In addition to just stating the “facts”, each Party must provide documentation that supports their statement facts. When it decides a motion for summary judgment, the court may only consider facts in the pretrial record, such as deposition testimony, affidavits, answers to written discovery requests, documents, etc. It cannot decide which side is more credible than the other. If the court has concerns about the credibility of witnesses or which side to believe, the case should be resolved in a trial.
  • Affidavit in Support– Both Parties must file an affidavit swearing that their statements are true.

responding to the motion

A response to the Motion for Summary Judgment must be filed within 30 days of receiving the motion. A response gives a party the opportunity to respond to the allegations made in the Motion for Summary Judgment. As part of the response, a statement of facts and affidavit must also be filed. Similar to the opposing party’s statement of facts, the respondent must cite a source for every statement made to the court. Doing this is incredibly tedious and time consuming!

RULING ON THE MOTION FOR SUMMARY JUDGMENT

There are essentially three way a Judge can rule.

  1. The Arizona Judge may rule 100% against the Party filed the Motion for Summary Judgement. If the Judge rules completely against the moving Party then the case will continue towards trial as if the Motion for Summary Judgment had never been filed!
  2. The Arizona Judge may grant a partial summary judgment. Meaning the Judge ruled in favor of the moving Party on some of their claims but not on all of them. If a partial summary judgment is awarded, then a decision is made on the claims involved without holding a trial but the the remaining issues will continue towards trial.  
  3. The Arizona Judge may rule 100% in favor of the Party who filed the Motion for Summary Judgment. If this happens, if the Judge rules completely in favor of the party who filed the Motion for Summary Judgment then it is deemed to be a final judgment from which a party may appeal. On appeal, the appellate court can reverse the summary judgment and reinstate the claim in the Superior Court. However, this is rarely done because most summary judgments are upheld on appeal. Lastly, depending on the type of case, the winning party will likely be awarded their attorneys’ fees and costs.

If you need help from an Arizona attorney then contact the Dunaway Law Group at or 480-702-1610 or by sending us a message HERE.

The Dunaway Law Group provides this information as a service to clients and other friends for educational purposes only. It should not be construed or relied on as legal advice or to create a lawyer-client relationship. Readers should not act upon this information without seeking advice from professional advisers. The Firm limits its practice to the State of Arizona.

Discovery in Litigation

What is Discovery of Evidence?

During a lawsuit, each party has the opportunity to request formal “discovery” from the opposing party. The Discovery process is accomplished in a variety of ways, one is to send the opposing party a formal set of requests. These requests each seek different types of information from the opposing party.  

stack of legal documents

Uniform and non-uniform Interrogatories:

Uniform interrogatories are a series of questions that are listed in the Arizona Rules of Civil Procedure. Depending on the type of case there is a set of different questions for the opposing party.

Non-uniform interrogatories are questions written by one party to a lawsuit. They send the questions to the opposing party and wait their response.

For example, a non-uniform interrogatory might ask, “Explain in detail why you did not make the payments as agreed”.

Request for Admissions:

“Requests for Admissions” allow one party to present the opposing party with statements that they must either Admit or Deny. They are written in a way so that the responding party must Admit the statement. If the responding party does not respond in the affirmative then they must provide a detailed explanation of why they denied the statement.

For example, a Request for Admissions could state,
“Admit that you entered into a written contract with the Plaintiff”.
“Admit that under the contract you were to pay the Plaintiff $5,000 a month.” “Admit that you did not pay the Plaintiff $5,000 per month”.

A party might deny one of the above statements of admissions by responding. “I deny that I was to pay Plaintiff $5,000 per month because I gave him a parcel of land as payment for the money borrowed.”

The effect of not responding to the Requests for Admissions is quite harsh. Under Arizona Rule of Civil Procedure 36(a)(4) “A matter [request] is admitted unless, within 30 days after being served, the party to who the request is directed serves on the requesting party a written answer or objection addressed to the matter and signed by the party or its attorney.”

Why does it matter if the Requests for Admissions are deemed Admitted? Well, the party asking for the Admissions can say to the Judge, “Your honor, we’ve proven our case and you should rule in our favor. The Defendants admitted there was a written agreement to borrow money and they admitted that they did not pay back the money as agreed. [Refer to my example above].

Arizona Rule of Civil Procedure 36(b) does allow a party to file a Motion asking the court for permission to withdraw or amend the admission. “Subject to Rule 16, the court may permit withdrawal or amendment if it would promote the presentation of the merits of the action and if the court is not persuaded that it would prejudice the requesting party in maintaining or defending the action on its merits.”

Request for Documents:

We are given the opportunity to request up to 10 different sets of documents from the opposing party. In Arizona, in the Rule 34 of the Rules of Civil Procedure, the responding party has 30 days to respond to the request for production of documents.

Lastly, similar to 26.1 initial discovery statements. These discovery requests are not submitted to the Court. In fact, the Judge will never see this information unless specifically and formally introduced as evidence at trial. So don’t worry about impressing the judge, we are simply exchanging all relevant information with the opposing party.

If you need help from an experienced Arizona attorney, then contact the Dunaway Law Group at 480-702-1608 or message us HERE.

* The information provided is informational only, does not constitute legal advice, and will not create an attorney-client or attorney-prospective client relationship. Additionally, the Dunaway Law Group, PLC limits its practice to the State of Arizona.

Arizona Settlement Conference

Mandatory Settlement Conferences

Settlement conferences are mandatory in Arizona civil cases involving disputes of more than $50,000. Settlement conferences are required in an attempt to alleviate the Arizona Superior Courts from managing all the cases by themselves. The rule for mandatory settlement conferences is done in part to help the parties settle without a trial.

Rule 16.1 of the Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure that makes settlement conferences mandatory in any cases where the amount in dispute is more than $50,000. If the amount in dispute is less than $50,000 then an Arbitration Hearing is held–in lieu of the Settlement Conference.

Rule 16.1(c) requires that,

“every party and its counsel must attend a settlement conference…Additionally, each party must have a representative present who has actual authority to enter into a binding settlement agreement.”

Superior Court Rules of Civil Procedure 16.1

settlement conference memo

In preparation of the Settlement Conference a memorandum must be prepared and delivered to the settlement mediator and the opposing party.

The Settlement Conference Memo must contain; a) general description of the claims, defenses, and issues in the action, and each party’s position on each claim, defense, and issue. b) a general description of the evidence the party anticipates presenting at trial. c) a summary of any settlement negotiations that have already occurred. d) each party’s assessment of the likely outcome if the action proceeds to trial, and e) any other information that might be helpful in settling the action.

Retired judges often serve as the mediator for the settlement conference. During the day of the conference the parties typically are located in separate rooms and never speak directly to each other.

shaking hands settlement conference

settlement conference outcomes

It is important to note that the mediator will not making any decision or ruling. The mediator does not have the authority to make a binding ruling. Plus the mediator cannot force either party into accepting or rejecting a settlement offer made by the opposing party. They are simply there to help each understand the other person’s point of view and to see if there is any middle ground upon which all can agree.

Furthermore, the mediator will remind the parties of the huge costs, risk, time, energy and stress that are required to forward a case to trial.

the dunaway law group can help you

If you need help from an experienced lawyer, then contact the Dunaway Law Group by messaging us HERE or calling us at 480-389-6529.

* The information provided is informational only, does not constitute legal advice, and will not create an attorney-client or attorney-prospective client relationship. Additionally, the Dunaway Law Group, PLC limits its practice to the State of Arizona.

Deposition

What is a deposition?

Deposition is the oral testimony of a witness taken under oath before trial at which time most of the objections available at trial do not apply; the basic rule being that the questions asked need only address themselves to information that is relevant to the case or to discovering relevant facts.  Anything said at the deposition can be used as evidence at trial.  

A deposition is a question-and-answer session. Attorneys for the other side will ask you questions, and you will answer the questions. When you answer, you will be testifying under oath, just as if you were testifying in court.  A court reporter will make a record of what is being said, which will later be transcribed into booklet format. When you are answering questions, you should relax and speak openly and frankly. The following pointers may be of some help:

The opposing party has a right to find out what information you have about the dispute so they can be prepared for trial, if the case does not settle.

What Happens at a Deposition?

The first thing that happens is the court reporter will ask you to swear or affirm to tell the truth. Then the other attorney will usually ask you to follow his or her rules. Ninety percent of the time, these rules are a) don’t talk over his questions because the court reporter can’t get down two people talking at once, b) if you don’t understand the question please ask for clarification, and c) if you need a break ask for one. Then the questions and answers begin. Once the deposition starts, you cannot talk to your attorney about your testimony. Your attorney is only there to protect you from improper questions. If your attorney objects, stop talking. Let the attorney get the objection out and then he will tell you whether to answer or not. Most of the time, objections are “for the record” only, because there is no judge present. So, a lot of times, attorneys object to questions and then tell their clients to go ahead and answer. Do not be surprised if that happens.

A deposition is a question-and-answer session. It is not a conversation. The pattern of the deposition should be:

You need to make sure that after you hear the question, you pause and think your answer through. After you are sure that the answer in your head is the best, most accurate answer, then you say it. Taking a pause and thinking through what you are going to say has two benefits:

Second, it lets you take control of the deposition.. But you still maintain 49% control over the way the deposition goes by controlling the pace.

TIPS FOR ANSWERING THE QUESTIONS

1.  Tell the Truth– It is your sworn duty. At your deposition, as in all other matters, honesty is the best policy. You must testify accurately about what you know.

2. Understand the Question– You cannot possibly give an accurate answer unless you understand the question. If you do not understand the question, say so. The lawyer will either repeat the question or rephrase it. Listen carefully to make sure that you understand. Some questions may have more than one meaning or may assume that you have testified to a fact when you have not done so. Listen to the entire question before answering.

Do not be afraid to say, “I don’t understand” or “I’m not 100% sure what you’re asking”. People do not like to admit they do not understand the question. If you are not 100% sure what something means, ask.

QUESTION . . .    PAUSE . . .   ANSWER . . .

QUESTION . . .   PAUSE . . .   ANSWER . . .

3.  Answer the Question that is Being Asked– If the question can be answered with a “yes” or “no”, do so and then stop. By attempting to go beyond the pale of the questions, it may well appear that you are attempting to persuade the questioner rather than answer the question.  Leave the persuasion to your lawyer.

Your answer should be a sentence long. It should not be a paragraph, a chapter or a book. If your answer is longer than a sentence, you are giving too much information.

You may feel that your answer is incomplete, and you will want to further explain so that the lawyer gets what you are saying. Fight the urge. You never want to volunteer something that was not asked for in a deposition. If you get the feeling that you should give more information to fully explain something, just remember that we can talk about it after the deposition is done and write a letter to the other attorney if we really have further explaining to do.

4. “I Don’t Remember”– Do not be afraid to say, “I don’t remember”. If you do not remember something, just say so. Do not guess!  If you don’t know, say you don’t know. Your testimony should consist of your personal observations and knowledge, not your guesses. If you do remember an event but do not remember all the details with absolute certainty, you should qualify your answer by saying, “To the best of my memory” or in some other way.

5. ‘Yes” or “No” Questions– Just the attorney asks you a “Yes” or “No” question does not mean that you have to give a “Yes” or “No” answer. One of the reasons for taking your deposition is to lock you into an answer. Instead of saying “Yes”, try saying “As far as I can recall”. Instead of “No”, you could say “I don’t recall that happening”. That way, you are not really locked into that answer. If you remember the information later, you can change your answer to make it true.

6.  Breaks– A deposition is taxing. On top of the anxiety that everyone naturally has, you are going to basically ask your brain to run a mini marathon. Therefore, the night before the deposition, have a decent dinner then get a good night’s sleep.

Record Judgment

how to record judgments in arizona

So, you want to know how to record a judgment? Courts do not report judgments to credit agencies. However, landlords may report the judgment to the credit bureaus.

An Arizona judgment is a matter of public record, but the only way to guarantee the judgment shows up on their credit report is to record it with the relevant county recorder. A recorded judgment will follow the debtor until it is paid or until it expires.

It is important to note that a new Arizona law which took effect September 24, 2022 requires that eviction records be sealed when: the court enters an order dismissing the case prior to a judgment, the court enters a judgment in favor of the tenant, or the landlord and tenant stipulate to set aside the judgment. A Motion to Set Aside and Seal must be filed with the court to start the process.

certified judgment and superior court

In Arizona, most residential evictions judgments are obtained in a Justice Court. In order to record the judgment, it will have to be certified in Justice Court, sent to Superior Court to receive a new case number and be certified, and then sent to the county recorder to be recorded. Each step requires a filing fee – as of now, the total is just over $100.

The judgment will remain on the credit report until it gets paid off, or for as long as the judgment is valid, which is 10 years. Before that time expires, you can renew the judgment with another 10 years. The Judgment Renewal Affidavit will need to be filed with the Court and also recorded with the County. In fact, any court document that affects the status of the judgment will need to be recorded once the initial judgment is recorded. This includes a Satisfaction of Judgment. You can get into trouble if you fail to satisfy a judgment once it has been paid off, especially if that judgment is on a credit report.

So, to sum up, here are the main things to know about a recording a judgment:

  • The only way to ensure a judgment shows up on a credit report is to record it;
  • If the judgment gets paid off, you MUST file a Satisfaction of Judgment with the court AND with the county recorder;
  • If not paid off, the judgment will remain on the credit report for 10 years, and 10 more if it is renewed.

If you have questions about recording an Arizona judgment against a judgment debtor then contact the Dunaway Law Group at 480-389-6529 or message us HERE.

* The information provided is informational only, does not constitute legal advice, and will not create an attorney-client or attorney-prospective client relationship. Additionally, the Dunaway Law Group, PLC limits its practice to the State of Arizona.