Law School Case Brief
In re New Motor Vehicles Canadian Exp. Antitrust Litig. - 229 F.R.D. 35 (D. Me. 2005)
Although a party may have the right to file a motion for summary judgment at any time, without a court's permission, and the court also has the "right" arbitrarily to deny such a motion (denial of summary judgment is an unappealable interlocutory order, except in special cases such as qualified immunity defenses), neither is good practice. A trial judge's goal is to move cases along to an orderly conclusion with only unavoidable expense and delays, and to treat all substantive issues fairly. In return, it expects the lawyers before it to behave with candor and, when discussing scheduling, to inform the court or the magistrate judge what lies ahead, not keep certain cards up their sleeves. That is true in the ordinary case; it is even more important in a multidistrict case, where there are a multitude of parties and lawyers, the issues are complex, the expenses are high, and the court will likely be called upon to approve an attorney's fee request at the end of the case.
In 2003, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation transferred 26 related cases to the United States District Court for the District of Maine. The cases alleged that defendants, various car manufacturers, dealers, and trade associations, had improperly restricted the entry of Canadian cars into the American market. One car manufacturer filed a summary judgment motion in the midst of class certification proceedings. Plaintiffs asked the District Court to stay the motion.
Can the district court deny a motion for summary judgment?
The District Court noted that it had authority under Fed. R. Civ. P. 16(c)(5) to control the timing of filing summary judgment motions. It had done so by issuing the scheduling order. The car manufacturer did not have an unfettered right to file the summary judgment motion whenever it pleased. In fact, it should not have filed the motion. The motion was stayed as it was not time for summary judgment practice under the court's scheduling order. The District Court granted plaintiffs' motion and stayed the car manufacturer's summary judgment motion.
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