Ark. R. Civ. P. 56
Reporter's Notes to Rule 56:
1. Rule 56 is identical to FRCPand also identical to superseded Ark. Stat. Ann. § 29-211 (Repl. 1962) which tracked the Federal Rule. This rule makes no changes in Arkansas law.
Addition to Reporter's Notes, 2001 Amendment: Subdivision (c) of Rule 56 has been divided into two paragraphs, the first of which is new. Paragraph (1) addresses motion and hearing practice under the rule. Other states have adopted similar provisions. See, e.g., Rule, Ariz. R. Civ. P.; Rule 56(c), Ind. R. Trial P.; Rule , Iowa R. Civ. P.; Rule , Mo. R. Civ. P. The original version of the rule led to several problems, including last-minute submissions by the party opposing a motion for summary judgment. The rule provided that the opposing party could submit opposing affidavits at any time "prior to the day of the hearing." By contrast, paragraph (1) establishes a time frame for the parties to follow and makes plain that additional submissions are not permissible without leave of court. As under prior practice, a hearing on the motion is not mandatory in all cases. See Campbell v. Bard, 315 Ark. 366, 868 S.W.2d 62 (1993). However, the new time frame effectively precludes the court from ruling on the motion until after the parties have had an opportunity to present their evidence. Corresponding changes have been made in Rules and to except summary judgment motions from their requirements.
Paragraph (2) provides for partial summary judgment on any issue in the case, including liability. The term "partial summary judgment" has not heretofore been used in the rule but frequently appears in the cases. See, e.g., City of Russellville v. Banner Real Estate, 326 Ark. 673, 933 S.W.2d 803 (1996). A similar provision, limited to liability, previously appeared in subdivision (c), and summary judgment on some but not all of the issues is plainly contemplated by subdivision (d).
Addition to Reporter's Notes, 2006 Amendment: Several parts of Rule 56 governing the timing of motions for summary judgment, the related briefing, and the hearing have been amended. These changes continue the effort to refine the Rule by making summary-judgment practice more fair, predictable, and efficient.
The amendments to subdivisions (a) and (b) eliminate a party's right to seek summary judgment at any time. Instead, absent good cause, a party must move at least 45 days before any scheduled trial date. This deadline allows for full briefing and a hearing on the motion before trial, which should promote more efficient use of judicial resources. In addition, it prevents a party from using a late motion for summary judgment as a stealth motion for continuance.
Subdivision (c)(1) has been amended to allow the circuit court to reduce the time periods for responses and replies. Under the former Rule, the court could only enlarge the time periods. Both reductions and enlargements must now be justified by a showing of good cause. Finally, the presumptive period between the due date for any reply and any hearing has been shortened from 14 to 7 days. This change accommodates the pre-trial deadline for filing the motion, while giving the non-moving party adequate time to prepare for the hearing in light of any reply. Revised subdivision (c)(1) also allows the circuit court to shorten the seven-day period for good cause, for example, scheduling difficulties.