A legal motion is a procedural device in law to bring a limited, contested matter before a court for decision. A motion may be thought of as a request to the judge (or judges) to make a decision about the case. Motions may be made at any point in administrative, criminal or civil proceedings, although that right is regulated by court rules which vary from place to place. The party requesting the motion is called the movant.
Under Rule 12 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, a party may raise by motion any defense, objection, or request that the court can determine without a trial of the general issue. Before the trial starts, the motions can be based on defects in instituting the prosecution, defects in the indictment or information (which can be challenged at any stage but are generally raised before a trial begins). Pleadings in a federal criminal trial are pleadings in a criminal proceeding are the indictment, the information, and the pleas of not guilty, guilty, and nolo contendere. A motion under Rule 14 can address the statement of the charges (or individual specifications, see below) or the defendants. In these instances, the motion to dismiss is characterized as a "motion to sever charges or defendants."
Under Rule 907, (Rules for Courts-Martial ), a motion to dismiss is a request to terminate further proceedings on one or more criminal charges and specifications on grounds capable of resolution without trial of the general issue of guilt. A motion may be based on nonwaivable grounds (e.g. lack of jurisdiction or the failure to state an offense) and/or waivable grounds (denial of a right to a speedy trial, statute of limitation, double jeopardy meaning a person has been previously tried by court-martial or federal civilian court for the same offense, pardon or grant of immunity). Specifications are sometimes referred to as 'counts' or separate instances of a particular offense which are connected to specific factual evidence. A motion may seek to dismiss these specifications, especially if it is so defective it substantially misled the accused, or it is multiplicious.
Multiplicity also known as allied offenses of similar import is the situation where two or more allegations allege the same offense, or a situation where one defined offense necessarily includes another. A counts may also be multiplicious if two or more describe substantially the same misconduct in different ways. For example, assault and disorderly conduct may be multiplicious if facts and evidence presented at trial prove that the disorderly conduct consists solely of the assault. That is to say, if all the elements of are contained in one are all in another they are allied offenses of similar import.
Discovery motions relate to the necessary exchange of information between the parties. In the common law system, these motions capture an irreducible tension in the legal system between the right of discovery and a duty to disclose information to another.
There are numerous practical differences between the discovery expectations and practices in civil and criminal proceedings. The local rules of many courts clarify expectations with respect to civil discovery, in part because these are often poorly understood or are abused as part of a trial strategy. As a result, civil discovery rules pertain to discretionary discovery practices and much of the argument in this respect centers on the proper definition of the scope of the parties requests. Because criminal prosecutions generally implicate a well-defined constitutional guarantee, criminal discovery is much more focused on automatic disclosure principles, which if found to be violated, will trigger the dismissal of the charges.
Rules 7.1 and 26-37 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure , are often cited in combination with a specific local rule to form a basis for a civil discovery motion.
Rule 16, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, is the basis for a criminal discovery motion. Rule 906(b)(7), Rules for Courts-Martial a variety of a "motion for appropriate relief" is used as a military law basis for discovery.
Rule 56, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, is the rule which explains the mechanics of a summary judgment motion. As explained in the notes to this rule, summary judgment procedure is a method for promptly disposing of actions in which there is no genuine issue as to any material fact. Prior to its introduction in the US in 1934, it was used in England for more than 50 years.
In England motions for summary judgments were used only in cases of liquidated claims, there followed a steady enlargement of the scope of the remedy until it was used in actions to recover land or chattels and in all other actions at law, for liquidated or unliquidated claims, except for a few designated torts and breach of promise of marriage. English Rules Under the Judicature Act (The Annual Practice, 1937) O. 3, r. 6; Orders 14, 14A, and 15; see also O. 32, r. 6, authorizing an application for judgment at any time upon admissions. New York was a leader in the adoption of this rule in the US and the success of the method helps account for its current importance as an almost indispensable tool in administrative actions (especially before the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission which adjudicates employment discrimination claims and the Merit Systems Protection Board which adjudicates federal employment matters).
The Civil Litigation Management Manual published by the US Judicial Conference directs that these motions be filed at the optimum time and warns that premature motions can be a waste of time and effort. The significant resources needed to prepare and defend against such motions is a major factor which influences litigants to use them extensively. In many cases, particularly from the defendant's (or defense) perspective, accurate or realistic estimates of the costs and risks of an actual trial are made only after a motion has been denied. Overbroad motions for summary judgment are sometimes designed (again generally by the defense) to make the opponent rehearse their case before trial.
Most summary judgment motions must be filed in accordance with specific rules relating to the content and quality of the information presented to the judge. Among other things, most motions for summary judgment will require or include: page limits on submissions by counsel; an instruction to state disputed issues of fact up front; an instruction to state whether there is a governing case; an instruction that all summary judgment motions be accompanied by electronic versions (on a CD-R or DVD-R), in a chambers-compatible format that includes full pinpoint citations and complete deposition and affidavit excerpts to aid in opinion preparation; an instruction that all exhibits submitted conform to specific physical characteristics (i.e. be tabbed with letters or numbers, that pages be sequentially numbered or "Bates-stamped"); an instruction that citations to deposition or affidavit testimony must include the appropriate page or paragraph numbers and that citations to other documents or materials must include pinpoint citations. Many judges also ask the parties to prepare form orders with a brief statements of law to help the judge write the decision. A judge generally issues a tentative ruling on the submitted pleadings, and counsel will be offered an opportunity to respond in a later oral argument. Alternately, a judge may grant requests for argument in a preargument order which specifies what points will be discussed prior to a decision.
There are three types of Motions in Limine 1. Inclusionary - A motion asking the court to have something included in the trial. 2. Exclusionary - A motion asking the court to have something excluded in the trial. 3. Preclusionary - A motion asking the court to have something precluded in the trial
Under Rule 50, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the motion for directed verdict and JNOV have been replaced by the motion for judgment as a matter of law, which can be made at the close of the opposing party's evidence and "renewed" after return of the verdict (or after the dismissal of a hung jury).
Under Rule 29, Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure the "motion for a judgment of acquittal", or Rule 917, Rules for Courts-Martial the "motion for a finding of not guilty", if the evidence presented by the prosecution is insufficient to support a rational finding of guilty, there is no reason to submit the issue to a jury.