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Bad Motion v. Good Motion: Motion to Compel

When writing a motion to compel for a judge, you want to make it persuasive. You don’t want to make it a chore to read. Honorable Randy Wilson, a District Judge out of Texas wrote an article in the Advocate juxtaposing two Motions to Compel.

Motion to Compel

The Bad:

In this motion, the movant gives a background of the dispute and then lists the specific Document categories sought. There are a total of 24 document requests at issue. The movant dutifully lists each request and then quotes the objection made by the respondent. After each request and objection, the movant then includes a paragraph why the requested information is relevant and why the documents should be produced. Many of the objections and arguments are identical and thus writing the motion involves considerable copying and pasting.

While this type of motion is technically correct, it’s not persuasive nor will it catch the judge’s attention. That’s because this format overwhelms the reader/judge. The judge is confronted with page after page of document requests and objections and argument with no effort to organize and group them. Even the most diligent judge will begin to glaze over after a few pages and instruct the lawyers to go work it out.

The Good:

The second motion to compel this week was a pleasure to read because the movant made my job easy. It began essentially the same as the first; it identified the parties and gave a brief statement of facts of the case. However, rather than simply listing and reciting all the requests at issue, the movant lumped and categorized the requests in dispute by inserting this paragraph:

This Court needs to resolve two issues. First, is plaintiff entitled to see defendant’s financial records? This issue affects document request numbers 2, 5, 6, 9, 10, 11, & 12 (attached as Ex. 1). These requests all involve various financial and tax records of defendant. While there are perhaps some potential individual issues among these requests concerning time and scope, the threshold issue remains: is plaintiff entitled to see defendant’s financial records.

Second, defendant has objected to producing any documents concerning communications with customers. This issue affects document request numbers 15-19 and 21 (attached as Ex. 2). Plaintiff contends that communications with customers are critical to defendant’s claims for damages in its counterclaim; defendant generally asserts that such communications are not relevant

Turning to the first issue, production of financial records, these documents are relevant for the following reasons…

The second one makes the Judge’s job easier. It provides an overall blueprint as to how the various requests and objections fit together. It provides the judge a roadmap so that he knows where the motion is going. Judge Wilson actually referred to the latter as “a pleasure to read.”

Two takeaways from these motions:

Take the time to craft everything you write.

Don’t just dutifully trudge through what might seem like a routine motion. Do everything like you give a damn. Readers can tell the difference.

Know your audience.

Judge Wilson prefers the modern version of the motion. I do too. But that doesn’t really matter unless you’re appearing in front of a judge like Judge Wilson. Many judges likely prefer the “old school” version of the motion and would not care for the modern approach. Your goal is to influence and persuade the judge, not indulge in your stylistic preferences. Make sure you’re writing things the way the judge likes it.

When was the last time you think a judge picked up a piece of your writing and said that it was a pleasure to read? Don’t you think that a judge might be a bit more inclined to grant your motion if it were?

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