Presentation on theme: "Teaching Basic Civil Discovery in a Workshop Setting"— Presentation transcript:
1Teaching Basic Civil Discovery in a Workshop Setting Presented by Eric Nakano,Voluntary Legal Services Program of Northern California
2Our First Year of Civil Self-Help Most customers were defendants in collection cases.Almost all of the defendants we saw were up against opposing counsel.Almost every customer had received discovery requests from the opposing counsel.Very few customers replied to the discovery requests. Many lost their cases as a result.
3Lessons of the First Year: Very few customers remembered being told about the discovery process when being assisted with their Answer or Complaint.Very few customers read the handouts and other materials about discovery that were provided or suggested.Discovery is one of the most difficult procedural concepts for self-represented litigants because there is almost nothing in popular culture to prepare them for it.
4Workshop Goals Self-represented litigants should leave knowing: What discovery is, and how to recognize discovery requests;The basic flow of discovery;The fundamentals of Requests for Admissions, Interrogatories (Form and Special), and Requests for Production/Demands for Inspection.Where they can find additional information.
5Starting the WorkshopGeneral overview of the discovery process
6Introductory concept: Scope of Discovery “Reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery or relevant admissible evidence.” (fishing analogy)Concept of privilege should be introduced.
7SuggestionsBe sure the customers know, as early as possible, that all sides in a lawsuit can use discovery to get evidence from any other party.It is better if customers attend the workshop before they receive discovery requests.Have fun. This is a long workshop. Anything that keeps customers attention and aids in retention is good.
8Request for Admissions These are the most lethal form of written discovery to self-represented litigants.Disc-020 is an optional form.
9Admissions Key Concepts PurposeDeadlineEffect of non-responseAll requests must be for a single fact that can be answered "Admit" or "Deny"
10Request for Admissions The caption is just what you’d expect.The concept of the “Asking” or “Propounding” party can be re-iterated.The middle signature line is part of the instructions.
11Attachment 1 and 2Suggest that each request be prefaced by “Admit that”Only one fact can be in each admission. Look out for “and” “or” periods, semicolons, etc.
12Responding to Request for Admissions Introduction to the caption on pleading papers.Possible responses:AdmitDenyUnable to admit or denyObjectionVerification
13Interrogatory Key Concepts PurposeDeadlineEffect of non-responseInterrogatories are either Form Interrogatories or Special Interrogatories
14Form Interrogatories Overview Completing the forms Caption Signature line is part of instructions, so is not signedDefinition of INCIDENTx.0 items are headings, not questions15.1 and 17.1 are particularly useful/difficult
15Responding to Form Interrogatories Typically on pleading paperNumbered and answered in the order askedVerified
16Special Interrogatories Typical pleading captionMultiple “right ways” to format/phraseWords in all capitals specially definedCan be used to replicate Form Interrogatory 15.1 and 17.1 in limited civil cases
17Responding to Special Interrogatories Format is identical to responding to Form Interrogatories, except for the numbering sequenceNumbering errors in Special Interrogatories is common but not a problem when answeringVerified
18Request for Production This is one of the more difficult types of discovery for self-representedNo Judicial Council formPhrasing of categories of document or things is often very challenging to self-represented litigants
19Category Suggestions Category must be clear and defined Suggest limiting the scope with “non-privileged,” date limits, account limits, etc.“Any non-privileged documents identified in your response to the [Form Interrogatories/ Special Interrogatories] served with this Request.”“Any documents that you intend to produce at trial,” is objectionable on work-product grounds
20Responding to Request for Production Both a verified written response and production are requiredWritten response specifically states that the production will be allowed, or identifies what is not being produced and whyA diligent search and reasonable inquiry are required
21General Tips on Requests for Production Timing of the requestCan be very powerful when combined with interrogatoriesWritten response is independent of time for actual productionProduction is of originals unless otherwise agreed uponCost of production is borne by the asking party
22Limits on QuantityAmount of discovery depends upon whether the case is limited or unlimitedLikewise, the remedies for excess in a limited case differs from excess in an unlimited case
23Final Suggestions Reiterate the purpose Sometimes finding out what the other side doesn’t have is more usefulExample of exclusionary/ in limine motion before trialExample of using to impeach at trial
24Remedies “Meet and confer” Motion to deem facts admitted Motion to compel responsesMotion to compel further responsesMotion for sanctionsTerminatingIssueHandout summarizes
25Other resourcesWin Your Lawsuit by Nolo Press, Chapter 10 (Self-Help Section and NetLibrary)California Practice Guide: Civil Procedure Before Trial by The Rutter Group, Chapter 8, (KFC995.W45 v.2)CEB Action Guide- Obtaining Discovery: Initiating and Responding to Discovery Procedures (KFC 1020.Z9 T53 or OnLaw)CEB Action Guide- Creating Your Discovery Plan (KFC 1020.Z9 C74 or OnLaw)