For those of us who practice in federal court, it is time to fasten our seat belts, because the times they are a changin’. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure have been amended, and the amendments go into effect on December 1, 2015.
Specifically, the following rules have been amended:
- 1 – Scope and Purpose
- 4 – Summons
- 16 – Pretrial Conferences; Scheduling; Management
- 26 – Duty to Disclose; General Provisions Governing Discovery
- 30 – Depositions by Oral Examination
- 31 – Depositions by Written Questions
- 33 – Interrogatories to Parties
- 34 – Producing Documents, Electronically Stored Information, and Tangible Things, or Entering onto Land, for Inspection and Other Purposes.
- 37 – Failure to Make Disclosures or to Cooperate in Discovery; Sanctions
- 55 – Default; Default Judgment.
- 84 – Forms
A “redline” version of the amended rules can be downloaded here. Some of the changes are relatively minor, but Rule 26 has been extensively overhauled. For example, the following is the new scope of discovery:
Unless otherwise limited by court order, the scope of discovery is as follows: Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties’ relative access to relevant information, the parties’ resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Information within this scope of discovery need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.
So, evidence still mustn’t be admissible to be discoverable, but there are now additional considerations, including “the amount in controversy” and the “importance of the discovery in resolving the issues.” The Committee Notes make it clear that the amendments are intended to reduce the discovery burden on litigants and to ensure that discovery is proportionate to the size and scope of the case.
We here at Abnormal Use welcome the amendments, and we hope that the amended scope of discovery will simplify discovery and reduce the burden that discovery has historically placed upon litigants.