You have a lot less time to respond to summary judgment motions in federal court than in California state court.

Lawyers accustomed to practicing in Superior Court get a generous amount of time to prepare oppositions to summary judgment or adjudication motions. They’re in for a surprise in federal court.

In California state court, a motion for summary judgment or adjudication and all supporting papers must be filed at least 75 calendar days before the date of the hearing on the motion. (CCP 437c(a).) An opposition to a motion for summary judgment must be filed and served at least 14 days (calendar days, not court days) before the hearing. Thus, the party opposing a motion for summary judgment in state court usually has at least two months to prepare. Of course, those two months are often spent conducting written discovery and depositions to use in the opposition. Still, two months is pretty generous.

Not so in federal practice. The Federal Rules generally require that any motion, including a motion for summary judgment, must be served at least 14 days before the time set for hearing. (FRCP 6(c)(1).) However, most federal courts have local rules requiring longer notice.

In the Central District of California, a summary judgment motion must be served at least 28 days before the hearing if served personally and 31 days if served by mail. (CD CA L.R. 6–1.) In the Eastern District of California and Southern District of California, a summary judgment motion must be filed at least 28 calendar days before the hearing. (ED CA L.R. 230(b); SD CA L.R. 7.1(e).) The Northern District of California requires at least 35 days after service of a summary judgment motion. (ND CA L.R. 7–2(a).)

This is often the same amount of notice as litigants must give for much less important and complex motions. With only about a month between the filing and service of the MSJ and the hearing, opposing parties have much less time to respond. For example, in the Eastern District, an opposition has to be filed and served at least 14 days before the hearing. (ED CA L.R. 230(c).)

So in federal court, you could have as few as two weeks to prepare an opposition to an MSJ or MSA.  Of course, you would get more time if the moving party set the hearing date out more than the required minimum 28 days or if the court’s calendar requires hearings set further out. The practice tip for federal court, then, is that you should really get your discovery done as soon as possible because you don’t want to be caught off guard when the opposing party files a summary judgment motion and you haven’t even taken a deposition yet.

Disclaimer: Local Rules are modified regularly.

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