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Fed. R. Civil P. 56

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Summary Judgment | Sua Sponte Orders

This case touches on motions for summary judg­ment in connection with Hague Convention cases. Because of the emphasis on expedited proceedings, many courts have used summary judgment procedures to eliminate unmeritorious cases and narrow issues to those where there is a real and material dispute. Rule 56 sets out con­siderations and procedures for summary judgments, and provides that a court may grant a summary judgment where there is no genuine dispute as to any material fact, and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law.

Facts

Mother petitioned the district court for the return of her two children to Belgium; they were being retained in Utah by their father after the conclusion of their vacation with him. The district court held a preliminary hearing six days after the petition was filed, during which time the parties provided documentation to support their claims. Mother presented evidence that established a prima facie case for the return of the children—that the children’s habitual residence was Belgium, that she had enforceable custody rights, and that father had wrongfully retained the children. Father asserted an Article 13(b) defense that the children would be exposed to a grave risk if returned to Belgium, but he had no actual evidence that he could present that such a grave risk existed. What father really wanted was additional time to be able to investigate whether there was abuse. Based upon the oral and written submissions of the parties, the district court issued a brief written decision granting mother’s petition and ordered the children returned to Belgium.

Discussion

Summary Judgment Procedure. The Tenth Circuit recognized that Article 11 of the Convention exhorts court to act expeditiously to determine petitions made for return of children. The court noted that a district court has a great deal of discretion to determine the procedures necessary to resolve a Hague case. Quoting March v. Levine,[1] the court observed that neither the Convention, nor ICARA, nor any constitutional provisions require that an evidentiary hearing or discovery be allowed, as a matter of right, in Hague Convention proceedings. In this case, mother had easily made out a prima facie case for return, and father was unable to provide any credible evidence that supported his claim of a grave risk under Article 13. At most, his submissions amounted to a “fishing expedition.” Rejecting father’s claims that he had been denied due process by the lack of an evidentiary hearing, the court held that the father had a meaningful opportunity to be heard and no denial of due process occurred.


[1]. 249 F.3d 462, 474 (6th Cir. 2001).

This document is part of The 1980 Hague Convention on International Child Abduction: A Resource for Judges, a Special Topic Webpage.

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The Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Civil Rules asked the Federal Judicial Center to examine summary judgment practice across federal district courts as a means of assessing the potential impact of proposed amendments to Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.

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Report of a Federal Judicial Center study of summary judgment practice in six federal district courts during six time periods over twenty-five years (1975-2000), to determine whether summary judgment activity has increased over time and to what extent changes in summary judgment practice are due to the 1986 Supreme Court trilogy of summary judgment cases. From 4 Journal of Empirical Legal Studies 861-907 (2007).

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The Advisory Committee on Civil Rules asked the Federal Judicial Center to examine summary judgment practice across federal district courts as a means of assessing the potential impact of the proposed amendments to Rule 56. This initial report examined summary judgment practice in the 276,120 civil cases terminated in the federal district courts in Fiscal Year 2006.

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The Advisory Committee on Civil Rules asked the Federal Judicial Center to examine summary judgment practice across federal district courts as a means of assessing the potential impact of the proposed amendments to Rule 56. This report examined summary judgment activity in 179,969 cases terminated in the 78 federal district courts that had fully implemented the CM/ECF reporting system in Fiscal Year 2006.

In Print: Available for Distribution

Report of a Federal Judicial Center study of summary judgment practice in six federal district courts during six time periods over twenty-five years (1975-2000), to determine whether summary judgment activity has increased over time and to what extent changes in summary judgment practice are due to the 1986 Supreme Court trilogy of summary judgment cases. For a 2-page summary of this report see FJC Research Brief, No. 2: Trends in Summary Judgment Practice: 1975-2000.

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The drop in trial rate in civil cases over the past three decades prompts many hypotheses about the cause. One possible explanation is an increase in dispositive motions, especially motions for summary judgment. The Center has collected information on dispositive motions in cases terminated in six federal district courts during 1975, 1985, 1988, 1990, 1995 and 2000. This preliminary analysis examines changes in summary judgment practice.

In Print: Available for Distribution

A magazine that reported Center research and education activities in a concise format. In this issue of FJC Directions:

  • Observations from the Pilot Sentencing Institute for the Fifth and Eleventh Circuits, by Barbara S. Meierhoefer, page 3
  • Trends in Summary Judgment Practice: A Summary of Findings, by Joe S. Cecil, page 11. A second assessment of changes in summary judgment practice (see Summary Judgment Practice in Three District Courts). This study, examining practices in six federal district courts across a 14-year period, found that the percentage of cases with motions for summary judgment varies greatly by district and type of case. In torts and civil rights cases, motions for summary judgment have increased since 1975, whereas in prisoner cases they have dropped sharply. No increases in such motions were found since a series of decisions by the Supreme Court in 1986 clarifying the standards for summary judgment. Summary judgments are reversed at a rate that is similar to that of other civil appeals, and usually on an interpretation of substantive law rather than an overlooked material fact.

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