Don’t you think civil cases should be tried to a jury? Would you be surprised to know that some cases are dismissed before they even get a chance to be tried to a jury?
The process is called Summary Judgment, and it is governed by Rules 56 and 7 of the Utah Rules of Civil Procedure.
The Summary Judgment process can deprive a litigant of their right to a trial, and some have even argued that the process of Summary Judgment is unconstitutional because it deprives a party of his or her right to a trial by jury under the Seventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. Why Summary Judgment is Unconstitutional, Thomas, Suja A.
At Summary Judgment, a judge is not supposed to act as a trier of fact, but is supposed to leave questions of fact to be determined by a jury. This doesn’t stop some judges, however, from claiming that “reasonable minds could not differ,” as to the evidence, and take the factual questions from the jury anyway.
The general rule is that if “reasonable minds could differ,” on a genuine question that is material to the case, then the question should be put to a jury. But, this rule actually requires the judge to step into the shoes of a juror and evaluate the evidence, and all reasonable inferences from the evidence, and determine if a reasonable juror could resolve the question in favor of the non-moving party.
In other words, the Summary Judgment analysis contradicts itself by asking the court to take the role of a reasonable juror. Why not just let the jury decide what the reasonable jury would do instead of asking the judge to use his own imagination?
In Utah, there actually seems to be a movement to eliminate voluminous discovery and try cases, which I am definitely in favor of.
When I was a public defender, we did trials with no depositions and no interrogatories, which taught us to work on our feet, and become skilled at cross examination on the fly. Cases should be resolved either at settlement or at a trial, not by having a judge dictate the outcome of the case.
If you have a case that needs to be tried, we want to see if we can help you. We are Bountiful trial attorneys and we believe that cases should be tried. Call for a free evaluation of your case 801.312.9330
We are located in Bountiful at 1355 North Main St., Suite 8, Bountiful, Utah 84010.