Federal summary judgment rules expected to change starting in Dec. Court approved several amendments in April

By Michelle Lore

The Daily Record Newswire

Beginning next month, federal court practitioners may need to make some adjustments to their summary judgment motion practice.

The U.S. Supreme Court approved several amendments to Rule 56 of the Federal Rule of Civil Procedure in April. Absent action from Congress before the end of November, the amendments will automatically become effective Dec. 1.

While the amendments are mostly procedural and don't alter the summary judgment standard or burdens, specific changes include more stringent requirements with respect to record evidence citations.

A report issued earlier this year by the Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Civil Rules indicates that the amendments are intended to improve the procedures for presenting and deciding summary judgment motions, make the procedures more consistent across the districts and close the gap that has developed between the rule text and actual practice.

The amendments include:

Requiring that a party asserting a fact that cannot be genuinely disputed or can be disputed provide a "pinpoint citation" to the record supporting its fact position;

Recognizing that a party may submit an unsworn written declaration under penalty of perjury as a substitute for an affidavit to support or oppose a summary judgment motion;

Setting out the court's options when a party fails to assert a fact properly or a party fails to respond to an asserted fact, including affording the party an opportunity to amend the motion, considering the fact undisputed for purposes of the motion ("deemed admitted"), or granting summary judgment;

Setting a time deadline, subject to variation by local rule or court order in a case, for the filing of a summary judgment motion;

Explicitly recognizing that "partial summary judgment" may be entered; and

Clarifying the procedure for challenging the admissibility of summary judgment evidence.

The committee also decided to return to the term "shall grant" in Rule 56(a) in describing the court's task in ruling on a motion when no genuine dispute exists.

Published: Fri, Nov 19, 2010