Discovery: Where Cases Are Built
The Importance of Discovery and Properly Fulfilling Discovery Requests
On television, all the drama and action always transpires in the courtroom, during trial. Lawsuits happen in phases, however, and before a case even gets to trial there is the very important and often time-consuming phase know as discovery. Discovery is really when a case is developed, before it ever even goes before judge or jury. Lawyers that practice good case management implement 1) planning, 2) organization, and 3) control over the discovery process.
During discovery, opposing parties request relevant information and other information that may lead to relevant information from one another that might be useful to the case. Parties then must turn over relevant documents, they might answer questions in the form of written interrogatories, and parties may be deposed in orally examinations where attorneys ask questions and seek answers that will help build their case.
In the United States, the process of discovery and the gathering of information for the purpose of a lawsuit is among the most liberal in the world in terms of the breadth and scope of information that is discoverable. All relevant information that is not privileged in some way may be requested and must be turned over to the opposing party if it is in some way relevant to the suit. The underlying theory is that lawsuits should be adjudicated on the merits, and all relevant information should be available and aired in court to reach a just result.
Theoretically, discovery should be a smooth process between opposing sides, where parties cooperate and freely share all the relevant materials of a given case, parties show up for depositions, and both sides are allowed a fair vetting of all the evidence. With some limitations, the Rule for discovery in circuit court is generally broad and is construed broadly by courts: “A party may obtain discovery regarding any matter that is not privileged…” (Md. Rules, Rule 2-402). But as is often the case, opposing sides may have different views on what is relevant, what is privileged information, and whether certain questions or requests are overly broad.
Fred Antenberg is an attorney in Columbia, Maryland that handles family law matters in Howard County, Maryland and surrounding counties. Call Fred at 410-730-4404.