What Are Motions and Why Do Lawyers File Them?

Woman TestimonialWhat is a Motion?

Cornell Law School’s Legal Information Institute defines a motion as a “request to a court for a desired ruling or order.” There are many times in the course of both criminal and civil proceedings, when a lawyer will want the court to take a specific action. The attorney may also want the court to order the opposing party to refrain from performing or refrain from mentioning a certain thing during a trial. In either instance, the attorney may formally make this request in the form of a motion.

Filing a motion is not just a phrase. When an attorney intends to file a motion, there is an actual document that needs to be written and then handed or mailed to the court’s clerk. In many cities, such as Chicago and across Illinois, electronic filing may also be available or even required.  Along with such a motion, there also must be provided a notice of motion ahead of time, which is a document informing the court and the opposing party that a motion has been filed. This notice should give details on the type of action, the time and place of the filing, and the name of the judge who will ultimately hear it.

There are many reasons why an attorney may want to file a motion. A few examples of motions that you may see include the following:

Motion to Dismiss

In reference to criminal and traffic matters, after receiving a formal complaint from the court, the defendant and his/her attorney may call for the court to dismiss that complaint. There are many reasons why a judge might grant a dismissal. These reasons may include (but are not limited to) lack of evidence, lack of jurisdiction, or failure to meet the deadline set by a statute of limitation. A judge can also dismiss a case due to written defects within the complaint itself, but sometimes the judge may allow the prosecutor to simply amend those mistakes and file the documents again.

Motion to Compel Discovery

In legal terms, “discovery” is the pre-trial step in which one party may receive information about what evidence the other party has and may try to use against them. This motion is originally initiated by a motion for discovery. But sometimes, in civil matters, the other party may not always agree to answer interrogatories or provide requested documents. This motion would force them to do so if the court grants it. This may also result in the court ordering a sanction - a penalty, such as striking an argument or even dismissing the case - against the offending party.

Motion for Summary Judgment

Not every legal dispute revolves around contradictory statements and uncertain information. In some cases, both parties may agree on all the facts and need the court to issue a ruling on the law as it applies to the facts at hand. In other situations, a lawyer may file a motion for summary judgment or in criminal matters a motion for a directed verdict, in which the judge reviews the facts as presented and decides whether those facts are sufficient to support the lawsuit or criminal allegations. When a motion for summary judgement or a direct finding is granted, this ruling may conclude the case more quickly without the necessity of a full jury trial.

What is a Motion Hearing?

Sometimes, a judge will grant or deny a motion immediately. But other times, the court may instead want to consider it in greater depth, hear arguments from both parties or research their decision. In such situations, a separate court date may be scheduled specifically for these discussions. This is called a motion hearing. At that time, both parties may present their arguments in favor of and against the ordering of the motion at hand. The judge may then ask questions of both sides to help make a final ruling on the matter.

When a motion is filed, the court will not grant permission for just anything. It may deny the motion if the court deems it unreasonable, unnecessary or unwarranted. It may also deny the motion if it believes the only purpose for filing the motion was to cause delays. Doing this, or anything else that impedes the proper administration of the court could result in receiving a sanction. This penalty might require that the offending party pay a fine or in extreme circumstances might even involve contempt of court or jail.

Filing Motions is Just a Small Part of What Our Chicago Attorneys Can do for You

The legal process can seem complicated for those outside of the legal profession to understand on their own, and a lawyer can serve as their guide, providing counsel, options and wise advice.

The attorneys at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates LLC have many years of experience in both criminal defense and personal injury. We can provide you with the knowledge and assistance that you need along every step of the legal process. Call our Chicago law firm today at (312) 644-0444 and receive a free consultation.

Written by Mitchell S. Sexner Last Updated : July 2, 2020