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Possible Changes to Federal Rules of Civil Procedure may Limit Civil Case Discovery

Judicial Conference Advisory Committee Proposes Drastic Changes

 

In January, the Advisory Committee to the Judicial Conference of the United States proposed drastic changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedures, which – if implemented – would severely limit discovery in civil cases. The proposed changes include: (1) limiting parties to 25 requests for production; (2) reducing the presumptive limit on depositions to 5, down from 10; (3) reducing the presumptive time limit on depositions to 4 hours, down from 7; (4) reducing the number of allowed interrogatories to 15, down from 25; and (5) limiting parties to 25 requests to admit. In addition, the Committee has proposed tightening the scope of discovery, from any information “reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence,” to limiting discovery to relevant, non-privileged information that is proportional to the reasonable needs of the case.

Limiting broad discovery would have a significant and adverse impact on plaintiffs in employment law cases. Most often, the plaintiffs are already already at a great disadvantage, compared to the defendants, with regard to the amount information and evidence they possess and are able to access in support of their position. Often, without robust and wide-reaching discovery, plaintiffs are simply not able to gather enough evidence to prevail in their cases before the triers of fact. Preventing a plaintiff from taking a longer deposition, or even discovering certain information through interrogatories or other means, would only exacerbate the inequities inherent in this kind of litigation.

The Standing Committee, which oversees the Advisory Committee, may vote on publishing the proposals for public comment as early as June 2013.