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What Is a Motion Hearing?

By Charity Delich
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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When individuals or attorneys seek judicial intervention in a case, they file a motion—a formal request for the court to make a ruling or take specific action. According to the United States Department of Justice, motions are a common part of federal cases, with thousands filed annually across various jurisdictions. During a motion hearing, which is not always required, the involved parties present arguments and evidence before a judge. 

The decision to hold a hearing may depend on the complexity of the issue at hand. Understanding what is a motion hearing can empower parties to effectively advocate for their legal rights within the judicial system. 

A motion hearing is normally requested by one of the parties to the lawsuit. Alternatively, the judge may call the hearing on his or her own initiative. At a typical motion hearing, each party's lawyer is given the chance to present factual evidence and legal arguments in support of his or her client's position.

Motion hearings are typically more limited in scope than trials. Although a hearing often includes the presentation of oral testimony, the judge is generally given discretion to limit - or even deny altogether - oral testimony by witnesses or parties to the suit. During the hearing, the judge may ask questions about the factual and legal issues at hand. After listening to all of the testimony and weighing any written documentation submitted in support of, or in opposition to, the motion, the judge usually issues an order.

Motion hearings can be helpful in both criminal cases and civil lawsuits. They are often used to resolve preliminary issues before a trial begins, such as the suppression of evidence in a criminal case. Additionally, they may be used to resolve matters temporarily while a case is underway. For example, in a divorce proceeding, a motion hearing may be held to determine temporary child custody and child support arrangements. After trial, a motion hearing may be granted if a party asks a court to modify or enforce a judgment.

If a party to a suit files a motion for summary judgment, he or she may ask for a hearing. In a summary judgment motion, the requesting party ordinarily asks the court to make a decision before the trial takes place, based only on the facts set forth in each party’s pleadings. Courts generally agree to grant summary judgment motions if the facts in a case are not in dispute and only questions of law are at issue. Another type of hearing, called a motion to dismiss hearing, is ordinarily requested when one party believes the other party has failed to state a cause of action for which relief can be granted.

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Discussion Comments
By bullm — On Jun 06, 2015

I am a defendant in a case, and the lawyer wants to add the plaintiff against me as a defendant with me and add new plaintiffs. Doesn't this jeopardize my rights?

By Tamra — On Mar 29, 2015

What does this mean exactly? Minnesota family court- child custody from third party. My son is the father and his ex, the child's mother, gave their daughter to a 'neighbor' without his consent or knowledge. We just recently found out about this and he is listed as a co-respondent but has not been served. It appears it has gone into court in front of the same justice three or four times for a motion hearing but the results have been held every time. What exactly does Motion hearing result: held mean? Again, another court date is coming up, and he is listed as a co-respondent but has not been served again. He desperately wants to deny the third party -- a stranger to his daughter -- full custody, which is apparently the reason for the motion.The last motion hearing in the register of actions says

"Motion Hearing (2:00 PM) (Judicial Officer -----)

12/17/2014 Reset by Court to 01/20/2015 Result: Held"

What does it mean by "held" in this situation?

By elizabeth23 — On Feb 24, 2011

Often, motion hearings are in a great deal formalities. Things like when a defendant of a criminal case or even a legal suit is expected to plead guilty, or when someone is going to court for a minor thing like a speeding ticket, the motion hearing is just held to hear their plea or plea bargain more than for any real discovery or discussion.

By Denha — On Feb 22, 2011

Both the words motion and hearing have so many other meanings within both legal talk and business talk. For example, making a motion can be a synonym for making a suggestion that needs to be seconded in a meeting. Meanwhile, any sort of group meeting where different sorts of recommendations, criticisms, or other suggestions are heard by a group can be considered a hearing of some kind.

This ambiguity and reuse of words can make terms like "motion hearing" confusing for the average person.

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