The Okeechobee School District has asked federal courts for a summary judgment on whether a Gay-Straight Alliance should be allowed to meet on the Okeechobee High School campus.
–Port St. Lucie News, 30 Jan 2008
So what the heck is a ‘summary judgment,’ anyway?
‘Summary judgment’ is the term for a ruling in a civil lawsuit made by a judge, without a trial to establish facts. The premise is that there are no disputed material facts in the case, and that all the issues are legal ones. Obviously, the side that makes a motion for summary judgment wants the judgment to be in their favor.
If both sides and the judge agree to summary judgment, it can be a huge time-saver in a case. These motions appear frequently in constitutional or civil rights suits.
Oh, by the way, I think the newspaper lede* above is absolutely terrible, and not just because it uses legal jargon (‘summary judgment’) without explanation. It also does what you should never do in a lede: instead of highlighting the conflict, it hides it. You would never know from this lede that the school district is adamantly, virulently opposed to having a Gay-Straight Alliance.
*(that’s broadcast jargon for ‘lead’, spelled weirdly so as not to accidentally get pronounced as ‘led’)