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September 16, 2011

25th Anniversary Summary Judgment Trilogy Colloquium

12:00 p.m.  -  3:00 p.m.
Location: 2nd Floor Gallery & Room C5

12:00 - 1:30: Lunch (open to students and faculty) Please RSVP to

Keynote Speech - Suja Thomas, University of Illinois

1:30 - 1:45: Break

1:45 - 3:00: Panel Discussion - "25th Anniversary of the Summary Judgment Trilogy: Reflections on Summary Judgment"

  • Moderator -  Dean Mark Niles
  • Professor Ed Brunet, Lewis & Clark Law School
  • Professor Steven Gensler, University of Oklahoma College of Law
  • Professor Michael Kaufman, Loyola University Chicago School of Law
  • Professor Linda Mullenix, University of Texas School of Law
  • Hon. Lee Rosenthal, S.D.Tex.
  • Professor Norman Spaulding, Stanford Law School
  • Professor Jeff Stempel, UNLV, William S. Boyd School of Law
Celotex, Liberty Lobby, and Matsushita-the summary judgment trilogy of cases-came down 25 years ago. This anniversary provides us with a moment to reflect about how these three cases changed litigation and thus changed our world. To that end, an impressive group of scholars have agreed to participate in a summary judgment colloquium at Seattle University School of Law as panelists and speakers. They are as follows: Ed Brunet (Lewis & Clark), Steven Gensler (University of Oklahoma), Linda Mullenix (University of Texas Austin), Hon. Lee Rosenthal (S.D.Tex.), Jeff Stempel (UNLV), and Suja Thomas (University of Illinois). These scholars are all highly respected and well published. In addition to participating in the September 2011 event here in Seattle, the Loyola University Chicago Law Review will be publishing these articles in a special colloquium edition of their review.

While the changes wrought by the trilogy of cases themselves were rather discrete, the overall message sent by the cases was that summary judgment was not disfavored, and was in fact a procedure that should be used with greater frequency. Litigation has been profoundly different ever since. First, the litigants' experience has changed. She no longer gets her paradigmatic day in court. Instead of a shared public moment before her peers, she is more likely to have her dispute resolved on the papers in a judge's chambers. Second, procedural doctrine has been transformed. The civil rules and rulemaking activity focus heavily on pre-trial moments like discovery. The key time for litigants has shifted from resolution at trial to pre-trial adjudication and so the rulemaking and controversy about litigation are similarly focused. Finally, our institutions have been altered. The courts no longer provide a truly public forum for sharing and airing our grievances. Judging is no longer about negotiating a trial before the litigants' peers, but is instead about managing the pre-trial process in the shadows. With this change to our judicial institutions and its players, there is a change in how society views those institutions-more skeptically perhaps, but in the very least with less confidence that, when they are aggrieved, they will have access to the people and processes housed in those institutions.