California Civil Motions

California civil motions are procedures whereby one party asks the court for an order ruling on a particular issue. During the case, a party might need the court to issue an order to do something or not to do something, or make the other party do or not do something. Most motions are filed under normal time frames with at least 20 days notice to the other party and a formal hearing. Ex parte motions are used when the matter does not require a hearing or when time is of the essence and proper notice cannot be made.

Types of Motions in Court

There are many different types of motions that can be filed in a civil case to bring particular issues before the judge. The purpose of filing a motion is to request that the judge issue an order, either temporary or permanent, prior to a formal trial.


Discovery Motions/Motion to Compel

If a party fails or refuses to comply with discovery requests, it may be necessary for the party propounding the discovery to make a motion in court to compel responses. If the court grants the motion, further responses will be made. If those responses are still inadequate, another motion may be made and the court can sanction (fine) the resisting party. In extreme cases the court can even terminate the action in favor of the moving party.

Motion for Dismissal, Summary Judgment/Adjudication

These motions are to either dispose of a case entirely or to dispose some, but not all, of the issues in a case. Material facts must be undisputed and the judge can make a determination of the rights of the parties based on a matter of the law. For example, a complaint filed by a party could be dismissed if the court determines that the complaint was filed after the statute of limitations (time in which the complaint must be filed) has elapsed.

Motion for New Trial

This type of motion asks the court to overturn or set aside a court’s decision or jury verdict. It is filed by a party who is dissatisfied with the results of a case. This motion must be based on some vital error in the court’s handling of the trial, such as the admission or exclusion of key evidence, or an incorrect instruction to the jury.

Motion to Set Aside Judgment

This motion asks the court to vacate or nullify a judgment and/or verdict for legal cause. Often this is used when a default judgment has been entered against a defendant because, through inadvertence or mistake, they failed to timely respond to the complaint.

Although many of the California civil motions identified above require a determination of applicable law and require the services, guidance and expertise of an attorney, there are some routine motions which can be completed with the help of a Registered Legal Document Assistant’s office.