Motions in Law

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San Antonio’s Bankruptcy Judge Leif M. Clark wrote these noteworthy remarks:

Before the court is a motion … The court cannot determine the substance, if any, of the Defendant’s legal argument, nor can the court even ascertain the relief that the Defendant is requesting. The Defendant’s motion is accordingly denied for being incomprehensible. [FN 1]

[FN 1] Or, in the words of the competition judge to Adam Sandler’s title character in the movie, “Billy Madison“, after Billy Madison had responded to a question with an answer that sounded superficially reasonable but lacked any substance,

Mr. Madison, what you’ve just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I’ve ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent response was there anything that could even be considered a rational thought. Everyone in this room is now dumber for having listened to it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Deciphering motions like the one presented here wastes valuable chamber staff time, and invites this sort of footnote.

At the Motions in Law Proceedings hosted by the OBA, Melvyn Solomon discussed the importance of motions (a formal request made to a judge for an order or judgment).

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Solomon states that if you can bring a motion that supports the theme of your case, then it is worthwhile. The theme = two sentences that captures your case. You should be able to explain your theme to a stranger.

Motions can be helpful if they bring people to the table or if they put your adversary at a disadvantage. When writing the material for the motion, go about it methodically.

  • First you should write the draft order (that way you know what you want and what evidence and law you need to support it).
  • Second, write a brief closing argument (while doing this it is useful to have a document brief and chronology).
  • Third, list your good facts and bad facts (see if you can neutralize the bad facts through the motion).
  • Fourth, write the story of the client’s case in 10-15 sentences. A concise overview of the case is the foundation of persuasion.

At the oral hearing, outline a roadmap for the motion judge, hand-up a draft order, and lead with your strongest argument. Always remember, it is a dialogue. You can draft the first five sentences to help with nerves but otherwise rely mostly on a one page outline at the hearing. On the top of the page, you should write “SPEAK SLOWLY”.

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