Request for Production of documents

Young handsome businessman sitting in chair with his legs on pile of books

Several times per month I receive questions from attorneys regarding a discovery dilemma.  Mostly the questions offer a novel twist on basic discovery.  However, this latest query was quirkier than most and raised some interesting issues and misconceptions, so I thought I would share it with you.   It went like this:

I served written discovery on a cross-defendant in a case, we are one of the defendants.  Cross-defendant (represented by, the plaintiff’s counsel) has appeared in this case by way of demurrer.  Cross-Defendant has refused to answer for the following reasons, (1) my clients are not parties to the cross-complaint so therefore we cannot propound discovery; (2) the court sustained the demurrer with leave to amend and the amended cross-complaint will be filed shortly by the cross-complainant; and (3) the cross-defendant lives in Europe and I need to go through the Hague Convention.  I don’t think any of these are legitimate reasons for not responding to discovery.


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businessman is carefully reading contract

Here is another great article from Miles B. Cooper.

Subtitle: Inadvertent disclosure of privileged documents during discovery

The lawyer read in disbelief. The memo, on defendant’s letterhead, crucified the defense. It was part of defendant’s production responses (and for reasons that will be talked about later, the fact that it was not electronically stored information is significant). The document had also been floating around for years. The defendant gave it to the police during the initial investigation. The police gave it back to the defense team when the defense asked for a copy of the police file. The defense produced it to the plaintiff. And, because it was responsive to a discovery category, the plaintiff produced it back to the defense.
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ANSWER:     A fictional document. A non-existent objection neither based in statutory authority nor found in case law. A statement by a party during the discovery phase that they will neither be held to the Code of Civil Procedure nor the rules of evidence.

In my years as a discovery referee, I have found that lawyers have gotten into the bad habit of inserting a preamble in their responses to interrogatories, requests for production and requests for admissions. These preambles often state the obvious as to what their rights are as responding parties. However, many times these preambles state general objections to the entirety of the propounded discovery and insert rights that are contrary to the obligations of the Discovery Act, the evidence code and current case law. Even though several interrogatories, requests for documents and request for admissions may be objectionable on the same ground they may not be objected to as a group. See Hogan and Weber, California Civil Discovery (2d. ed 2009) §51
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Somewhere in the back of your mind you are aware that discovery and Motions for Summary Judgment deadlines are looming. Yet, you really don’t pay attention to them until they are upon us usually around day 45 when you start trying to schedule experts. That is when you realize there are not enough hours in the day and days in the week. Unless you have a case that is a simple slip and fall or a fender bender, the last 100 days before trial can be daunting. Throw in a Motion for Summary Judgment or Summary Adjudication into the mix and you’re swamped. Then there is the ultimate question you ask yourself, “When am I going to find time to prepare for trial.”

The Code of Civil Procedure timeline regarding deadlines for expert disclosure, close of discovery and the last day discovery motions can be heard is demonstrated below.  Seeing it scheduled in black and white is kind of scary.
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Last November I received the following e-mail:

Since courts are so overwhelmed and setting dates for hearing is now running 6 months or longer, how does one do motions to compel further responses to interrogatories in a meaningful way? I booked the first available date with the court, but it is not until next June and I need the responses in order to know what documents to request. Any ideas?

It is unfortunate that the California budget crisis has so imploded civil litigation in our courts. Despite the fact that discovery is the heart and soul or your case and you are entitled to compliance with your discovery requests; law and motion departments typically give discovery motions the lowest priority on their calendar. So, what do you do?
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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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In many cases mediation is the most cost-efficient and effective method of resolving a case. Often, litigants can save a lot of money and time when mediation is held after first tier discovery has been completed, once the core facts are determined that circumscribe the dispute. In order to facilitate early resolution many courts have implemented mediation programs and asked mediators to volunteer their time. Unfortunately, many mediators are become very discouraged with these programs because many times the parties are not prepared.
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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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On August 14, 2012, Judge William A. Mayhew of Stanislaw Superior Court issued his Notice of Hearing on Issues Re Remand in the case of Debra Coito v. State of California. The order requested that the following issues to be briefed: (1) Does the absolute privilege apply to all or any part of the recorded witness interviews; (2) Does the Plaintiff conted that they can make a sufficient showing of unfair prejudice or injustice under C.C.P. Section 2018.030(b) such as to allow discovery as to any of the interviews that may be found to be not absolutely privileged; and (3) As to interrogatory 12.3, does the STATE contend that answering said interrogatory would result in opposing counsel taking undue advantage of the attorney for the STATE’s industry of efforts or that answering said interrogatory would reveal the attorney of the STATE’s tactics, impressions or evaluation of the case?
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