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Legal Motions

Updated on February 8, 2016

Motions in a Civil Case

My family is currently being sued in a civil court. I'm not a lawyer. I've taken a couple of paralegal courses, but not an expert on anything legal. What I am getting is an education on our judicial system. It is obvious to anyone I talk to that the case is unfounded and frivolous. Our lawyers have submitted several motions to get the case dismissed/thrown out or whatever term is used. So I decided to teach myself about legal motions. I've tried to create a list of terms in "English" and not "legal speak". If you are in the legal profession and I make a mistake, please correct me. This is what I have learned.

To bring particular issue before a court for a decision regarding a case, but not a decision regarding the entire case, you must make a request to the case judge or court. This is called a motion. The motion must be based on provable facts and is usually submitted to the court in writing. One side submits the motion in writing, the other side submits a response in writing, then the court hears both sides of the story (verbally) at a hearing and either approves or denies the motion.

There are several types of motions:

Motion to Dismiss

Motion to dismiss can be submitted by either side when they feel that the there is no reason for the lawsuit. This is also called a demurrer which means “to object”. Our lawyers submitted a demurrer for us because the charges against us that were submitted to the court were so nebulous, there didn’t seem to be a case. It would have been nice to have the case dismissed, but the opposing side submitted a new complaint that had more “facts” even though it didn’t even look like the original complaint.

Motion for Summary Judgment

Motion for summary judgment is submitted by the plaintiff to ask the judge to decide the case without going to trial. It is usually done when the case is clear and no evidence from the defending side will make a difference. Evidence has to be factual and third-party hearsay would not be admissible. So if the defense does not have any hard evidence, the case would probably not go to trial and the judge would make a summary judgment. This is not the case in my situation.

Motion in Limine

Motion in limine is made before a trial begins. It is a request to admit or exclude certain evidence. The motion needs to be factual and legal when explaining why the evidence should be admitted or not. This is often used when evidence can be prejudicial and sway a jury without factual information.

Motion for a Directed Verdict

Motion for a directed verdict happens when a judge determines that the case has not been proven and he or she will direct the jury to decide in favor of one side or the other. In other words, the jury doesn’t deliberate. They must give the verdict that the judge has decided is the outcome of the trial.

Motion for a New Trial

Motion for a new trial is made when the losing side feels that there were some legal errors made in the original trial and they want to request a new trial. This is done within a few days after the trial ends. The original judge hears the motion and decides to accept it or not. It is rare that a motion for a new trial is accepted unless there were significant legal errors in the original trial.

Motion to Compel

Motion to compel is when one side wants the other side or a third party to take some kind of action. This often happens during the discovery phase of a case. We have submitted a motion to compel because the other side has not given us certain documentation in a timely fashion or they can’t produce the documentation or evidence for some reason.

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Have you ever had a lawsuit filed against you or have you ever filed a lawsuit against someone else? What was your experience?

Are You a Lawyer? - Or a Layperson?

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    • dlobel profile imageAUTHOR

      Debra Lobel 

      5 years ago from Oakland, CA

      Some people like to use the legal system to harass others. That's what's happening to us now. Thanks for the support. Hope your mom never crosses that guy's path again.

    • profile image


      5 years ago

      This is really a good lens. The facets of law are very concrete in procedure. I hope your family gets some relief soon. My mother was sued for rear-ending a car. It made a dent in the car which was very small. The man was a professional. We drove by his house the other day. The privacy screen is back up. I guess someone else is being victimized. Again, I hope all goes well for you.


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