Federal Court Discovery and Disclosures
The paragraphs below contain calculators for pertinent disclosure and discovery deadlines in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Note that many of these rules can be modified by stipulation, a court’s local rules, a judge’s standing order, or a case-specific court order. Always check the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, local rules, and judge’s orders, each of which are available on the relevant court’s website or in your case file on PACER.
The opposing party has the right to ask questions to learn information. There are 5 methods of discovery under the Rules:
- Interrogatories (written discovery)
- Requests for Production (written discovery)
- Medical exams (if the Plaintiff claims an injury)
- Requests for admissions (written discovery)
Parties have an obligation to provide the opposing party with information whether they request it or not. This helps to encourage early settlement.
- Initial disclosures – persons with information, documents, computation for damages requested, insurance that will cover litigation
- Expert witnesses – fully disclose information about expert witness, including books/cases/etc.
- Pretrial disclosures – 30 days before trial, both sides list every witness they will or may call, live/deposition testimony, and a list of exhibits they will or may introduce.
Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1) contains a general definition of discoverable information, followed by a more expansive definition which the court may allow. The general definition is very broad and seems to cover almost anything (“relevant to claim/defense”), while the specific definition explains the type of items and people generally involved in discovery.
What are the limits on otherwise discoverable information?
- There may be a limit to the number of requests that may be propounded.
- Electronically stored information which is prohibitively expensive to access can sometimes be limited.
- Requests must seek relevant information.
- Relevant information is information that is both relevant and reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.
- Requests cannot be unreasonably cumulative, duplicative, or the information can be found another way that is less burdensome or less expensive.
- The party seeking information must use their time wisely and may be prohibited from further discovery if they have already had ample time to gather relevant information.
- The burden of discovery cannot outweigh the benefit.
Rule 26(f) Conference
Except in a proceeding exempted from initial disclosure under Rule 26(a)(1)(B) or when the court orders otherwise, the parties must confer as soon as practicable—and in any event at least 21 days before a scheduling conference is to be held or a scheduling order is due under Rule 16(b). Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(f).
Joint Discovery Plan
The joint discovery plan is due fourteen (14) days after the Rule 26(f) conference. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(f)(2).
Rule 26(a)(1) Initial Disclosures
Rule 26(a)(1) initial disclosures are due fourteen (14) days after the Rule 26(f) conference. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(1)(C). For parties joined after the Rule 26(f) conference, initial disclosures are due thirty (30) days after joining. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(1)(D).
Responses to Discovery Requests
Responses to discovery requests are generally due thirty (30) days after the requests were served. (Interrogatories–Fed. R. Civ. P. 33(b)(2); Requests for Documents and Electronically Stored Information–Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(b)(2)(A); Requests for Admission–Fed. R. Civ. P. 36(a)(3).)
Expert Witness Disclosures
The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure contain certain restrictions regarding a party’s right to obtain discovery from the other party’s expert witnesses. Under Rule 26(a) (2), parties must disclose the identities of their testifying experts, along with a report containing additional information such as their qualifications, opinions, and the bases for those opinions, at least ninety (90) days before trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(2)(D)(i).
Rebuttal Expert Witness Disclosures
Rebuttal expert witness disclosures are due thirty (30) days after receiving the other parties’ expert witness disclosures. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(2)(D)(ii).
Pretrial disclosures are due thirty (30) days before trial. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(3)(B).
Objections to the Use of Designated Deposition Testimony and Documents
Objections to the use of designated deposition testimony and documents are due fourteen (14) days after the designations were served. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(a)(3)(B).