LEGAL GUIDE
Written by attorney Robin Mashal | Sep 2, 2013

What is an Order to Show Cause (OSC)?

I often see pro se litigants (i.e., litigants representing themselves without an attorney) post questions asking what an Order to Show Cause (OSC) is. Here is a brief explanation.

Before taking a drastic measure against a litigant, the Courts often warn that litigant and allow him/her an opportunity to show cause (i.e., a justification) why the Court should not take such an action.

Sometimes, a Court may set OSC on its own motion. For example, when a plaintiff fails to timely serve process on a defendant, the Court may set an OSC regarding imposition of monetary sanctions against the plaintiff. If prior to the OSC hearing the plaintiff can show proper cause why monetary sanctions are not proper, the Court may reconsider. Otherwise, the Court will impose sanctions as warned. Another example may be when a Plaintiff takes default of a defendant but fails to timely prove up judgment, the Court may set an OSC regarding dismissal of the action. By the OSC hearing, the Plaintiff must either complete default judgment prove up, or provide justification why the Court should not dismiss the action as warned.

Other times, a Court may set OSC in response to a motion brought by one litigant against another litigant. For example, when a party commits perjury (i.e., lies under oath), the other party may bring an application for the Court to find the lying party in contempt. If the Court finds merit in this application, the Court will set an OSC regarding find the lying party in contempt of the Court. After proper service of the OSC papers on the party, if that party is unable to show cause against a finding of contempt. the Court will find them in contempt of the Court.

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