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What Is a Motion for Leave?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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A motion for leave is a motion filed in court which asks the court to consider allowing the filer of the motion to depart from the established procedures of the court, most classically procedures setting out specific timeframes which must be followed when filing documents and making motions. For example, a motion for leave might ask the court to accept a document after the filing deadline.

The decision to grant a motion for leave is at the discretion of the court. The subject of the request is not a right under the law and the court can determine that it should not be granted, given the available information. The motion usually presents information which is designed to be compelling for the court. The judge weighs the information and makes a determination, which may be offered with an opinion explaining why the motion was denied or approved.

Judges are allowed considerable discretion on the bench. While they cannot make rulings which violate the law and they must follow the rules of the court, the rules do provide room for judges to make decisions about how matters should proceed. This is done with the understanding that every trial is different and it is impossible to come up with rules for every occasion. If judges were bound by utterly inflexible rules, miscarriages of justice might result.

Essentially, this type of motion asks permission to do something. The court considers what is being asked, why the request is being made, and what the outcome of denial or approval will be. For instance, someone may file a motion for leave asking for permission to file an amicus brief after the deadline has expired. The judge may determine that the brief includes important information which is highly relevant to the trial, and thus that the motion should be granted. On the other hand, the judge might argue that the brief contains no substantially new material and thus there is no benefit to granting the motion.

Like other legal motions, a motion for leave is sometimes used as a stalling tactic. While the motion is being considered, court cannot proceed, and this may buy time to work on an aspect of a case. Judges are well aware of this and may frown upon lawyers who try to use too many stalling tactics in the course of a trial. In the United States, this can interfere with the Constitutionally guaranteed right to a speedy trial.

What Is a Motion for Leave To Amend?

Any court filing becomes a record, and you're limited to the information presented in that filing. So what happens if you, or your attorney, forgot an important detail or incorrectly stated something that will affect your ability to win the case?

If it is a newly filed complaint in a lawsuit, it can be amended at any time before the other party has been served. Likewise, if you are responding to a complaint, it can be amended without special request before the case has been entered on the trial calendar. However, if you have gone past these events and realize your filing needs to be altered, you have to file a motion for leave to amend.

This is a special request to the judge asking to change, or amend, the original filing. Alternately, you may ask other party or parties for consent to change the filing. If they agree, there is no need for the judge's permission.

However, frequently the other party or parties will not want you to gain any advantage. If they deny their consent, you will need to request leave from the judge to amend your pleading. This is done by filing a motion and making an oral argument as to why amending your first filing best serves justice. Usually, the judge grants leave, and you can amend your pleading to include the information you need.

What Is a Motion for Leave To Appeal?

Your case is over and you lost. If you feel that the judge made an error, you can appeal. This moves your case to a higher court, where you will be able to argue why the decision was wrong. You need a demonstrable error on the trial judge's part as grounds for your appeal and the documentation to prove it, or the appellate court will not hear it.

First, the higher court must obtain jurisdiction over your case. Therefore, you must request its permission by filing a motion for leave to appeal. The appellate court will consider your motion to determine if you have the right to appeal.

It is best for your case if you pointed out the judge's mistake when he or she made it by objecting during the trial. This objection with substantiating point preserves your record, giving the higher court reason to allow you leave to file the appeal. Each state has a required time limit for a request, and you must file within the days given.

What Is a Motion for Leave To File?

There are rules of procedure that govern all filings in legal matters. Because the judge can grant or deny any motion, it is essential to carefully follow the court's rules. Any motion for leave requests a judge to permit something not typically allowed. For example, a motion for leave to file usually occurs when the party answering has not done so during the time allowed. Standard court procedure would allow the judge to rule on behalf of a complainant who didn't receive the answer in the time permitted.

However, suppose a person is being sued but was incapacitated and unable to answer the lawsuit during the allotted timeframe. In that case, he or she may file a motion for leave to file. This would involve seeking the judge's permission to file an answer to the original complaint late.

Although there is much judicial precedent for granting a request like this, it is not guaranteed. Your reason for not correctly filing must be legitimate. Even then, if you seek the court's allowance because of a breach of protocol, please remember that it is entirely up to the judge's discretion to grant your motion.

FAQ on Motion for Leave

What is a motion for leave?

A motion for leave is a formal request to a court asking for permission to do something that requires the court's approval. This could involve extending a deadline, amending a complaint, or introducing new evidence. The motion outlines the reasons for the request and why it should be granted. It's a procedural step that ensures fairness and due process by allowing the court to consider the impact of the requested action on all parties involved.

When might an attorney file a motion for leave?

An attorney might file a motion for leave in various circumstances, such as when they need more time to prepare a case, wish to modify initial pleadings, or want to introduce a late expert witness. For example, if new evidence emerges that could significantly affect the outcome of a case, an attorney would file a motion for leave to present this evidence to the court. It's a strategic tool to ensure that all relevant information and arguments can be considered.

How does a judge decide whether to grant a motion for leave?

A judge will consider several factors when deciding whether to grant a motion for leave, including the timeliness of the request, the potential prejudice to the opposing party, the reason for the delay or change, and the overall impact on the judicial process. The judge aims to balance the need for a fair trial with the efficient administration of justice. If the request is reasonable and does not unfairly disadvantage the other party, it is more likely to be granted.

Can a motion for leave be opposed by the other party?

Yes, the opposing party has the right to contest a motion for leave. They can file a written response outlining their objections and the reasons why the court should deny the request. The court will consider both sides' arguments before making a decision. The opposition may argue that the motion is untimely, would cause undue delay, or that it would unfairly prejudice their case.

What happens if a motion for leave is denied?

If a motion for leave is denied, the party who filed the motion must comply with the original requirements or orders of the court. This could mean adhering to the initial deadlines, being unable to amend pleadings, or not being able to introduce certain evidence. In some cases, the party may seek an appeal or reconsideration of the decision, but this is typically reserved for situations where the denial significantly affects the rights of a party or the outcome of the case.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a MyLawQuestions researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By anon989087 — On Feb 18, 2015

Lawyers or Bar members are foreign agents under federal statutes. Look it up. They lost US citizenship as soon as they took their traitorous oath to the British. Yes, the American Bar is a subsidiary of the British Accredited Registry. About 99 percent of the public has no clue when they are represented by a Bar member, they become wards of the court (imbecile/incompetent/child) and they are now the last ones to get any justice because statutes and codes only have lawful effect when they, in fact, only coincide with real law -- that's the law of the land, something an ignorant Bar member usually doesn't know.

Most of the brainwashed, programmed traitors don't even know what Corpus Delicti is or how it must be established for a crime to be committed and give cause or jurisdiction. Go ask your lawyer, and put him or her on the spot, face to face, and see his or her ignorant reaction and denial such things exist. He or she will run to Google it later, I'm sure.

By Esther11 — On Jul 29, 2011

I realize that the law dictates that a defendant is allowed a speedy trial. That is the reason why there are deadlines to file this and that so that the trial moves along at a good clip. That's all fair and good.

On the other hand, trial lawyers are under great pressure to collect, study and file all the information and evidence that they need to represent their client. Even with motion for leave being available, they are still rushed. If they had more time in the beginning, I think trials might be more just.

By sweetPeas — On Jul 28, 2011

From reading the article, I think that it must be difficult to provide a fair yet speedy trial for the defendant. The judge has to figure out if lawyers are asking for a motion for leave because they are trying to slow down the trial so they can work on their side of the trial. Or if they truly want to file new information that is relevant.

If a judge grants a motion for leave, he needs to carefully determine if the new information will make a difference in providing a fair trial.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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