The greatest discovery abuses come from responses to Requests for Production of Documents.  Many responses contain a myriad of garbage objections, fail to contain a privilege log, along with producing documents that are not organized by category. Due to the responding party’s failure to comply with Codes of Civil Procedure § 2031.220, §2031.230, §2031.2400 and §2031.280, a motion to compel further responses and production of documents is the most common motion on the court’s docket. It is also the most time-consuming motion to not only prepare, but for the court to rule on.

On January 1, 2020, Code of Civil Procedure §2023.050 became effective which imposes mandatory sanctions for motions regarding Requests for Production of Documents. This new statute requires the court to impose mandatory sanctions on motions involving requests for production of documents.  This sets up a party’s ability to bring issue, evidence and terminating sanctions as there will be an adjudication of prior discovery abuse.

The new statute reads:

(a) Notwithstanding any other law, and in addition to any other sanctions imposed pursuant to this chapter, a court shall impose a two hundred and fifty dollar ($250) sanction, payable to the requesting party, upon a party, person, or attorney if, upon reviewing a request for a sanction made pursuant to Section 2023.040, the court finds any of the following:

(1) The party, person, or attorney did not respond in good faith to a request for the production of documents made pursuant to Section 2020.010, 2020.410, 2020.510, or 2025.210, or to an inspection demand made pursuant to Section 2031.010.

(2) The party, person, or attorney produced requested documents within seven days before the court was scheduled to hear a motion to compel production of the records pursuant to Section 2025.450, 2025.480, or 2031.320 that is filed by the requesting party as a result of the other party, person, or attorney’s failure to respond in good faith.

(3) The party, person, or attorney failed to confer in person, by telephone, letter, or other means of communication in writing, as defined in Section 250 of the Evidence Code, with the party or attorney requesting the documents in a reasonable and good faith attempt to resolve informally any dispute concerning the request.

(b) Notwithstanding paragraph (3) of subdivision (o) of Section 6068 of the Business and Professions Code, the court may, in its discretion, require an attorney who is sanctioned pursuant to subdivision (a) to report the sanction, in writing, to the State Bar within 30 days of the imposition of the sanction.

(c) The court may excuse the imposition of the sanction required by subdivision (a) if the court makes written findings that the one subject to the sanction acted with substantial justification or that other circumstances make the imposition of the sanction unjust.

(d) Sanctions pursuant to this section shall be imposed only after notice to the party, person, or attorney against whom the sanction is proposed to be imposed and opportunity for that party, person, or attorney to be heard.

(e) For purposes of this section, there is a rebuttable presumption that a natural person acted in good faith if that person was not represented by an attorney in the action at the time the conduct that is sanctionable under subdivision (a) occurred. This presumption may only be overcome by clear and convincing evidence.

 

There were three changes to the Discovery Act that became effective on January 1st, 2020 which can be found in Code of Civil Procedure sections  2031.280, 2016.090 and 2023.050. This blog will discuss the change to C.C.P. §2031.280 and its significance.

California Code of Civil Procedure § 2031.280 titled Form in which documents to be produced; Form for producing electronically stored information; Translation of data subdivision (a) states as follows:

Old Statute:

(a) Any documents produced in response to a demand for inspection,  copying, testing, or sampling shall either be produced as they are kept in  the usual course of business, or be organized and labeled to correspond with the categories in the demand.

            New Statute:

 (a) Any documents or category of documents produced in response to a demand for inspection, copying, testing, or sampling shall be identified with the specific request number to which the documents respond.

            Difference:

Responding party can no longer produce documents kept in the “usual course of business.

This change in the law is an attempt to curb discovery abuse. The former law enabled a party to dump thousands of documents in response to a document request with no rhyme or reason as to how they are responsive to a specific request. The demanding party was left with two choices to nail down which document was responsive to which request: (1) propound further written discovery or serve a deposition notice to determine what documents the responding party was relying on to support their case their claim or defense or (2) seek a court order requiring the responding party to label and sort the files to correspond to the categories demanded. See Kayne v. The Grande Holdings Limited (2011) 198 Cal. App. 4th 1476.  Either choice delayed the discovery process by months.

The revision to the statute eliminates the need for the demanding party to guess which documents  are responsive to a specific request thus saving time and expense for the demanding party.   The new law is burdensome and more expensive for the responding party in document intensive cases. However, the responding party is in a better position to determine what documents are responsive to a specific request.

 

 

 

As stated in the blog It’s Not a Discovery Device, But…, a Demand for Bill of Particulars is NOT a discovery device, but an extension of the complaint or a cross-complaint [complaint].  Unlike interrogatories and deposition testimony, a  Bill of Particulars is conclusive as to the items and amounts claimed and no other evidence is admissible at trial.    More importantly, if the court finds that any of the line items are deficient it can strike the entry and preclude plaintiff/cross-complainant [plaintiff] from proving the debt is owed.

Continue Reading If Plaintiff’s Bill of Particulars is Improper, Evasive and/or Incomplete; You must Bring a Motion or You Waive Your Objections

Pre-trial discovery is the heart and soul of litigation. It enables the parties to evaluate and prepare their case for mediation, motions for summary judgment or summary adjudication and for trial. The propounding of discovery also leads to discovery disputes and then to discovery motions–all which can threaten to overwhelm the litigation of the case. However, due to the court holidays ordered by the Judicial Council during this pandemic, parties were not able to have their discovery disputes heard by the courts, thus, stalling their cases. Now with the courts reopening, the backlog of motions previously taken off calendar will need to be rescheduled. Meanwhile, new motions are being filed. This unprecedented situation begs the question from attorneys: When will my discovery motion be heard?

Continue Reading When Will My Discovery Motion Be Heard?

 

Life as we knew it has been put on hold due to COVID-19.  Courts are closed, deadlines are extended, and court dates have been continued.  As the courts establish “new norms” for their operations, access to the civil courts may be limited and further delayed.  It is not clear what civil matters will receive priority. Civil law and motion matters taken off calendar due to court closures will need to be rescheduled, and newly filed motions added to crowded calendars. It could take months or years before the court dockets return to normal.  Scheduling new law and motion matters and having them heard will be challenging for all litigators.  However, courts and counsel have available options to address the backlog.

Continue Reading Civil Litigation and COVID-19: Justice Need Not Be Delayed

Recently at an MCLE seminar, a sitting judge forewarned the audience that because of all the new judges from a variety of backgrounds, often they don’t  have the necessary background on law and procedures for their department.  His advice:

come to your hearings with copies of all the important cases and statutes, no matter how basic the concept is.

This sitting judge was subtly saying:  Plan on educating the court!!

Continue Reading Know Your Audience

The meet and confer process has failed.   Now you have to decide whether (1) you need to bring a Motion to Compel Further Documents because the documents are an integral part of the defense and/or prosecution of your case, or (2) wait for trial and make a motion in limine to exclude the documents categorically at trial.  Two of the factors you are going to have to consider are how much time it’s going to take to prepare the motion as well as the cost to your client.

Most attorneys underestimate the time and cost in filing a Motion to Compel Further Responses.

Continue Reading How Much is that Motion in the Window?

Effective January 1, 2019, Code of Civil Procedure Section 2016.080 authorizes the court to conduct an informal discovery conference upon request of a party or on the court’s own motion. The statute reads:

(a) If an informal resolution is not reached by the parties, as described in Section 2016.040, the court may conduct an informal discovery conference upon request by a party or on the court’s own motion for the purpose of discussing discovery matters in dispute between the parties.

Continue Reading If Meet and Confer Fails, Ask for Help

The purpose of the “meet and confer” requirements set forth in C.C.P. §§ 2025.450(b)(2), 2025.480, 2030.300(b), 2031.310(b), 2032.250 and 2033.290 was for the lawyers to revisit their position, and in good faith, discuss a resolution in order to avoid unnecessary discovery motions.

Unfortunately, times have changed since the Discovery Act of 1986 went into effect. No longer can a law firm afford to have an associate sit at the knees of a respected senior partner and watch, listen, and learn without billing. No longer do lawyers have time for the “two-martini” lunch in order to get input from their colleagues about cases with which they are having trouble. No longer is the legal community so small that you know you are going to see opposing counsel again and fear their retaliation.

Continue Reading EXHIBIT A—The Meet and Confer Letter

 In the previous blog, Start Preparing Your Motion Because with These Responses You’re Going to Court, I used the following example as a type of response I see as a Discovery Referee:

Responding party hereby incorporates its general objections as if fully stated herein.  Responding party objects to this request to the extent it seeks information protected from disclosure by the attorney-client privilege and/or work product doctrine, or any other applicable privilege. Responding party objects as it invades their and third parties’ right of privacy. Responding party objects that the request fails to specifically describe each individual item sought or reasonably particularize each category of item sought. Responding party objects that it is unduly burdensome and overbroad.  Responding party objects to this request as it does not seek relevant documents or documents reasonably calculated to the discovery of admissible evidence.  Responding party objects that plaintiff has equal access to these documents.  Responding party objects that the request seeks documents already in plaintiff’s possession custody or control.  Responding party objects to this request as it seeks documents that are not within defendants’ possession, custody, or control.

Boilerplate objections are becoming more and more common in response to each of the document requests.  The above is an example of inappropriate boilerplate objections. In fact, boilerplate general objections are sanctionable in California per Korea Data Systems Co. Ltd. v. Superior Court (1997) 51 Cal.App.4th 1513 and may result in waivers of privilege per Burlington Northern & Santa Fe Ry Co. v. U.S. Dist. Court 408 F.3d 1142, 2005 WL 1175 922 (9th Cir.2005) [trial court affirmed in holding boilerplate objection without identification of documents is not the proper assertion of a privilege.] Continue Reading WHY THESE OBJECTIONS ARE GARBAGE