Rules 26 to 37.
Title V covers the rules of discovery. Modern civil litigation is based upon the idea that the parties should not be subject to surprises at trial. Discovery is the process whereby civil litigants seek to obtain information both from other parties and from non parties (or third parties). Parties have a series of tools with which they can obtain information:
- Document requests: a party can seek documents and other real objects from parties and non parties (Rule 36)
- Interrogatories: a party can require other parties to answer 25 questions (Rule 33)
- Requests for admissions: A party can require other parties to admit or deny the truth of certain statements (Rule 34)
- Depositions: A party can require at most 10 individuals or representatives of organizations to make themselves available for questioning for a maximum of one day of 7 hours, without obtaining leave of court, (Rule 30).
Federal procedure also requires parties to divulge certain information without a formal discovery request, in contrast to many state courts where most discovery can only be had by request. Information covered by this initial disclosure is found in Rule 26(a)(1)(A), includes information about potential witnesses, information/copies about all documents that may be used in the party's claim (excluding impeachment material), computations of damages, and insurance information. Information about any expert witness testimony is also required.
Notable exceptions to the discovery rules include impeachment evidence/witnesses, "work product" (materials an attorney uses to prepare for the trial especially documents containing mental impressions, legal conclusions, or opinions of counsel), and experts who are used exclusively for trial prep and will not testify.
Rule 26 provides general guidelines to the discovery process, it requires the plaintiff to initiate a conference between the parties to plan the discovery process. The parties must confer as soon as practicable after the complaint was served to the defendants — and in any event at least 21 days before a scheduling conference is to be held or a scheduling order is due under Rule 16(b). The parties should attempt to agree on the proposed discovery plan, and submit it to the court within 14 days after the conference. The Discovery Plan must state the parties' proposals on subject of the discovery, limitations on discovery, case management schedule and timing deadlines for each stage of the discovery process, including:
- End-date of the discovery. This should be at least 60 days before the trial. The trial target date is usually 6 months to 2 years after the conference.
- Amendments to the deadlines for filing pleadings under Rule 7 & 15, if any.
- Deadline for amending pleadings. Normally it is at least 30 days before the discovery ends.
- Deadline for joining claims, remedies and parties (Rule 18 & 19). Normally it is at least 30 days before the discovery ends.
- Deadline for initial expert disclosures and rebuttal expert disclosures. Normally it is at least 30 days before the discovery ends.
- Deadline for dispositive motions. Usually it is at least 30 days after the discovery end-date.
- Deadline for Pre-trial order. If any dispositive motions are filed, the Joint Pretrial Order can be filed at least 30 days after the last decision on the merits.
Unless all parties agree otherwise, the parties should submit to each other the Initial Disclosures under Rule 26(a) within 14 days after the conference. Only after the Initial Disclosures have been sent, the main discovery process begins which includes: depositions Rule 27, 30 & 31), interrogatories (Rule 33), request for admissions(RFA) (Rule 34), and request for production of documents(RFP)(Rule 36). As stated above, there is a limitation on number of interrogatories and depositions, but there is no limitation on RFAs and RFPs. Some states, like California, have different limitations set in their Local Rules. FRCP requires that the party to whom the request for Interrogatories, RFA or RFP is directed must respond in writing within 30 days after being served, otherwise the requestor can file a motion to compel discovery and for sanctions (Rule 37).
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Famous quotes containing the word discovery:
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—George Eliot [Mary Ann (or Marian)
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—Letty Cottin Pogrebin (20th century)