Conducting Legal Discovery

Once an answer to a lawsuit is filed, the time for conducting legal discovery begins. The timing and methods for conducting legal discovery will vary from state to state and from court to court. There are substantial and numerous rules governing legal discovery in each case. You should check your state rules and court rules for conducting legal discovery. Although there is a broad scope of what may be requested during legal discovery, there are strict deadlines for requesting legal discovery and responding to legal discovery requests. It is very important to be aware of and follow the deadlines because of the potentially serious consequences for non-compliance.

Conducting Legal Discovery

Legal discovery is carried out by sending written requests in a prescribed form to the opposing party specifically listing the type of legal discovery sought, the manner in which it will be obtained, and the time for complying with the request. Check your state and local rules for the required form of these requests.

Each state’s rules will include versions of the following legal discovery rules:

Written Interrogatories

Demands for Inspection

Requests for Admission

Propounding Party (party making the legal discovery request)

Format of the legal discovery request;

On whom the request should be served;

Which party retains custody of the original legal discovery request; and

Filing requirement (most legal discovery is not required to be filed with the court unless pertinent to a motion heard before the court).

Responding Party

Format of written response;

Effect of failure to respond in timely fashion;

Objections to the legal discovery request;

Verification (responding party must sign the responses under oath);

On whom the responses should be served; and

Filing requirement (most legal discovery is not required to be filed with the court unless pertinent to a motion heard before the court).

Each state has its own rules as to when a plaintiff and when a defendant may serve notice of taking a deposition that is initiated by serving notice on the other party in the pertinent format. The notice will say whose deposition will be taken, as well as when and where it shall be taken. There will also be rules concerning compelling a person or party to be deposed and steps to take to compel attendance at a deposition.

Each state shall have its own rules as to the production of documents and tangible objects. The party requesting the production must serve notice of the request in the required format. The notice will indicate which documents and things are to be produced, and when and where they are to be produced. There will also be rules for steps to take to compel production.

It is a rule that all parties involved in civil litigation, whether represented by an attorney or not, should be civil to each other. One of the things encompassed within this requirement for civility is the accommodation of each other’s schedules within reason and is particularly important with legal discovery because of the tremendous amount of information being obtained and exchanged. If either party reasonably requests to change a time for a deposition or the time for exchange of documents, the other party should be accommodating. If the other party seems to make a practice of requesting changes, not complying with legal discovery requests, or only partially complying, it might be time to go to court and request sanctions.

Legal Discovery