Responsive Pleadings


A responsive pleading is a formal declaration by a party in reply to a prior declaration by an opponent.  The distinguishing feature of a responsive pleading is that it replies to the merits of the allegations raised by an opposing party.  By contrast, parties may choose to ignore the substance of an opponent’s pleading and ask the court to dismiss the lawsuit on some other grounds, such as the court’s lack of jurisdiction over the suit.

Proceedings before an administrative agency that are instituted by a petition, complaint, or application also necessarily involve the right of counterpleading or answer.  Administrative agencies exercise delegated powers and not with the exercise of the constitutional powers of the executive.  Administrative law is concerned with the legal problems arising out of the existence of agencies which combine in a single entity legislative, executive, and judicial powers.

A responsive pleading must contain a short and concise statement of facts relevant to the issues raised in the complaint, rather than conclusions of law.  A letter written by an applicant may constitute legally sufficient opposition to the agency’s motion for summary adjudication if the timing and contents of letter indicate that the applicant intends the letter to be his or her written response to the motion

The Federal Administrative Procedure Act provides for responsive pleadings in actions commenced by private parties by stating that, if private persons are the moving parties, other parties to the proceeding must give prompt notice of the issues controverted in fact or in law.  Agency rules may require that responsive pleadings be filed.  Agency rules also may provide that, if no answer is filed to a complaint, the allegations of the complaint are deemed admitted and true unless good cause to the contrary is shown.