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Old 06-25-2003, 03:35 AM
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Legal question: dismissing sua sponte

In an old thread I read about the costs of defending against a lawsuit, even if it is dismissed at earliest opportunity. Billdo writes
Quote:
After investigating the claim, the defendant may move to dismiss it. At this stage the complaint may only be dismissed if it does not state a legally valid claim or is deficient in some other way. Now the costs of a motion to dismiss may run $5-10 thousand, or higher.

If the suit is dismissed at this stage, this is all the defendant is out. There may be some chance that the defendant may recoup some of its expenses if the lawsuit is found to be frivolous, but this is a very low standard. It is unlikely that a competent lawyer would draft a suit that would be found frivolous.
I've also read about something called dismissing a suit sua sponte, and as far as I can tell it means dismissing the suit without a hearing, simply because the suit is stupid. If I sue Bush to force him to grow a mustache on the grounds that I like mustaches, that suit would be dismissed sua sponte, if I understand correctly.

If this is correct (and if it isn't, please correct me), why isn't this option used more often, simply to discourage people from suing so damn much?

I'm not asking for any reason other than pure interest, so I won't be construing anything said in this thread as any kind of legal advice.
Old 06-25-2003, 05:57 AM
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A lawyer can make the most ridiculous claim seem reasonable. A judge has to be sure there is no merit before he can dismiss it.
Old 06-25-2003, 06:41 AM
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Re: Legal question: dismissing sua sponte

Quote:
Originally posted by Priceguy

I've also read about something called dismissing a suit sua sponte, and as far as I can tell it means dismissing the suit without a hearing, simply because the suit is stupid.
[
You don't have the meaning of "sua sponte" quite right, IMHO. "sua sponte" means on the judge's own motion, as opposed to the motion of one of the parties.

Sua sponte motions to dismiss are unusual since the American judicial system traditionally allows the parties to control the litigation. Also, judges are very busy and they frequently don't have the time to take such an activist role.

Motions to dismiss are frequently decided without any kind of hearing, regardless of the merits of the motion. Typically, both sides submit written arguments and the judge will decide the matter 'on the papers.' Sometimes there will be oral argument.

In any event, it would be very unusual for a judge to dismiss a case sua sponte without giving the parties the opportunity to submit papers. I saw it happen once, and unfortunately the judge was dead wrong. What seemed obvious to him was totally incorrect and the whole mess could have been avoided had the parties been given a chance to submit papers.

I suppose that a sua sponte motion to dismiss a frivolous case might save the defendant the trouble of preparing papers. But I don't think it happens that often since its easier for the judge to wait for the defendant to make the motion.

Quote:
simply to discourage people from suing so damn much?
Keep in mind that most lawsuits are not frivolous so what you propose would not have much of an effect.
Old 06-25-2003, 10:20 AM
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And I thought this thread was about our own Sua Sponte...

Zev Steinhardt
Old 06-25-2003, 10:25 AM
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Originally posted by zev_steinhardt
And I thought this thread was about our own Sua Sponte...
You thought I wanted to "dismiss" Sua Sponte and needed legal advice on how best to do so?

I'll say this: Sua Sponte does make it harder to search for threads on this topic.
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