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Inspired by the lawsuit filed amidst an ongoing controversy in the chess world. In brief, one player (Carlsen) accused another (Niemann) of cheating, and Niemann filed a defamation lawsuit against Carlsen + two other defendants (Chess.com & Nakamura) in response. In an article about the lawsuit, the Chessbase writes:

On December 2, the legal counsel of the plaintiffs, notably Magnus Carlsen, Chess.com, Danny Rensch, and Hikaru Nakamura filed a 25-page memorandum seeking a summary dismissal with prejudice of the lawsuit, citing irreconcilable flaws such as the inability to properly prove a conspiracy among the plaintiffs.

“It is so plainly without merit that it could have been brought only as a public relations stunt,” lawyers for Chess.com stated in the filing.

Carlsen’s lawyers added, “After years of trying to curate a reputation as the bad boy of chess, Plaintiff Hans Niemann wants to cash in by blaming others for the fallout from his own admitted misconduct.”

While it seems unlikely a dismissal will take place, this sort of maneuvering is standard and was to be expected.

Since a dismissal is unlikely, this is basically time-wasting. Why then do courts not punish this kind of time-wasting?

Although this question is inspired by this particular lawsuit, the question is more general, since as Chessbase writes, this sort of maneuvering is standard and was to be expected.

I've tagged this with because the suit is being argued in a US court.

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    They are of course not the plaintiffs but the defendants (error in the Chessbase article).
    – jcaron
    Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 13:49
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    "Since a dismissal is unlikely, this is basically time-wasting": It's not time wasting as long as there's a chance that the motion will be granted, even if that chance is small.
    – phoog
    Commented Dec 7, 2022 at 9:51
  • "Unlikely" is not "time wasting"?
    – Yakk
    Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 4:47
  • 1
    "The jury is unlikely to believe your alibi, so the court finds you guilty."
    – bdb484
    Commented Dec 8, 2022 at 19:15
  • Because sometimes dismissals do actually work. There have been high profile cases that have been entirely thrown out due to technicalities.
    – Richard
    Commented Dec 9, 2022 at 10:58

3 Answers 3

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I haven't reviewed the filings, but I can tell you that it's perfectly routine for lawyers to describe the other side's position as "plainly without merit," with no regard for the actual merits. The lawyer's job is to make his client look good, in court and in public; the existence of this question shows that he's doing a good job at least on the latter half of that equation.

But in truth, it's such a generic thing to say that no lawyer who hears it will actually think it means anything.

In all likelihood, the filing is like most others, in that it makes a good case on some points and a bad case on others, and the opposing lawyer's job is to argue that all of them are bad.

In the rarer case that a filing is actually "plainly without merit," courts can and sometimes do impose penalties under Rule 11, which allows for sanctions against parties and attorneys who make factual assertions that are not supported by reality or arguments that are not supported by the law.

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the court is mandated to accept these filings

The rules say, that they can't deny a party to file for every form of relief that isn't frivolous. It is never frivolous to request dismissal on the lack of merits. The proposition in that filing is pretty much proposing a yes or no statement to the court: Even if everything the party suing us is true, they have no case.

Ruling on that proposition can preserve enormous amounts of resources that would be spent on litigating in case - if the case really is without merit.

The lawyers on the other hand need to file any argument to preserve the argument for an appeal of the case. Punishing the party for filing a valid brief that poses the question if the case is meritless would not just be a misuse of the court's power, which just opens more avenues of appeal.

Sanctions are reserved for frivolous filings and real misconduct

Frivolous filings are generally arguments that could not even hold water if they were looked at in the light most favorably to the one bringing it. Like... "My dog ate my sister-in-law's son's homework one state west of us, because of which my boss stubbed his toe on the door of his office three states east and because of that I was late for court." - Absolute nonsense.

Or try heavy misconduct, like being a copyright troll that was outright lying to the court, violating a half dozen court orders and other misconduct. Yes, that's the gist of a court order that a certain Richard P Liebowitz was sanctioned for in a single court order in 2020. That Man had a long history of sanctions for bringing frivolous arguments and other misconduct before he was disbarred in November 2021. Or to say it differently, in the words of another judge of the same court, from a 2019 sanctions order:

Indeed, it is no exaggeration to say that there is a growing body of law in this District devoted to the question of whether and when to impose sanctions on Mr. Liebowitz.

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    I'm not sure how much of it is true in some other jurisdiction, but this answer is largely incorrect in the United States.
    – bdb484
    Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 12:59
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    "The lawyers on the other hand need to file any argument to preserve the argument for an appeal of the case." Denial of a pretrial motion to dismiss or motion for summary judgment is not an appealable issue and does not preserve the issues raised for purposes of appeal. The response to it is necessary to raise issues for appeal if the case is indeed dismissed but the converse is not true.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 16:59
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    @ohwilleke without filing it, you can't raise the "This should have been dismissed" to the appeals. You can only request an appeal on arguments you brought, that is what I try to express.
    – Trish
    Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 17:10
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    @Trish Not actually true. Even if you bring the motion to dismiss, if you lose that motion you can't raise the arguments you make to dismiss the case in the motion to dismiss on appeal. You have to renew the argument at trial. If you don't renew the argument at trial, the argument s not preserved for purposes of appeal. See, e.g., near the end of this linked article. jdsupra.com/legalnews/preserved-actually-preservation-of-60201
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 17:14
  • ah so the 'time wasting' might be more of the actual case than the motion to dismiss, which is actually what the motion to dismiss is about?
    – BCLC
    Commented Dec 6, 2022 at 17:39
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As it happens, this question was based on a wrong premise entirely, since the case was, in fact, dismissed, a result widely anticipated by legal commentators.

More generally, if the motion to dismiss were denied, the process would have moved to discovery stage, where plaintiff's team would get a right to subpoena defendants, such as for example interview them or request messenger logs. This is obviously a nuisance for defendant, and hence for that to happen, the lawsuit should meet some basic requirements - be filed by a right person in a right jurisdiction, and allege facts that, if true, would provide grounds for relief by a court. (Niemann suit had problems with all of the above, jurisdiction playing the key role in the decision.)

It looks like a fairly large percentage (about 77%, if I'm reading it correctly) of motions to dismiss is actually granted, so, generally speaking, "unlikely" and "waste of time" are incorrect characterisations.

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