Compel Further Responses

I was asked how do you handle discovery abuse when it is part of a deep pocket defendant’s litigation strategy. His story went like this:

Plaintiff’s counsel had been to court several times on motions to compel documents and motions to compel further documents from an international Corporation. The court’s most recent order was that the documents were to be served two weeks before the corporation’s person most knowledgeable depositions were to take place in London. Instead defendant produced 30,000 documents on a CD less than 24 hours before the London depositions were to begin. Plaintiff counsel went forward with the depositions as trial was in a month and his client could not afford for the lawyer to go to London another time. Plaintiff counsel expressed his frustrations that even though the court gave him $6000 in sanctions he was severely handicapped in his preparation for the depositions and it impacted on what evidence he could obtain before trial.

Even though this is an extreme example, it is not unusual. The real question is what could he have done and what should you do if you find yourself in this situation.
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When I hear of a Judge or Discovery Referee making a ruling which essentially tries to not make anybody angry and essentially splits the baby, I cringe. This goes against the philosophy of the Discovery Act and current case law. There are rules in discovery and attorneys are expected to play by those rules. When one side plays by the rules and asks the court to enforce those rules, it becomes disheartening to that party when the Judge or Discovery Referee splits the baby instead of making the tough call.
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The purpose of the “meet and confer” requirements set forth in C.C.P. §§ 2025.450(b)(2), 2025.480(b), 2030.300(b), 2031.310(b) 2032.250(a) 2033.290(b) was for the lawyers to revisit their position, in good faith discuss a resolution and avoid unnecessary discovery motions.
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To determine whether or not a responding party has made a reasonable inquiry, you must determine where the responding party searched (what efforts were made), who did they talk to (did they make an inquiry to their legal department, human resources, customer relations, the employees in the chain of command, etc.), and what were the questions they asked.

More often then not I see responses to document requests being done (1) by the one with the highest bar number on the pleading (a.k.a. the newbie associate) and/or (2) by the attorney dictating at their desk instead of taking the time to sit down with the client, determining whom they should be talking to and knowing what questions to ask.

It is my opinion that the person who should be talking to the client and collecting the documents is the experienced senior attorney who has a relationship with the client and knows what questions to ask. If the senior attorney still chooses to delegate, then they need to be “hands on” and take responsibility whether or not a “diligent search” and “reasonable inquiry” were in fact made prior to the response and production being served.
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Have you ever received a response to requests for production of documents that says:

After a diligent search and a reasonable inquiry has been made in an effort to comply with this Request, there are no documents within RESPONDING PARTY’s possession, custody, or control

Yet you question the veracity of the verified response, because they have got to have documents. So what can you do? This is a two-prong inquiry. The first being
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There are three motions that you can bring–(1) Motion to Compel, (2) Motion to Compel Further Responses, and (3) Motion to have matters Deemed Admitted. All of them have their place in your discovery plan but two of them –Motion to Compel Further Responses and Motions to Have Matters Deemed Admitted must be in your arsenal. Though they appear to be the same motions you would use for interrogatories, inspection demands, and depositions there are a few noteworthy twists and turns.
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Attorneys easily spew out the objection “the information you are seeking is not relevant to the subject matter of the litigation” as easily as they say “Good morning.” If you are the propounding party your reaction is probably to be to yell out “It is too relevant!” because it doesn’t even appear that the responding party actually thought it through before spewing out the objection. But what exactly is relevancy? It seems to be a nebulous term that invokes images of catching clouds with your hands or like Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s definition of pornography “I know it when I see it”?
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Discovery motions are the banes of most attorneys’ existence and they are often relegated to the newbie in the office to prepare. Young associates as well as other attorneys struggle on what needs to be in the papers and exactly how to convince the court that they should win.

With the courts’ having budgetary problems and staff shortages, it is in your best interests to make it real clear to the court (1) what has happened; (2) what you want the court to do; and (3) why you are entitled to the discovery and sanctions in a succinct fashion.
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When I started this blog I asked fellow attorneys what issues they would like me to address. I received this response from a lawyer in San Francisco:

Key problem – judges that won’t crack down on parties that lodge bogus objections and don’t answer interrogs, and object to discovery demands that are straight forward. Amount of sanctions awarded is usually pitiful.
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