Discovery is the legal process that allows each side of a lawsuit to ask the other side for information that is related to the case. I have always referred to the discovery process as a mini-trial to help the other sides to obtain evidence regarding the case. During the discovery period, both parties are required to show the other side evidence they plan to use during the trial. The discovery process’s main purpose is to help each side prepare their case based on fair access to the information from all parties, and prevents an unfair surprise in court.
The discovery process is governed by the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure. These rules typically say that parties to a case are entitled to any information that is “relevant” to the case as long as it is not “privileged” information. The information requested in the discovery process also has to be relevant to the case. Generally, it is always best to have an attorney assist you with the discovery process because it can be very complexed and each party is able to object to discovery requests.
Getting the information, you feel like you need or protecting the private information you do not want to share may depend on how well you can argue the relevance, irrelevance, privilege and non-privileged nature of the information to a judge or the opposing side. Lacking the knowledge of objections and what information people can be privy to is a difficult one and generally requires the assistance of an attorney for these complex matters.
There are several types of discovery and each part has complexed deadlines and response times. On top of the different requests that can be common in discovery, there are also different levels of discovery within cases as well. The most common types of discovery are requests for admissions, disclosures, interrogatories, production, and depositions. The more in-depth discovery could even include a mental or physical examination but they are not very common and generally require a court order showing that the judge believes the examination is legally appropriate based on the facts of the case.
Requests for admissions allow the party to ask the other side to admit or deny facts that relate to the case. Admissions must be in writing, and each request has to be listed separately in the document. Therefore, admissions can be a few questions or can be extremely lengthy in the requests. Generally, these requests cannot ask the other side to admit something that is a pure conclusion of law. In order to understand what a pure conclusion of law is, it is always best to consult with an attorney prior to admitting or denying the questions. If one side is unable to answer or has an objection to answering the questions, they must give an explanation as to why they cannot answer the question.
Disclosures are governed by Rule 194 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure and requests for disclosures ask for basic information about the parties and the allegations or contentions that the party is making. Some examples include providing information such as the legal name of the parties to the lawsuit, the legal theories and factual basis for the party’s claims or defense, the names and contact information of people with relevant information about the case. Disclosures also request for the damages involved with the specific type of case and include witness information and expert designations as well.
When it comes to interrogatories, they are written questions between parties. The party who receives the interrogatories is required to respond in writing and must answer the question in full detail and to the best of their abilities. Most Interrogatories are “Sworn” by an Affidavit that states under that person’s oath that the answers are true and correct to the best of their knowledge. The most common Discovery is generally controlled under Level 2 discovery where typically each side is only allowed to ask 25 written interrogatories that ask more than identifying information about a document or details pertaining to the case. Additionally, the responding party may respond by telling the other side where the information can be found if it is in public records as opposed to answering the question directly.
Requests for Production not only request documents or tangible things to be produced but also entails things like Inspection and request for entry for inspections to occur. Production is one of the most tedious requests and often one of the more complex of the discovery process. request for production, are requested to produce or allow examination of physical things such as documents, electronic files, emails, text messages, photographs, personal or real property, Social Security information, IRS documents such as wages, pay, and income that the other side has control of. This type of request must specify a reasonable time and place for the item to be produced. Typically, each party has thirty days from the date they receive the request to respond in a timely manner. Failure to comply could result in a motion to compel, sanctions and ultimately could cost you your entire case if not properly responded to.
When it comes to Depositions this is generally the most common amongst the general public. Most people generally know what a deposition is by the media or tv shows. I’ve always referred to Depositions as being a fancy, recorded or videotaped interview. Unfortunately, depositions can be conducted either orally which means in person or by telephone, or in writing. Depositions do not have to be only between the opposing parties to the case, but can also be taken from witnesses with information about the case. This includes police officers, medical experts, doctors, schools and custodians of record typically. Depositions are subject to many rules that include things like notice requirements, the scope of questioning, location and time limits. You should seek the advice or retain an attorney before attempting to conduct a deposition.
The legal process is a very intricate one and that is why it is always best to seek the advice from a criminal defense lawyer in Arlington, TX or retain one to handle your case.
Thanks to Brandy Austin Law Firm, PLLC for their insight into criminal law and how the discovery and deposition phases of casework.