Vail Law: Going through the (legal) motions
Im buying all the judges in the Vail Valley, Colorado, Dramamine for Christmas. You see, at the end of the year, they must be awfully motion sick. Not because the bench has come untethered and is pitching like a trawler on a yawing sea, but rather, owing to the motions of the lawyers.We lawyers are always going through the motions. It is, after all, the way we make our living. The way we move, and how effectively we move, often spells more success or failure than any courtroom theatrics.Now, you may have an image of a lawyer as a sedentary blob behind a massive buffed-out desk. And, in certain circumstances, that may be true. But as hes driving taproots through the floorboards, he may also be busily crafting motions.A motion is the way that lawyers maneuver through the law and through the facts of a given case. It is the way that the pertinent legal and factual grounds of a matter in dispute are explained to the court. It is the formal mode by which an attorney advances a position in support of his clients case, asking the court to make a ruling on a certain matter.A motion is an application to the judge for the purpose of obtaining a rule or order directing some act to be done in favor of the applicant. It is usually made within the framework of an existing action or proceeding and is ordinarily made on notice.Whew, thats sure a mouthful and, as Ricky Ricardo might have said, That takes some splainin. First, an action is the legal way of indicating a lawsuit or similar dispute. Notice means you have to tell the other side what youre up to. Sometimes, you dont have to tell. A motion where you dont have to tell the other side is called an ex parte motion.What all of this distills down to is this; a motion is how lawyers get things done. Motions are the means by which the lawyer, on behalf of his client, appeals to the court for a ruling on a particular matter or another and, in this way, narrows the issues to be resolved, the scope of the dispute, and/or the procedures for prosecuting or defending the action.As you might suspect, there are all kinds of motions. I could bore you, if I havent already, with the legions of potential motions there can be. We often invent new motions, making them up to suit our needs, and giving them fancy sounding and/or convoluted names, to impress both friend and foe alike. And, hopefully, the court.By the way, a motion can, at least in some circumstances, be a speaking motion, that is, an appeal for a ruling orally advanced to the court while before a judge. Most times, however, motions are in writing.For just a flavor of potential motions, there are motions to dismiss, motions for summary judgment, motions for partial summary judgment, motions to strike (no, not to strike your opponent, although the temptation is clearly sometimes there), motions for more definite statement, motions to reconsider, motions for a directed verdict, motions to set aside, and motions for a new trial. There are motions to recuse, motions to compel, motions for change of venue, motions for sanction, motions to expand or accelerate time, and on and on. Like black holes in the universe, motions can be, and often are, exceedingly dense, unfathomable in number, and can suck in nearly limitless legal time and resources. But, in the oxymoronic logic of law, in the last analysis, motions most times advance the action, delineate the playing filed, and ultimately save both time and resources.Motions are to litigators what a scalpel and a well-honed laser are to surgeons. Properly trained upon the corpus of the dispute, and exercised with delicacy and precision, motions maintain and oft restore the health and vigor of those matters near and dear to the clients litigious heart.Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the Bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley. His practice areas include: business & commercial transactions, real estate and development, homeowners associations, family law and divorce and civil litigation. He may be heard on Wednesday nights at 7:00 p.m. on KZYR radio (97.7 FM) as host of Community Focus. Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at his e-mail address: firstname.lastname@example.org.