by Hon. Randall H. Warner
Hon. Randall H. Warner
is an Arizona Superior Court Judge
in Maricopa County.
CIVIL PRACTICE POINTERS
Every motion needs an
introduction. Something to prepare
the judge for what’s coming. Something that says, in a nutshell, what
you’re asking for. This column is
about writing an effective introduction. But first, the why.
Ever walk into the middle of a
conversation? That’s what it feels
like to read a motion that launches
directly into the facts or the argument. When judges read record citations or case law without knowing
why they’re important, they are less
likely to remember them and more
likely to be frustrated. They may
even stop reading and turn to the
response just to understand what
the motion is about.
A good introduction averts this
problem with a framework for the
reader to grasp why certain facts
matter and why certain law is important. But it does more
than that. It’s a refresher for
the judge who may have read
the motion days ago. It’s the
one thing that, if the judge
reads nothing else, the judge
will at least understand what
you’re asking for and why.
It’s like an elevator speech: a 30-second summary of the most
important thing the reader needs to know.
The very first thing a motion should say is what it is: “Plaintiff
moves to compel …” or “Defendant moves for partial summary
judgment on … .” We all love our clever little lead sentences, but
they’re not helpful. The first thing a judge wants to know is what
the motion is. And, please, skip the “by and through undersigned
counsel.” It’s useless fluff.
The introduction also should contain a brief statement of
what you want the judge to do. Broad statements like “grant this
motion and the relief requested herein” are not helpful.
Now the hard part. An introduction needs a short recital of
critical facts (or proce-
dural history if it’s
a procedural motion)
and a short statement
of why relief is war-
ranted. “For the rea-
sons stated herein”
says nothing, but you
don’t want to overdo
it. A sentence or two
is usually enough. If
your introduction is
more than two-thirds
of a page long, it’s
really not an introduc-
Getting the balance
right is no small task,
but that’s why you
get paid. Advocacy is
the art of simplify-
ing, of boiling things
down to their essence
to be readily per-
ceived. Whether you
write your introduc-
tions first or last, it’s
worth taking the time
to make them tight.
Two other points
are worth mentioning.
First, do you add boilerplate that incorporates by reference everything in the universe? It’s probably unnecessary, but I
understand why lawyers do it. Just don’t let
it get in the way of what the judge actually
needs to read.
Second, do you cite the rule under
which you are moving? It’s arguably unnecessary for the most common motions (e.g.,
Rule 56, Rule 12(b)( 6)). But the better
practice is to cite the applicable rule at the
outset of any motion.
Whether you write your
introductions first or last,
it’s worth taking the time
to make them right.
This column provides tips from judges
on civil practice. If there are practice tips
you’d like covered – or if you are a judge
who would like to write a column –
write to firstname.lastname@example.org.