Our law, for the most part, comes from England. England has rather complex rules and pleadings which we have inherited. Courts have published Rules of Procedure. Each state has different rules and the federal courts and the DC courts have the Federal Rules of Procedure. There is even a class in law school called Rules of Procedure.
Motions are like a letter to the judge. Only a Motion is more formal than a conversation. Maryland Rule 2-311 is the rule that governs Motions. It provides that if you want to ask the court for an order, you have to do so in writing by way of a Motion.
Say you file a Motion in a divorce. Then your spouse may file a Response to your Motion. You may want to reply to the Response. The Rules do not provide for anything further than a Motion and a Response.
But in actual practice I have seen a Reply to the Response to the Motion, and then a Sur-Reply to the Reply. A judge once told me “In my court we have Motions and Responses. There is no such thing as a Reply or Sur-Reply.”
Why Not Reply to a Response?
You have already said what you need to say in the Motion. So a Reply would just be repetition and repetition is not persuasion. Saying something twice doesn’t make an argument stronger. In fact, it may work against you. The judge will think you’re an amateur and give less weight to your argument.
The One Time You Will Want to Reply
There is one time you will want to file a Reply. That is when the Response raises a new issue that you forgot to address in your Motion.