Diluting the Right to Oral Argument on Trial Level Motions

Abulkhair v. Liberty Mut. Ins. Co., 2010 WL 4226222 (App. Div. Oct. 27, 2010).  Here, a party’s notice of motion in the Law Division requested oral argument only if there was opposition to the motion, a fairly standard form of request that is authorized by Rule 1:6-2(d).  There was opposition, but the trial court did not grant oral argument.  The Appellate Division found no prejudice.

This ruling makes the seemingly absolute provision of Rule 1:6-2(d) that, except for discovery or calendar motions, requests for oral argument “shall be granted as of right” less absolute.  It is hard to argue with the court’s conclusion that the denial of argument worked no prejudice.

But the Rule is clear.  Moreover, it would be unfortunate if oral argument of motions in state courts began to be infrequent as they now are in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, where even dispositive motions often are decided on the papers pursuant to Federal Rule 78.  The quality of justice, the level of counsel’s skills at oral argument, and the rapport that counsel should develop with judges and with each other all suffer when oral argument is restricted.