Pro 2 Notes
Litigation is a “system of managing doubt”. The devices we’re looking at today stem from this theme.
Judgment as a matter of law – Rule 50
After pleading and joinder of claims and parties comes discovery, then resolution without trial (potentially), then trial. The motions we’ll talk about today are motions that can come during trial. These motions can substitute the judge’s decision-making for that of the fact-finder. The judge can also use jury instructions and keeping evidence in or out to control the jury. There is also directed verdict, judgment notwithstanding the verdict, and the motion for a new trial. Where do these things take place? In a trial, there’s the plaintiff’s case, the defendant’s case, a jury verdict, and then a judgment. After the plaintiff has finished their case-in-chief (all evidence and witnesses), then it’s appropriate for a motion for a directed verdict. If that motion is denied or delayed, it can also be made after the defendant’s case in chief. After the jury verdict, you could make a motion for a judgment notwithstanding the verdict. So one difference between these two types of motions is when they can happen. But all of these are now subsumed into Rule 50, which is called judgment as a matter of law.
So look at the Rule and see what it does. The standard is very much like the summary judgment standard. Look back at Celotex. Rule 56 has pretty much the same standard as Rule 50.
Here is a classic U.S. Supreme Court case from 1933! “If there’s a train, there must be a dead person.” What happened to the dead guy? There are some train cars. Then the dead guy, then more train cars. He gets squashed between some of the cars. What is the railroad able to offer as evidence on the issue of what happened in the accident? Employees in the group of cars that crashed into him indicated that there was no collision at all. But there is another witness who gives some evidence of a collision. But the Court finds that this witness does not satisfy the plaintiff’s burden of production. In theory, under the modern Rules, the railroad could have moved for a directed verdict at that point, and it would have been valid. Is the court weighing the evidence or trying to protect the legal interests of the parties involved?
What’s the difference between a motion for a directed verdict and a motion for a new trial? Directed verdicts focus on the adequacy of evidence. They replace the jury’s verdict with the judge’s judgment. It results in a final judgment. What about the motion for a new trial?
There are troubling similarities between Rules 50, 56, and even the Rule 12(b) motions.