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How do you file a motion to vacate judgment?

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A motion to vacate a judgment asks the court to essentially set aside the judgment. It is different from an appeal, in that an appeal asserts that the trial court either applied the wrong law or applied the correct law incorrectly.

A motion to vacate a judgment can be based upon a number of grounds. However, it is never based upon mere unhappiness with the outcome of the case. One of the primary bases for such a motion is that service of process was not lawfully achieved, and therefore, the court rendering the judgment never had personal jurisdiction over the defendant to render the judgment (but there are others). A court must have both personal and subject matter jurisdiction to render a judgment. Personal jurisdiction is achieved by lawful service of the summons and complaint, and subject matter jurisdiction contemplates that the lawsuit was filed in the proper court.

A motion to vacate is a written request to the court to set aside the judgment for a valid reason. The original of the judgment gets filed with the Clerk of the court that rendered the judgment, and a copy gets mailed or delivered to either the Plaintiff (if not represented) or his/her attorney. The motion must set forth that a copy was provided to the other party/attorney. Typically, the movant then contacts the court for a hearing date on which the merits of the motion are argued, and either the court of the movant ensures that all parties get written notice of the date and time of the hearing.

The movant has the burden of proving the correctness of facts set forth in the motion and his/her entitlement to have the judgment vacated. There is usually a presumption of correctness of the judgment (that is, that it was entered properly), so proof is more than "he said/she said". Further, the party seeking to have the judgment vacated must proceed diligently/quickly. At least if the motion is based upon reasons other than lack of personal jurisdiction (which renders the judgment void), the longer that one waits to request the relief, the less likely he/she is to get it.
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