February 27, 2017

Colorado Supreme Court: District Court Must Take Active Role in Managing Discovery Request of Non-Party in Dissolution Proceeding

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in In re Marriage of Gromicko on Monday, January 9, 2017.

In 2015, Lisa Dawn Gromicko (Wife) filed a petition for dissolution of marriage, naming Nickifor Nicholas Gromicko (Husband) as respondent. The petition requested equitable division of marital assets and debts. In order to evaluate Husband’s income, Wife requested records from Husband’s employer, InterNACHI, a nonprofit organized as a § 501(c)(6) trade association. Although Husband initially stated he would not object to the production of certain records, he did not provide them, and Wife requested a status conference. Husband’s counsel, who was also InterNACHI’s general counsel, filed a motion in response to Wife’s discovery request, arguing (1) the only InterNACHI relevant to the divorce proceeding were those reflecting Husband’s compensation and expense reimbursements; (2) the court could not consider InterNACHI a marital asset because Wife did not allege grounds in her dissolution petition to pierce the corporate veil; and (3) the court could authorize Wife to serve a subpoena duces tecum on InterNACHI to produce the relevant documents. The court held the status conference but did not rule on the discovery issues.

Wife then served a subpoena duces tecum on InterNACHI requesting (1) Husband’s employment and compensation; (2) the employment by InterNACHI of any person related to Husband; (3) InterNACHI’s bookkeeping, accounting, and tax return or Form 990 preparation; and (4) InterNACHI’s conflict-of-interest policy. InterNACHI moved to quash the subpoena, arguing that many of the requested documents were privileged, confidential, and irrelevant to the dissolution proceeding. InterNACHI also renewed its motion that Wife did not allege any grounds sufficient to claim that InterNACHI was Husband’s alter ego and pierce the corporate veil. The court denied InterNACHI’s motion to quash, and it filed a C.A.R. 21 interlocutory appeal.

On appeal, InterNACHI argued that the district court abused its discretion in refusing to quash or modify Wife’s subpoena because (1) Wife was required to, but did not, plead in her dissolution petition a claim for piercing InterNACHI’s corporate veil and (2) certain of Wife’s discovery requests were irrelevant to her veil-piercing claim and thus were outside the scope of discovery permitted by C.R.C.P. 26. The court first analyzed the discovery requirements in domestic relations cases, which are governed by C.R.C.P. 16.2, and found that Wife was not required to plead in her dissolution petition a claim seeking to pierce InterNACHI’s corporate veil. However, the supreme court concluded the district court did not use the correct standard in evaluating InterNACHI’s objection to the requested discovery.

The court compared C.R.C.P. 16.2 to the discovery requirements in civil cases, governed by C.R.C.P. 26. The court found the two rules analogous. The court found that its holding in DCP Midstream, LP v. Anadarko Petroleum Corp., 2013 CO 36, applied in this case and required the district court to take an active role in managing discovery. The supreme court found that the district court should initially have granted Wife only such discovery as would reasonably have been necessary to allow her to attempt to establish the existence of the alter ego relationship that she claimed. The supreme court noted that if, after receiving limited discovery, Wife could prove that InterNACHI was Husband’s alter ego, she may then be entitled to receive the information in her initial request, but the court must actively monitor discovery pursuant to DCP Midstream.

The supreme court made its rule to show cause absolute and returned the case to the district court for further proceedings.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Proof of Alleged Abuse Not Required Where Child Adjudicated Dependent Based on Lack of Parental Care

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in People in Interest of L.K. on Thursday, July 14, 2016.

Dependency and Neglect—Sexual Abuse—Polygraph Examination—Treatment Plan—Testimony—Evidence—Attorney Fees—Discovery Violations—Sovereign Immunity.

L.K. alleged sexual abuse by her father, C.K. Although C.K. denied the allegations, he stipulated that L.K. was dependent and neglected because she lacked proper parental care. The court accepted his admission and adjudicated L.K. dependent and neglected. The Moffat County Department of Social Services (MCDSS) devised a treatment plan for C.K., which required, among other things, that C.K. take a polygraph examination as part of denier’s treatment. Moffat later moved to terminate C.K.’s parental rights. Among other things, the court found that C.K. had been referred for a polygraph examination but did not appear for it, and it granted the termination motion, citing C.K.’s failure to successfully complete treatment designed to address the allegations of sexual misbehavior with L.K. as sufficient evidence that he was unable or unwilling to provide nurturing and safe parenting to adequately address her needs.

On appeal, C.K. contended that the trial court committed reversible error by considering the denier’s treatment polygraph examination as evidence supporting its determination that he failed to successfully complete his treatment plan. He did not dispute either that his treatment plan required him to participate in denier’s treatment or that a polygraph examination was required in denier’s treatment. For these reasons, the court properly admitted evidence of efforts to schedule an appointment for a polygraph examination and evidence that C.K. did not keep the appointment, and the court did not err in considering this evidence in terminating C.K.’s parental rights.

Next, C.K. contended that MCDSS had the burden to prove by clear and convincing evidence that his parental rights should be terminated, but the trial court erred by unfairly shifting the burden of proof to him when he decided not to testify in the termination hearing. When C.K. failed to present evidence, the court did not improperly shift the burden of proof, infringe on his privilege against self-incrimination, or draw impermissible adverse inferences.

Finally, C.K. contended that MCDSS did not prove its case by clear and convincing evidence, asserting the absence of such evidence that he had sexually abused L.K., which was the basis for the petition in dependency and neglect. However, the factual basis for adjudicating L.K. dependent and neglected had already been established, and MCDSS’s burden was to prove the criteria for termination, including C.K.’s failure to comply with his treatment plan. The Court of Appeals rejected the contention that the evidence was insufficient to support the judgment.

On cross-appeal, MCDSS contended that the trial court erred in assessing attorney fees against it for discovery violations. Sovereign immunity precludes orders assessing attorney fees against a governmental entity for discovery violations.

The judgment was affirmed and the sanctions order was reversed.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Criminal Defendants Have No Constitutional Right to Conduct Discovery

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in People in Interest of E.G. on Monday, April 18, 2016.

Criminal Procedure—Criminal Discovery—Constitutional Law.

The Supreme Court considered whether a trial court may order a third party to allow a criminal defendant discovery access to the third party’s home. The Court first discussed the historical underpinnings of criminal discovery, noting that there is no common law right to discovery in a criminal case. The Court then analyzed the possible sources of authority by which a trial court could grant a defendant’s discovery request for access to a private home. Finding no constitutional provision mandating such discovery, and failing to locate any authority to grant such a discovery request in Crim.P. 16 or 17, the Court concluded that the trial court lacked the authority to order the third party to allow access to her private home.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Supreme Court: Criminal Defendant Has No Constitutional Right to Examine Victim’s Home

The Colorado Supreme Court issued its opinion in In re People v. Chavez on Monday, April 18, 2016.

Criminal Procedure—Criminal Discovery—Constitutional Law.

In this original proceeding, the Supreme Court considered whether a trial court may order a third party to allow a criminal defendant discovery access to the third party’s home. Relying on People in the Interest of E.G., 2016 CO 19, __ P.3d __, the Court concluded that the trial court had no authority to order the alleged victim to allow defendant or his representatives into her home to investigate the scene of the alleged crime.

Summary provided courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

Colorado Court of Appeals: Late Filed Counterclaims Timely Because they Relate Back to Original Answer

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Makeen v. Hailey on Thursday, December 31, 2015.

Real Property—Compulsory Counterclaims—Timely—Discovery Violations—Sanctions—Trial Management—Attorney Fees.

Makeen and his father, Hailey, purchased real property in Denver (Utopia Property) as joint tenants. Makeen alleged that he had an oral agreement with his father pursuant to which he would manage the property while his father was alive, and upon his death Makeen would become the sole owner. According to Makeen, Hailey also promised to give him seven other properties upon Hailey’s death. Hailey, however, alleged that he never promised Makeen any property interests, and that Makeen fraudulently purchased the Utopia Property in both of their names, even though he had agreed to act as Hailey’s agent and to buy the property only in Hailey’s name. The court found in favor of Hailey on all claims and counterclaims.

On appeal, Makeen contended that the trial court erred in finding Hailey’s counterclaims for breach of fiduciary duty and fraud timely. Although it was more than a year since the original complaint was filed, the counterclaims were timely because Hailey’s amended answer and counterclaims related back to his initial answer, which was filed within the revival statute’s one-year limitations period.

Makeen also contended that the trial court erred in failing to sanction Hailey for repeated discovery violations. First, although PPR 3.7 requires mandatory sanctions for a failure to timely and completely disclose, it applies only to initial disclosures and not the discovery requests at issue here. Additionally, the trial court did not abuse its discretion in deciding not to impose discovery sanctions against Haley after finding that Haley had made substantially all of the required disclosures and, even if there had been intermittent noncompliance with some of the CAPP discovery rules, the noncompliance was substantially justified and harmless.

Makeen further argued that the trial court erred in prematurely cutting off discovery at the final discovery dispute hearing in October 2013. Makeen had nearly 11 months to conduct discovery, and the trial court acted well within its discretion in enforcing reasonable trial management deadlines in this matter. Further, Makeen failed to show that he was prejudiced by this ruling.

The judgment was affirmed. Because Makeen’s appeal of some of the issues was frivolous, the case was remanded to award Hailey attorney fees and costs related to the defense of those claims on appeal.

Summary and full case available here, courtesy of The Colorado Lawyer.

The 2015 Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Part 3 of 3)

Editor’s Note: This is Part 3 of a three-part series discussing the 2015 changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Part 1 discussed the changes to Rules 1, 4, and 16, and is available here. Part 2 discussed the changes to Rule 26, and is available here

Bill_GrohBy William C. Groh, III

Changes to Rules 30, 31, and 33

Rules 30 and 31, which govern depositions, have been amended to account for the changes to Rule 26. Both rules require that when the parties seek leave of court to conduct depositions, “the court must grant leave to the extent consistent with Rule 26(b)(1) and (2).” Rule 33, governing interrogatories, has also been amended to reflect the proportionality requirements of Rule 26(b).

Rule 34

Like Rules 30, 31, and 33, the amendments to Rule 34 (governing requests for production) incorporate the changes to Rule 26. They also require greater specificity in objecting to discovery requests. New Rule 34(b)(2)(B) requires the responding party to “state with specificity the grounds for objecting to the request, including the reasons.”

New Rule 34(b)(2)(C) further clarifies this requirement by requiring that “an objection must state whether any responsive materials are being withheld on the basis of that objection.” In practical terms, however, a party will not necessarily have detailed knowledge of withheld documents. This is especially so if a responding party has conducted a limited search for documents based on an objection: how can the party specify what has been “withheld” in these circumstances?

The Committee Notes address these questions, providing that in objecting to a request, “[t]he producing party does not need to provide a detailed description or log of all documents withheld, but does need to alert other parties to the fact that documents have been withheld and thereby facilitate an informed discussion of the objection.” [1]  The Committee Notes also address the issue of limited searches, providing that “an objection that states the limits that have controlled the search for responsive and relevant materials qualifies as a statement that the materials have been ‘withheld.’”[2]

Finally, Rule 34(b)(2)(B) has been amended to reflect the “common practice” of producing documents rather than permitting inspection.[3] The new rule provides that “[t]he responding party may state that it will produce copies of documents or of electronically stored information instead of permitting inspection. The production must then be completed no later than the time for inspection specified in the request or another reasonable time specified in the response.”[4]

Rule 37

The amendments to Rule 37(e) provide more guidance regarding the failure to preserve ESI. Prior Rule 37(e), adopted in 2006, provided that “[a]bsent exceptional circumstances, a court may not impose sanctions under these rules on a party for failing to provide electronically stored information lost as a result of the routine, good-faith operation of an electronic information system.” While the rule implied authority to impose sanctions on a finding of bad faith, it provided no other specific criteria.

New Rule 37(e) provides a more comprehensive framework for courts to issue sanctions in the event of loss of ESI where “a party failed to take reasonable steps to preserve it, and it cannot be restored or replaced through additional discovery.” As a preliminary matter, while New Rule 37(e)(1) requires a finding of prejudice resulting from a negligent failure to preserve ESI, it does not place a burden of proving or disproving prejudice on one party or the other. The Committee Notes indicate that under certain circumstances, it would be unfair for the party that did not lose the information to demonstrate prejudice. Under other circumstances, however, the content of the lost information might be “fairly evident” and perhaps unimportant in light of other available information; the Committee Notes suggest that the party seeking relief should be required to demonstrate prejudice under those circumstances.[5] In light of these considerations, the rule leaves the court with discretion as to how best to assess prejudice.[6]

Once prejudice has been found, New Rule 37(e)(1) states that the court “may order measures no greater than necessary to cure the prejudice.” The court is afforded wide discretion in fashioning appropriate remedies, depending on the circumstances. The Committee Notes caution, however, that “authority to order measures no greater than necessary to cure prejudice does not require the court to adopt measures to cure every possible prejudicial effect.”[7]

No finding of prejudice is required, however, to impose sanctions when a party has acted “with the intent to deprive another party of the information’s use in the litigation.”[8] Sanctions for the willful destruction of ESI include (1) presumptions that the lost information was unfavorable to the party, (2) adverse jury instructions, or (3) dismissal of the action or default judgment.[9] The Committee Notes caution that these more punitive remedies should not be confused with the “curative” remedies available under Rule 26(e)(1), noting that courts should:

ensure that curative measures under subdivision (e)(1) do not have the effect of measures that are permitted under subdivision (e)(2) only on a finding of intent to deprive another party of the lost information’s use in the litigation. An example of an inappropriate (e)(1) measure might be an order striking pleadings related to, or precluding a party from offering any evidence in support of, the central or only claim or defense in the case. On the other hand, it may be appropriate to exclude a specific item of evidence to offset prejudice caused by failure to preserve other evidence that might contradict the excluded item of evidence.[10]

Lastly, and while not incorporated into Rule 37(e) itself, the Committee Notes provide considerable analysis as to how courts should determine whether a party has taken reasonable steps to preserve ESI. The Committee Notes describe factors to address in considering when a duty to preserve may have arisen, as well as proportionality factors in evaluating what preservation measures may have been reasonable.[11] They also emphasize that Rule 37(e) does not apply when a party loses information despite reasonable preservation efforts.[12] Finally, the Committee Notes explore the distinction between independent common law or statutory duties to preserve information and the obligations triggered under New Rule 37(e).[13] Litigants attempting to evaluate the sufficiency of preservation efforts should reference these notes in addition to the existing case law.

Rules 55 and 84

Rule 55, governing default judgments, has also been amended to clarify the difference between entry of default and entry of a final judgment. An entry of default that does not dispose of all issues in the case may be set aside for good cause under New Rule 55. If, on the other hand, an entry of default results in a final judgment under Rule 54, such a judgment can be set aside only under the standards of Rule 60. Finally, Rule 84 has been amended to abrogate the appendix of forms.

Conclusion

The 2015 Amendments to the Federal Rules may very well reinvigorate many preexisting standards for the conduct of discovery in federal courts. While many contend that the amendments to Rule 26 will spawn considerable motions practice, others argue that the amendments will ultimately help streamline the discovery process. Other developments, such as the new framework for sanctions under Rule 37(e), will provide the court with additional tools to deal appropriately with failure to preserve ESI.


[1] 2015 Committee Notes, supra note 4 at 34.

[2]. Id.

[3]. Id. at 38.

[4]. New Rule 34(b)(2)(B).

[5]. Id. at 43, 47.

[6]. Id.

[7]. Id. at 44.

[8]. New Rule 37(e)(2).

[9]. New Rule 37(e)(2)(A), (B), and (C).

[10]. 2015 Committee Notes, note 4 at 44.

[11]. Id. at 39-41.

[12]. Id. at 41.

[13]. Id. at 40 (“The fact that a party had an independent obligation to preserve information does not necessarily mean that it had such a duty with respect to the litigation, and the fact that the party failed to observe some other preservation obligation does not itself prove that its efforts to preserve were not reasonable with respect to a particular case.”).


Bill Groh is an experienced commercial litigator who has represented individuals and small businesses in a variety of fields since 2005. Mr. Groh frequently handles matters involving both intellectual property and commercial litigation issues, including trademark infringement, copyright infringement, trade secret infringement, civil disputes involving breach of contract, business partnerships, allegations of breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, civil theft, actions for dissolution of partnership interest, and other such disputes that are increasingly common in modern business.

The 2015 Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Part 2 of 3)

Bill_Groh

Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 of a three-part series discussing the 2015 changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Part 1 discussed the changes to Rules 1, 4, and 16, and is available here. Part 3 will discuss the changes to Rules 30, 31, 33, 34, 37, 55, and 84. 

By William C. Groh, III

Rule 26

The changes to Rule 26(b)(1), which governs the scope of discovery, have generated considerable controversy and debate. The amended rule introduces two main changes. First, it does away with the “reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence” language while clarifying the definition of “relevant information” in relation to the proper scope of discovery.[1] Second, the amended rule emphasizes that discovery must be “proportional to the needs of the case,” introducing a six-factor test by which the courts must determine proportionality.[2]

Redefining “Relevance”

The “relevance” standard under New Rule 26(b)(1) is narrower and more streamlined than in the prior rule. While Prior Rule 26(b)(1) allowed for discovery relevant to any claim or defense,[3] it also allowed for discovery of “any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action” upon a showing of good cause. It provided that “relevant” information need not be admissible “if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.”[4] New Rule 26(b)(1) is more restrictive. It does away with the “relevant to the subject matter” and “reasonably calculated” standards. The new rule requires that discovery be “relevant to any party’s claim or defense.” Discovery fitting this relevance criterion “need not be admissible in evidence to be discoverable.”[5]

The elimination of the “reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence” language is technically less substantive than it may seem. The Committee Notes point out that the wording of Prior Rule 26(b)(1) has caused practitioners to cite the “reasonably calculated” language as the general standard for the scope of discovery instead of the true “relevance” standard.[6] The Committee Notes emphasize that the appropriate scope is “relevance” to claims and defenses, and New Rule 26(b)(1) removes the “reasonably calculated” language to prevent further confusion.[7]

New Rule 26(b)(1) also no longer permits discovery that is merely “relevant to the subject matter involved in the action,” even on a showing of good cause.[8] Discovery under the new rule must be “relevant to any party’s claims or defense,” but what does that mean in practice? The Committee Notes cite illustrative examples including “other incidents of the same type, or involving the same product”; “information about organizational arrangements or filing systems”; and “information that could be used to impeach a likely witness.”[9] The Federal Rules Advisory Committee first introduced these examples in the Committee Notes to the 2000 amendments to Rule 26. The Committee Notes to the 2000 amendment acknowledge that a bright-line rule distinguishing “relevance to claims and defenses” from “relevance to subject matter” is not practical, given the case-specific nature of the criteria.[10]

New Rule 26(b)(1) also no longer expressly describes the scope of discovery as including “the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any documents or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons who know of any discoverable matter.”[11] This change is cosmetic. As the Advisory Committee explains, “[d]iscovery of such matters is so deeply entrenched in practice that it is no longer necessary to clutter the long text of Rule 26 with these examples.”[12]

The above changes refocus the scope of discovery on relevance to claims and defenses. These changes make it more likely that courts will sustain objections to discovery of subject matter that is not in itself “relevant” to the parties’ claims and defenses as expressed in the pleadings.

The Six-Factor “Proportionality” Test

Possibly the flagship feature of the 2015 amendments to Rule 26, New Rule 26(b)(1) requires that, in addition to being relevant, discovery be “proportional to the needs of the case.” The New Rule also sets out six factors that guide the determination of “proportionality”:

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.

Many public commentators have expressed both optimism and concern about the “new” requirements that the proportionality test would impose on litigants and the courts. Opponents argued that a formal proportionality test would make discovery more difficult by imposing a new layer of motions practice over “proportionality” in every case. As one commentator wrote:

I strongly oppose the amendment to Rule 26(b) injecting a proportionality test into the Rules. Under the current Rules, many of my adversaries routinely include boilerplate objections in to their responses to virtually every discovery request that I send. If this proposed change is adopted, I am confident that those boilerplate objections will be joined by an objection that the discovery requests are not proportional to the needs of the case. This, in turn, will generate unnecessary litigation over proportionality every time that a new discovery request is served.[13]

Other commentators expressed optimism about the changes. As one supporter wrote:

This change would provide a significant improvement compared to the overbroad scope of discovery defined by current Rule 26(b)(1) by reducing the costs and burdens in discovery practice. In addition, I support moving the proportionality language presently found in Rule 26(b)(2)(C)(iii) to 26(b)(1). This modification would remind parties that the principle of proportionality applies to all discovery and would encourage parties and judges to focus on what discovery should mean to each individual case.[14]

In addressing these and other comments, the Advisory Committee emphasized that Rule 26 already includes most of the above “proportionality” requirements.[15] Indeed, the only new factor is “the parties’ relative access to relevant information.” Other proportionality factors found in the old version of 26(b)(2)(C) include (1) analysis of the burden imposed by the discovery versus its likely benefit, (2) the importance of the issues at stake, (3) the amount in controversy, (4) the resources of the parties, and (5) the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues. In other words, the “proportionality” test does not introduce an altogether “new” standard so much as it re-emphasizes and re-prioritizes existing standards. The amended criteria are designed to refocus norms of discovery practice by giving existing proportionality requirements more conspicuous treatment in the rules.

The proportionality test found in New Rule 26(b)(1) borrows much of its language from Prior Rule 26(b)(2)(C), which allowed the courts to limit discovery upon a determination that “the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, considering the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties’ resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, and the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues.” Prior Rule 26(b)(1) subjected the scope of discovery to the “limitations imposed by 26(b)(2)(C)” but only incorporated the limiting language by reference. The new rule expressly imports this language from Prior Rule 26(b)(2)(C) and places it “front and center” in Rule 26(b)(1).

The Committee Notes describe the above changes as a re-emphasis of current standards, stating:

The present amendment restores the proportionality factors to their original place in defining the scope of discovery. This change reinforces the Rule 26(g) obligation of the parties to consider these factors in making discovery requests, responses, or objections. Restoring the proportionality calculation to Rule 26(b)(1) does not change the existing responsibilities of the court and the parties to consider proportionality, and the change does not place on the party seeking discovery the burden of addressing all proportionality considerations.[16]

Something old, something new. For better or for worse, commentators generally agree that, by putting the question of proportionality front and center, disputes over proportionality will likely increase motions practice as the new rule takes effect. The Tenth Circuit did not require courts to make formal findings applying the proportionality factors as they existed under the old rules.[17] Courts and litigants generally did not systematically apply these factors in discovery or related motions practice. As the District of Maryland observed:

Despite the obvious utility of the [Prior] Rule 26(b)(2) factors in tailoring discovery to accommodate fair disclosure without imposing undue burden or expense, they have tended largely to be ignored by litigants, and, less frequently than desirable, used by the courts, sua sponte, to manage discovery. Instead, particularly with respect to disputes involving Rule 33 and Rule 34 discovery, the focus of the litigants tends to be the party seeking discovery’s perceived “right” to all information relating to the broad “subject matter” of the litigation, without any reflection as to the real usefulness of the information sought, or the burden or expense required to produce it, countered by the party resisting the discovery’s unparticularized claims of burden, expense, irrelevance, and privilege.[18]

It is therefore important to consider how courts might formally apply the six criteria as a group in the context of determining whether challenged discovery meets the proportionality requirements of the new rule.

Factor 1: importance of the issues at stake. The Rules Committee deliberately chose “the importance of the issues” as the first of the six factors, placing it before even “the amount in controversy.” The Committee made this decision to emphasize that the amount in controversy does not trump issues of substantive justice.[19] What constitutes an “important issue,” however, remains open to question. The Advisory Committee cites the earlier 1983 Committee Note, which discussed this concept in terms of “vitally important personal or public values,” stating:

The 1983 Committee Note recognized “the significance of the substantive issues, as measured in philosophic, social, or institutional terms. Thus the rule recognizes that many cases in public policy spheres, such as employment practices, free speech, and other matters, may have importance far beyond the monetary amount involved.” Many other substantive areas also may involve litigation that seeks relatively small amounts of money, or no money at all, but that seeks to vindicate vitally important personal or public values.[20]

The placement of “importance of the issues” before “amount in controversy” was also in response to comments strongly objecting to a prior version of the amendment that placed “amount in controversy” first. As one attorney warned, “[f]ew of our cases are likely to garner in excess of six figures, so putting ‘the amount in controversy,’ before ‘the importance of the issues at stake,’ spells the death knell for employment litigation.”[21]

Other comments questioned the wisdom of requiring judges to evaluate the “importance” of some cases over others. As one commentator noted:

One judge will assess the “importance of the issues at stake” vastly differently from another or perhaps even differently than the judge himself might on another day (for reasons initially described in Judge Jerome Frank’s “Courts on Trial,” but that are becoming more well-documented through studies of decision-making based on “implicit biases” or “blind spots”). Judges—like all humans—are likely to value issues with which they have experience over issues with which they have little or no experience. Justice Thurgood Marshall presumably would place greater value on civil rights issues based on his legal background; Justice Tom Clark, who he replaced, presumably would place greater value on national security issues and corporate fraud or antitrust issues based on his experiences. . . .[22]

Nonetheless, New Rule 26(b)(1) provides potential ammunition for those seeking discovery in cases implicating important policy questions, even if the amount in controversy is relatively small. On the other hand, the “importance of the issues” criterion could pose an obstacle in cases involving small amounts in controversy, high discovery costs, and garden-variety legal issues.

Factor 2: the amount in controversy. This criterion is relatively straightforward, though not uncontroversial. Cases involving low amounts in controversy implicitly mandate a more streamlined approach to discovery, lest the parties spend more than the case’s monetary value on costly discovery issues.

Consideration of the amount in controversy invites analysis of the costs of the proposed discovery. An amount in controversy of $20,000 would theoretically weigh against allowing a discovery request that would cost $20,000 to comply with. On the other hand, what if the discovery costs are high because the responding party’s records are disorganized or difficult to search?

One may expect courts to tackle this problem by assessing whether the responding party’s asserted costs are reasonable under the circumstances. However, with information storage and retrieval technology rapidly changing even from year to year, it would be difficult for the courts to develop objective metrics that would keep pace with changing technology.

Factor 3: parties’ relative access to relevant information. As the “new factor” in the equation, the Advisory Committee Notes describe “Relative Access” as an attempt to address the problem of “information asymmetry.” As the Committee Notes point out:

One party—often an individual plaintiff—may have very little discoverable information. The other party may have vast amounts of information, including information that can be readily retrieved and information that is more difficult to retrieve. In practice these circumstances often mean that the burden of responding to discovery lies heavier on the party who has more information, and properly so.[23]

This factor therefore deals with whether the party seeking discovery has reasonable access to the information requested by other means. Even if the requesting party technically has other means of access, this factor may still favor discovery if the producing party can produce the requested information quickly and easily.

Factor 4: the parties’ resources. While New Rule 26(b)(1) requires consideration of the parties’ resources, the Advisory Committee has cautioned against an overuse of this factor in limiting or allowing discovery. Citing prior Committee Notes on the subject, the Committee Notes state:

[C]onsideration of the parties’ resources does not foreclose discovery requests addressed to an impecunious party, nor justify unlimited discovery requests addressed to a wealthy party. The 1983 Committee Note cautioned that “[t]he court must apply the standards in an even-handed manner that will prevent use of discovery to wage a war of attrition or as a device to coerce a party, whether financially weak or affluent.”[24]

Where the parties’ resources are a factor, a protective order under New Rule 26(c)(1)(B), which explicitly provides for the allocation of expenses, can also shift the costs of producing the discovery in appropriate cases.

Factor 5: the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues. The “importance” factor requires assessment of the degree to which the discovery is necessary to prove a claim or defense. Courts analyzing this factor may consider the discovery’s relevance to a claim or defense as well as whether the issues implicated are central to the case.[25]

Factor 6: whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. While much case law currently addresses the cost-benefit analysis of discovery, the Committee Notes also point out that this analysis should consider the ever-evolving capability of electronic search methods, stating:

The burden or expense of proposed discovery should be determined in a realistic way. This includes the burden or expense of producing electronically stored information. Computer-based methods of searching such information continue to develop, particularly for cases involving large volumes of electronically stored information. Courts and parties should be willing to consider the opportunities for reducing the burden or expense of discovery as reliable means of searching electronically stored information become available.[26]

These comments make clear that the relevance of today’s arguments about burden and expense may change significantly as new means of search and retrieval of ESI become commonplace.

This factor is also controversial. While it may limit unnecessarily burdensome discovery, commentators have expressed concern that “burdensomeness” arguments provide opportunities for gamesmanship. Comments submitted by the American Association for Justice cautioned that “this factor upends the incentives for defendants to preserve documents in an easily accessible format and encourages them to ensure that discovery will be too expensive or difficult to retrieve.”[27] On the other hand, the courts have been and remain equipped to compel important discovery if it finds a party’s alleged “burden” in producing the discovery appears to be self-inflicted.[28]

Other considerations regarding the proportionality test. Some public commentators have expressed concern that the “proportionality” test will burden the party seeking discovery with demonstrating proportionality.[29]

The Committee Notes imply a shared burden to demonstrate (or refute) proportionality, pointing out that the proportionality test “does not place on the party seeking discovery the burden of addressing all proportionality considerations,” and is not intended to “permit the opposing party to refuse discovery simply by making a boilerplate objection that it is not proportional. The parties and the court have a collective responsibility to consider the proportionality of all discovery and consider it in resolving discovery disputes.” [30]

While courts have not yet interpreted the “shared” burden to demonstrate proportionality, existing case law suggests that each party will be required to present facts within their possession in objecting to or compelling discovery.

As the District of Colorado has observed:

When the discovery sought appears relevant, the party resisting the discovery has the burden to establish the lack of relevancy by demonstrating that the requested discovery (1) does not come within the scope of relevance as defined under Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1), or (2) is of such marginal relevance that the potential harm occasioned by discovery would outweigh the ordinary presumption in favor of broad disclosure. . . . However, when a request for discovery is overly broad on its face or when relevancy is not readily apparent, the party seeking the discovery has the burden to show the relevancy of the request.[31]

Shifting the cost of discovery. Rule 26(c)(1)(B) has also been amended to recognize expressly the court’s authority to allocate discovery costs as part of a protective order. Such orders may be especially useful in cases in which the parties cannot agree on proportionality. Depending on the circumstances, a party may seek a cost-shifting protective order as a way to resolve controversies over the burdensomeness of particular requests.

Early discovery requests and discovery sequencing. New Rule 26(d)(2) allows parties to deliver Rule 34 production requests ahead of the Rule 26(f) conference. Under the new rule, responses are not considered served until the conference occurs. Responses are due within 30 days (not 33)[32] after the conference. The new rule allows the parties to stipulate or move the court for longer deadlines. Finally, New Rule 26(d)(2) allows the parties to stipulate as to the sequence of discovery without requiring a motion or court order.


 

[1]. See New Rule 26(b)(1).

[2]. Id.

[3]. Prior Rule 26(b)(1).

[4]. See id.

[5]. See New Rule 26(b)(1).

[6]. 2015 Committee Notes, supra note 4 at 24.

[7]. Id.

[8]. See New Rule 26(b)(1).

[9]. 2015 Committee Notes, supra note 4 at 23.

[10]. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26 at Committee Notes to 2000 Amendment. The 2000 Committee Notes emphasize that “[t]he dividing line between information relevant to the claims and defenses and that relevant only to the subject matter of the action cannot be defined with precision,” and caution that the relevance of particular information to the case “depends on the circumstances of the pending action.”

[11]. New Rule 26(b)(1).

[12]. 2015 Committee Notes, supra note 4 at 23.

[13]. Comment from Allan Karlin, www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=USC-RULES-CV-2013-0002-2171.

[14]. Comment from Gregory Grisham, www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=USC-RULES-CV-2013-0002-2218.

[15]. See 2015 Committee Notes,  supra note 4 at 19.

[16]. Id.

[17]. In re Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., 568 F.3d 1180, 1194 (10th Cir. 2009) (finding that Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(2)(C)(iii) does not require a formalistic and detailed balancing of the factors listed therein.).

[18]. Thompson v. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 199 F.R.D. 168, 171 (D.Md. 2001).

[19]. 2015 Committee Notes, supra note 4 at 17.

[20]. Fed.R.Civ.P. 26 at 1983 Amendment Committee Notes.

[21]. Comment from Suzanne Tongring, www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=USC-RULES-CV-2013-0002-1908.

[22]. Comment from J. Byran Wood, www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=USC-RULES-CV-2013-0002-2112.

[23]. 2015 Committee Notes, supra note 4 at 20-21.

[24]. 2015 Committee Notes, supra note 4 at 22.

[25]. See, e.g., In re Cathode Ray Tube (CRT) Antitrust Litigation, 301 F.R.D. 449, 455 (N.D.Cal., 2014.)

[26]. 2015 Committee Notes, supra note 4 at 22.

[27]. Comment from American Association for Justice President J. Burton LeBlanc (submitter Richard Williger), www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=USC-RULES-CV-2013-0002-2046.

[28]. See, e.g., Foster v. Logan’s Roadhouse, Inc., 2013 WL 1498958, at *4 (N.D.Ala. 2013) (“Even so, plaintiff should not be prevented from obtaining necessary discovery simply because defendant has chosen to maintain its records in a manner that makes searches difficult and time-consuming. Overall, the importance of the discovery to plaintiff outweighs defendant’s burden in producing it.”).

[29]. See, e.g., Comment from John Vail, Center for Constitutional Litigation, www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=USC-RULES-CV-2013-0002-0199 (“Instead of a requesting party being entitled to information unless the opposing party shows disproportionality, a requesting party now would be entitled to information only upon affirmatively demonstrating proportionality.”).

[30]. 2015 Committee Notes, supra note 4 at 43.

[31]. Bonanno v. Quizno’s Franchise Co., LLC, 255 F.R.D. 550, 552 (D.Colo. 2009).

[32]. Because New Rule 16 deems the Rule 26(f) conference to constitute “service” of a previously delivered Rule 34 request, the “service” was not accomplished by the prior delivery of the requests. As such, delivery of a Rule 34 Discovery Request by electronic means prior to the Rule 26(f) conference should not trigger the time extending provisions of Fed.R.Civ.P. 6(d) that would apply if the requests were electronically served after the Rule 26(f) conference.


Bill Groh is an experienced commercial litigator who has represented individuals and small businesses in a variety of fields since 2005. Mr. Groh frequently handles matters involving both intellectual property and commercial litigation issues, including trademark infringement, copyright infringement, trade secret infringement, civil disputes involving breach of contract, business partnerships, allegations of breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, civil theft, actions for dissolution of partnership interest, and other such disputes that are increasingly common in modern business.

The 2015 Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Part 1 of 3)

Bill_Groh

Editor’s Note: This is Part 1 of a three-part series discussing the 2015 changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Part 2 will discuss the changes to Rule 26 and Part 3 will discuss the changes to Rules 30, 31, 33, 34, 37, 55, and 84. 

By William C. Groh, III

New and important changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (Federal Rules) took effect on December 1, 2015 and apply to all newly filed cases as well as currently pending cases “insofar as just and practicable.”[1] The changes affect Rules 1, 4, 16, 26, 30, 31, 33, 34, 37, 55, and 84. They deal primarily with the scope of discovery, case management, and preservation of electronically stored information (ESI). The amendments generally reflect an effort to refocus litigants’ ongoing obligation to conduct discovery efficiently and in appropriate proportion to the needs of the case at issue. The redline version of the 2015 amendments, with committee notes, is available for download at www.uscourts.gov/file/18481/download.

Rule 1

Rule 1 previously was a rule of construction that required the courts to administer the Federal Rules to ensure “the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination” of civil actions.[2] The wording placed responsibility on the courts. New Rule 1 expressly requires the courts and the parties to construe, administer and employ the Federal Rules to achieve these goals.[3]

Rule 4

Rule 4 has changed to provide a mandatory form to be used for requesting waiver of service. Prior Rule 4 contained an example waiver form but permitted other formats as long as they followed the rule’s substantive requirements. The waiver of service form provided with New Rule 4 is now mandatory. The Rule 4 form can be downloaded at www.cod.uscourts.gov/Portals/0/Documents/Forms/CivilForms/notice-n-waiver-of-serv-summons.pdf.

Rule 16

The amendments to Rule 16 are designed to encourage speedier scheduling and greater court involvement in ensuring the preservation of ESI. New Rule 16(b)(1)(B) does away with the provision allowing communication by “telephone, mail, or other means” to substitute for a Rule 16(b) scheduling conference. The parties and the court must engage in direct simultaneous communication, either in person, by telephone, or by other means.[4]

New Rule 16 shortens the deadline for the court to issue its scheduling order. While the deadline was 120 days under Prior Rule 16, New Rule 16 requires the court to issue the court scheduling order within 90 days after service of the complaint or 60 days after the appearance of any defendant. The court may extend this deadline upon a finding of good cause.

Prior Rule 16(b)(3)(B) included a list of items for consideration in entering the court scheduling order. New Rule 16(b)(3)(B) adds to this list, providing that the court may also include protocols for preservation of ESI. This change is apropos considering the changes to Rule 37 governing sanctions for failure to preserve ESI, discussed below. The new rule also permits the court to add agreed protocols for dealing with the disclosure of privileged information under FRE 502, and to require the parties to request a conference before the court before filing discovery motions. In light of these new items, Rule 26(f)(3) has also been changed to require the parties to address these issues at their Rule 26(f) conference.

 


[1]. See J. Roberts order adopting amendments subject to congressional approval at 15 (April 29, 2015), www.uscourts.gov/file/document/congress-materials,  P. 15 (“the foregoing amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure shall take effect on December 1, 2015, and shall govern in all proceedings in civil cases thereafter commenced and, insofar as just and practicable, all proceedings then pending.”).

[2]. See Prior Rule 1. The prior rule required that the federal rules “should be construed and administered to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.”

[3]. New Rule 1.

[4]. Proposed Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (with Committee Notes) at 7, www.uscourts.gov/file/18481/download (2015 Committee Notes).


 

Bill Groh is an experienced commercial litigator who has represented individuals and small businesses in a variety of fields since 2005. Mr. Groh frequently handles matters involving both intellectual property and commercial litigation issues, including trademark infringement, copyright infringement, trade secret infringement, civil disputes involving breach of contract, business partnerships, allegations of breach of fiduciary duty, conversion, civil theft, actions for dissolution of partnership interest, and other such disputes that are increasingly common in modern business.

Tenth Circuit: Sanctions Against Attorney Affirmed Where He Negligently Disregarded Discovery Obligations

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Sun River Energy, Inc. v. Nelson on Wednesday, September 2, 2015.

Attorneys James E. Pennington and Stephen E. Csajaghy were sanctioned for their refusal to disclose insurance coverage during securities litigation involving Sun River. Pennington was in-house counsel for Sun River and Csajaghy was retained to represent the company in the underlying litigation. During the underlying litigation, a magistrate judge set a discovery deadline of April 6, 2011, by which time Sun River was obligated to disclose any insurance coverage. However, no disclosure was made until nearly 18 months later, after repeated requests from opposing counsel, and by the time the policy was disclosed the coverage period had expired. Opposing counsel moved for sanctions against Sun River under Rule 37(b)(2)(A), requesting that Sun River’s claims against defendants be dismissed and entering default judgment for defendants on their counterclaims.

The magistrate judge held an evidentiary hearing, and ultimately recommended that default judgment be entered against Sun River but not approving dismissal. The magistrate judge noted that there was not intentional misrepresentation by Sun River’s attorneys, but neither attorney actually looked at the policy to see if it provided coverage, instead relying on their mistaken beliefs that the policy would not be relevant. Sun River objected to the magistrate judge’s recommendations, and a district judge addressed the contentions at a pretrial hearing. By that time, Csajaghy had withdrawn from the representation and Pennington appeared as counsel of record. The district court decided counsel were culpable for the misrepresentation and should be held personally responsible. The district court ultimately imposed the sanction of opposing counsel’s attorney fees against Pennington and Csajaghy in the amount of $20,435.

Pennington and Csajaghy moved for reconsideration, arguing Rule 37(c) does not allow imposition of sanctions on counsel, counsel acted with substantial justification, any sanction should have been imposed on Sun River, and due process precluded imposition of a sanction against Csajaghy, who had withdrawn before the sanctions were imposed. In response, defendants argued the sanction was not only justified under Rule 37 but under Rule 26(g)(3) and the district court’s inherent power as well, also noting that counsel’s deliberate indifference demonstrated a lack of substantial justification, sanctioning counsel was appropriate, and that both attorneys had been afforded substantial due process in the matter. The district court issued a thorough written decision, granting in part and denying in part the motion for reconsideration. The district court noted that Rule 37(b)(2)(C) authorizes a monetary sanction for failure to obey a discovery order and expressly allowed the attorney advising the party to be sanctioned, finding that since Csajaghy was Sun River’s attorney of record at the time of the discovery violation the sanction against him was appropriate. As to Pennington, since he was not the attorney of record at the time of the discovery violation, the district court held he was not subject to Rule 37(b)(2)(C) sanctions, but became responsible for timely updating discovery responses under Rule 26 when he became attorney of record, and therefore the sanction was justified under Rule 37(c)(1)(A). The attorneys appealed.

The Tenth Circuit began its analysis by examining the sanction against attorney Pennington. The Tenth Circuit noted that the only case law on the subject held that the sanctions were enforceable against parties only, not attorneys. The district court rejected the holding as unpersuasive, but the Tenth Circuit disagreed with the district court’s analysis as overbroad. The Tenth Circuit noted that there was no express textual reference extending the sanction against attorneys, and found that consideration of the relevant text cut against the district court’s analysis. Under the circumstances of this case, the Tenth Circuit found the sanctions against Pennington unwarranted by Rule 37. Turning to defendants’ argument that the sanctions were allowed by the district court’s inherent power, the Tenth Circuit again disagreed, finding that although his failure to disclose was not substantially justified, it was not vexatious, wanton, oppressive, or done in bad faith. The Tenth Circuit reversed the sanction against Pennington.

Turning to attorney Csajaghy, the Tenth Circuit found there was no question that the district court had authority to impose a personal sanction. Csajaghy objected to the sanction, arguing the sanction was not warranted on the facts, sanctioning counsel was inconsistent with the decision not to sanction Sun River, and the procedure through which he was sanctioned violated due process. The Tenth Circuit found no merit to any of his arguments. The Tenth Circuit admonished that, as counsel of record in the litigation, it was irresponsible for Csajaghy to assume that the in-house counsel, Pennington, had reviewed the policy. Even if had known Pennington reviewed the policy, Csajaghy should have conducted an independent review to satisfy his professional obligations. The Tenth Circuit further chastised Csajaghy for assuming the policy would not provide coverage in lieu of exercising critical judgment. The Tenth Circuit also approved of the district court’s decision to sanction Csajaghy while not sanctioning Sun River, because the company reasonably relied on its counsel to provide relevant disclosures and counsel failed to do so. Finally, the Tenth Circuit addressed Csajaghy’s due process arguments, and although it agreed with the district court that the initial order imposing the sanction was procedurally defective, any defect was cured by the subsequent proceedings on the motion for reconsideration.

The Tenth Circuit reversed the sanction against attorney Pennington and affirmed the sanction against attorney Csajaghy.

Changes to 10th Circuit Local Rules and Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure Posted

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has posted changes to its local rules and the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, which will take effect January 1, 2016. The changes to the Tenth Circuit Local Rules are outlined in a memo, which is available here. A redline of the changes to the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure, including the corresponding Tenth Circuit Local Rules, is available here.

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure are also changing, effective December 1, 2015. The most significant change in the new Rules is that the scope of discovery is changing, as outlined below:

Rule 26.   Duty to Disclose; General Provisions Governing Discovery

(b)    Discovery Scope and Limits.

(1)    Scope in General.  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.— including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any documents or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons who know of any discoverable matter. For good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action. Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. All discovery is subject to the limitations imposed by Rule 26(b)(2)(C).

A redline of the proposed changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is available here.

Tenth Circuit: Concealment of Arbitration Agreements Until Late Stage of Litigation Constituted Waiver of Right to Arbitrate

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in In re Cox Enterprises, Inc.: Healy v. Cox Communications, Inc. on Wednesday, June 24, 2015.

Cox is a cable provider involved in class-action litigation brought by subscribers to its cable service. In 2009, subscribers in several jurisdictions filed suits against Cox, alleging the company illegally tied provision of its cable service to rental of a set-top box. The actions were consolidated in a multi-district litigation and transferred to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. Cox moved to dismiss, and during the pendency of its motion began inserting mandatory arbitration clauses into contracts with many of its customers, including class members. Cox does not appear to have notified the District Court about its insertion of the clauses. Plaintiffs’ efforts to certify a nationwide class failed, and instead they sought to certify several classes for geographic regions. These actions were again consolidated and transferred to the Western District of Oklahoma.

The instant case was originally brought in April 2012, and Cox unsuccessfully moved to dismiss in September 2012. The parties then engaged in substantial discovery, and named plaintiff Healy moved to certify a class in September 2013. Cox at no time mentioned the arbitration clauses. The court granted class certification in January 2014 as the parties continued to engage in discovery. Cox appealed to the Tenth Circuit in March 2014, again failing to mention the arbitration clauses, but its petition was denied. In April 2014, Cox moved for summary judgment, and that same day it moved to compel arbitration against both the absent class and named plaintiff Healy, citing the arbitration clauses for the first time. It later clarified that it was not compelling arbitration against Healy. The district court denied the motion to compel on the basis that Cox’s prior conduct in the litigation constituted waiver. Cox appealed.

The Tenth Circuit used its six-factor Peterson test to evaluate whether the right to arbitration had been waived. The six factors are (1) whether the party’s actions are inconsistent with the right to arbitrate, (2) whether the parties were well into the preparation of a lawsuit before a party notified the opposing party of an intent to arbitrate, (3) whether a party requested arbitration enforcement close to a trial date or delayed for a long period before seeking a stay, (4) whether a defendant seeking arbitration filed a counterclaim without requesting a stay, (5) whether important intervening steps like discovery had taken place, and (6) whether the delay affected, misled, or prejudiced the opposing party.

The district court determined Cox’s failure to inform it of the presence of arbitration agreements until after class certification was inconsistent with an intent to arbitrate and suggested an attempt to manipulate the process, as it would affect the numerosity of the class. The Tenth Circuit agreed, also finding that because Cox did not request for its motion for summary judgment to be stayed pending arbitration implied an attempt to “play heads I win, tails you lose” by manipulating the litigation machinery. The district court found, and the Tenth Circuit agreed, that the second, third, and fifth Peterson factors also cut strongly against Cox. Cox did not invoke the arbitration agreements until two years after the lawsuit was commenced, and substantial discovery had occurred before the invocation. Further, Cox failed to mention a factor that would have significantly affected the district court’s Rule 23 analysis, and Healy would be significantly prejudiced if arbitration were allowed. The Tenth Circuit opined that perhaps the greatest prejudice would be to the integrity of the judicial process, since both the district court and Tenth Circuit had invested significant time and energy in analyzing literally thousands of pages of documents.

Cox argued the Peterson factors were inapplicable because a party does not invariably waive its right to impose arbitration by filing its motion to compel after class certification. The district court rejected this argument as an improper attempt to artificially narrow the scope of the waiver, and the Tenth Circuit agreed. Cox could have asserted its right to arbitration at many earlier litigation stages but chose to conceal the arbitration provisions. Further, the district court’s denial of the motion to compel was based not on Cox’s failure to compel arbitration earlier but rather its specific conduct evincing an attempt to “take multiple bites of the apple.”

The Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court.

New Pretrial Rules for Civil Cases—What Is Changed (Part 2 of 2)

Editor’s Note: This article originally appeared in the July 2015 issue of The Colorado Lawyer. This is the second half of the article; click here for the first half. Reprinted with permission.

DickHolmeBy Richard P. Holme

Rule 16.1—Simplified Procedure

Rule 16.1(f) and (h)—Case Management Orders and Certification of Compliance. The amendments to Rule 16.1 regarding simplified procedure are minimal, but provide another incentive to use that method of dealing with lawsuits under $100,000.[1] Sections 16.1(f) and (h) incorporate by reference some provisions from Rule 16. Because some of the incorporated provisions of Rule 16 have been renumbered, the corresponding provisions in Rule 16.1 have been renumbered to remain consistent. The significant change in Rule 16.1 is that the parties under Simplified Procedure do not have to prepare or file a proposed order or attend a case management conference unless they wish to. This exception was designed to maintain the simplified procedure with minimal paperwork for these smaller, less complicated cases.

Rule 26—General Provisions Governing
Discovery and Duty of Disclosure

The amendments to Rule 26 relating to discovery and disclosures are the most significant of all the new amendments. As described in “Part I: A New Paradigm,” these amendments are central to a nationwide effort to change the litigation culture from “discover all you want” to “discover only what you need.” They are intended to enforce the urgent need to make cases just, speedy, and inexpensive; to reopen genuine access to the judicial system for many parties that have been priced or delayed out of their ability to use or interest in using the courts to resolve disputes; and to reinvigorate confidence and trust in the courts and judges. As stated in the 2015 Comment to Rule 26, these amendments “allow discovery of what a party/lawyer needs to prove its case, but not what a party /lawyer wants to know about the subject of a case—the amendments “emphasize the application of the concept of proportionality to disclosure and discovery, with robust disclosure followed by limited discovery.” (Emphasis in original.)

These changes should persuade parties and counsel to sharpen their focus; to relinquish the idea that they must discover every conceivable fact that may have some remote relevance to their general dispute; to recognize that justice delayed is justice denied; and to acknowledge that unchecked expense is more frequently used as an unjust sword than a shield against injustice. The cultural change is not expected to be immediately popular with some trial lawyers, or clients with unlimited litigation budgets, but the change may help lawyers to become better trial lawyers when they learn they must focus their cases and use thoughtful cross-examination in place of discovery paper blizzards.

As detailed below, the amendments call for more precise early disclosures—of both the favorable and the harmful information. They redefine discoverable information to limit it to that which relates to the claims and defenses of the specific case and, more significant, require that discovery be proportional to the needs of the case at issue. At this initial disclosure stage, the information to be disclosed is that which is “then known and reasonably available to the party.” In complex cases with many possible witnesses and multitudes of documents, the limitation to those things “then known and readily available” should be reasonably applied, while recalling that this initial disclosure does not terminate the continuing requirement of disclosure. Disclosures must be supplemented under Rule 26(e) “when a party learns that the information is incomplete or incorrect,” unless complete and correct information has already been provided in discovery responses. However, nothing permits information subject to mandatory disclosure to be withheld while waiting to see whether the opposing party will request it in discovery.

Although subject to change by the court, considering proportionality, the amendments limit the numbers of expert witnesses, call for more comprehensive written expert disclosures, limit discovery of communications between counsel and their experts, and limit expert testimony to that which has been previously disclosed. The amendments reduce the normal deposition times from seven hours to six hours.

Rule 26(a)(1)—Disclosures

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

The first visible change in this subsection is to make clear what should have been the standard for years. The opening sentence requires parties to make initial disclosures, without awaiting a discovery request, of four categories of information: identification of possible witnesses; production of certain documents; description of categories of damages, in addition to computations of economic damages; and production of potential insurance agreements. The clarification in this initial amendment is that the information is to be disclosed “whether or not supportive of the disclosing party’s claims or defenses.”

In 2000, the Federal Rules were amended to limit disclosure to information “a disclosing party may use to support its claims or defenses.”[2] Colorado declined to adopt that limitation, thus requiring disclosure of all of the information listed in Rule 26(a)(1). One of the reasons for declining to adopt the federal limitation was the belief of the Civil Rules Committee that failure to produce adverse information would only cause delay while waiting for the opposing party to request such adverse information in its initial set of interrogatories and document requests. Thus, for example, in an employment discharge case, the employer must produce not only memos, notes, and e-mails criticizing the plaintiff–employee’s behavior, but also the memos, notes, and e-mails praising the employee’s performance.

Some lawyers complain that this clarification is contrary to their ethical obligation to represent their clients. However, lawyers must also recall that they act as “an officer of the legal system,”[3] and in that light, among other things, have professional responsibilities to bring or maintain meritorious claims,[4] to expedite litigation,[5] to be candid with the tribunal,[6] to be fair to opposing parties and counsel,[7] and to be truthful in statements to others.[8] The fact that any of these obligations may impinge on a client’s interests or desires does not weaken their application to the lawyer.

Subsections 26(a)(1)(A) (identity of individuals) and (B) (documents) have both been revised to require disclosures not just of names and documents concerning “disputed facts alleged with particularity in the pleadings,” but to disclose names and documents relevant to the “claims and defenses of any party.” Therefore, in an automobile collision negligence case with a statute of limitations defense, both the plaintiff and defendant must provide names of individuals “likely to have discoverable information” about both the collision and the statute of limitations.

Subsection (A) (list of individuals) has also been amended to require more than the name, address, and “subjects of information.” Too often parties may provide a list (frequently as many names as the party can think of) with a description of the subject of their knowledge such as “these individuals may have information about the claims in this case.” This, of course, is useless and often is intentionally designed to make it difficult for the opposing party to have any real idea of who it might want to depose or interview. The revised subsection (A) now requires, in addition to the names, addresses, and phone numbers of disclosed individuals, a “brief description of the specific information” the individual in “known or believed to possess.” (Emphasis added.) The wording of this provision is not designed to require binding disclosures used to limit the scope of possible trial testimony, such as is required from testifying experts. Rather, it is designed, for example, to reveal who was responsible for deciding to discharge the plaintiff/employee; who directly participated in negotiating the key contractual provision; and who hired the allegedly negligent company truck driver. For essentially the same reasons, subsection (B) (list of documents) now requires that a listing of the subject matter of documents be provided in addition to the category of documents.

Challenging Inadequate Disclosures

An important change is found in the last sentence of the second paragraph of Rule 26(a)(1), which was imported from the experience gained from CAPP. Motions challenging the adequacy of another party’s disclosures may no longer be filed prior to the initial case management conference. There are several reasons for this limitation. First, the parties are to note concerns relating to the other party’s disclosures in the proposed order (Rule 16(b)(9)) so that these issues can be addressed at the case management conference. The process of listing the asserted shortcomings will, itself, create the need for counsel to confer about these issues and perhaps resolve some of them. The identification of asserted failures to disclose should be much shorter than a motion to compel. Further, one of the court’s significant tasks at the case management conference is to determine the appropriate level of proportionality for disclosure and discovery purposes. The court’s ruling on this issue may indicate that some of the alleged shortcomings in disclosures are not proportional to the case and need not be disclosed for that reason alone. Additionally, the court can probably resolve the issues and concerns while conducting the case management conference without any need for briefing of a motion to compel.

Rule 26(a)(2)—Disclosure of Expert Testimony

The disclosure rules for witnesses providing opinion testimony continue to provide different requirements for disclosures of two classes of persons allowed to render opinion testimony. Persons retained or specially employed to provide expert testimony are referred to in Rule 26(a)(2)(B)(I) as “retained experts.” Persons who are not specially retained or employed to give expert testimony in the case but who are expected to present testimony concerning their personal knowledge of relevant facts, along with their opinion testimony relating to those facts, are referred to in Rule 26(a)(2)(B)(II) as “other experts.”

The major differences in the amended rule are that summaries of expert testimony are no longer allowed, and experts will be allowed to testify on direct examination only about matters “disclosed in detail,” in conformity with the rule. This limitation was included in CAPP and judges enforced it rather strictly. These witnesses are not required to anticipate issues or areas of inquiry that may be brought up in cross-examination, and may testify about such areas without prior disclosure. Indeed, the knowledge that witnesses may testify only as to opinions disclosed in their reports should allow opposing parties to plan much more focused, precise, and concise cross-examinations.

Experience with summaries of expert testimony has revealed that there can be so much background that is omitted that either the opposing party is blind to what testimony to expect or, as is usually the case, needs to take an extensive deposition to try to flesh out the expert’s testimony. These more extensive depositions add significant cost to the party taking the deposition, both in the hours preparing for and the time actually spent deposing the expert. Furthermore, once a deposition is taken, many courts will not limit testimony to the summary if the subject was or could have been covered in the deposition itself. The fundamental objectives here are to require parties using retained experts to fully disclose their opinions and bases for those opinions so that the parties can more accurately evaluate the strength of their cases and to reduce or eliminate the need to take the expert’s depositions in the first place.

Rule 26(a)(2)(B)(I)—Retained Experts

The revised rule now requires full written reports of the expert’s expected testimony. There is no requirement that the expert must personally prepare the report because frequently lawyers work closely with the experts to tailor and limit the testimony to what is most necessary for the case. Determining who is responsible for selecting each word of the report is not deemed significant. What is significant is that the expert witness must sign the report and thereby accept responsibility for both what the report says and includes and what it omits.

Much of the remainder of the changes in this portion of the rule is a clarification of certain required portions of expert reports that have been in existence for years. The most critical part of the report will be the complete statement of all opinions and the basis and reasons for those opinions. The word “complete” here supports the requirement that experts be limited in their direct testimony to what is disclosed in the report. This does not require a proposed transcript of the witness’s direct examination. However, before the report is complete, lawyers should plan that direct examination in detail to make sure nothing crucial is omitted. Lawyers should not rely on the assumption that the opposing party will depose the expert and open the door for further “supplementation” of the witness’s opinions.

Other amendments clarify that the data and other information considered by the witness in forming opinions is listed but need not be included. The information considered, however, should be both that which is relied on and that which was rejected in forming the opinions. Likewise, literature to be used during the expert’s testimony needs to be identified and referenced in the report, but need not be provided. On the other hand, copies of exhibits to be used must be provided with the report, along with the expert’s qualifications, a list of publications authored by the witness within the prior ten years, and a list of deposition or trial testimony given by the expert within the preceding four years.

The amended rule now mandates more information about the compensation to be paid the retained expert. Experts have been known to testify that they are to be paid $___ per hour, but they are not sure how many hours have been spent yet, or they have only been paid a small portion of their fee because most of their billings have not been rendered or paid yet. Now, reports must include the expert’s fee agreement or schedule for the study, preparation, and testimony, and an itemization of the fees incurred, whether or not actually billed or paid. The time spent must be included in the report and must be supplemented fourteen days before trial. In short, jurors are entitled to know what the expert’s true, total compensation is, not just what may have been paid to the expert as of the day of the expert’s initial report.

Rule 26(a)(2)(B)(II)—Other Experts

These witnesses are frequently investigating police officers at accident or crime scenes; treating physicians; and employees such as business owners, accounting personnel, supervisors, mechanics, and construction personnel with specialized, relevant background and experience, as well as personal knowledge of the events in suit. Especially for those who are not employees of a party, it is often difficult to arrange for the necessary time for them to prepare extensive reports of their planned testimony. Testimony from non-specially retained or employed witnesses who will give opinions must be disclosed either by written reports signed by the witness, or by statements prepared and signed by counsel or by any unrepresented party. The allowance of statements prepared and signed by counsel recognizes that frequently, witnesses such as police officers or treating doctors cannot or will not make time available to review or sign a written disclosure statement. In either event, the witness will be limited to testifying on direct about matters disclosed in detail in the report or statement. Again, the report or statement must include all opinions to be expressed, together with the bases and reasons therefor. Thus, a statement that the treating physician “will testify about the patient’s medical records and their impact on the physician’s treatment of the patient” will not meet this test. Additionally, the report or statement must list any qualifications of the witness needed to support allowing the witness to have and express admissible opinions, and must include copies of any exhibits to be used to support the opinions.

A feature of “other [non-retained] experts” is that they are not called to testify in the case because they have been specially retained as independent experts to offer opinions. They are called as fact witnesses with personal information relating to the case, and through training or experience are qualified to offer opinions useful to the jury based on facts they observed. In short, as noted in the Supreme Court’s 2015 Comments, non-retained experts are people whose opinions are formed or reasonably derived from or based on their occupational duties with respect to the matter at issue in the case. Even though their opinions and supporting factual bases and reasons must be disclosed in detail in their report or statement, they are not required or expected to prepare and sign a full report containing the other information only required from retained experts. For example, in addition to the opinions and diagnoses reflected in the plaintiff’s medical records, a treating physician may have reached an opinion as to the cause of those injuries gained while treating the patient. Those opinions may not have been noted in the medical records but, if appropriately disclosed, may be offered at trial without the witness having first prepared a full, retained expert report.

Rule 26(a)(2)(B)—Limitations of Trial Testimony

Both of the revised subsections of Rule 26(a)(2)(B) relating to retained experts and other experts contain the same last sentence: “The witness’s direct testimony shall be limited to matters disclosed in detail in the report [or statement].” This is a new provision based in part on the experience from CAPP and on the desire to continue holding down the cost of trial preparation. One of the justifications for the perceived necessity to take expert depositions is that trial courts frequently do not limit experts to their reports at trial so that the deposition is necessary to uncover unreported opinions (or belatedly conceived opinions), which the trial judges might allow in evidence.

With the revised rule, trial courts are instructed to limit direct testimony. This does not preclude opinions for which the opposing party opens the door by cross-examining on opinions held by the witness beyond those disclosed in the report or statement. Not only does this provide a rule-based requirement that the trial courts limit testimony, but it also enforces the requirements that reports or statements in fact be complete. This limitation is also bolstered by the supplementation requirements of Rule 26(e) in those situations where depositions are taken.[9]

Rule 26(b)—Discovery Scope and Limits

Before discussing the significant change in subsection 26(b)(1), it is important not to overlook the opening phrase of section 26(b): “Unless otherwise modified by order of the court . . .”; In other words, the court is not bound to treat discovery in all cases the same. Some cases may actually have more stringent limitations placed on their discovery than the presumptive limitations in subsection 26(b)(2). Conversely, larger and complex cases may need and can be given significantly more discovery than that which is set out as the presumptive discovery limitations, as appropriate.

Rule 26(b)(1)—In General

The amended portion of Rule 26(b)(1) is taken verbatim from the new Federal Rule. It makes one fundamental change and two significant but lesser revisions to the prior Colorado Rule 26(b)(1).

Proportionality. Previously, there were four factors in Rule 26(b)(2)(F) for courts to consider when determining whether good cause existed to justify modifying the presumptive limits on discovery. The third of those factors was whether the expense of discovery outweighed its likely benefit, “taking into account the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties’ resources, the importance of the issues in the litigation, and the importance of the proposed discovery in resolving the issues.”[10] Very few reported cases ever discussed this obscurely located provision.

In 2009, the ACTL/IAALS Final Report lit the wildfire. It stated “Proportionality should be the most important principle applied to all discovery.”[11] Thereafter, proportionality of discovery became a key issue at the Duke Conference.[12] Then, the Federal Rules Advisory Committee joined in, concluding that “What is needed can be described in two words—cooperation and proportionality—and one phrase.”[13] CAPP, along with many other pilot projects, also incorporated the concept of proportionality.[14] When the Federal Rules Advisory Committee proposed its revisions to Rule 26(b)(1), it lifted the list of factors to establish good cause from Federal Rule 26(b)(2).[15] It then specifically referred to this language as involving proportionality, and placed it directly into the very definition of what is discoverable. Thus, it is not enough any longer to contend that information is discoverable simply because it is relevant to a claim or defense. Such information must also be “proportional to the needs of the case.”

In evaluating the “needs of the case,” the Advisory Committee also adjusted the order of some of the factors to be considered when determining proportionality. It switched the order of “the amount in controversy” and “the importance of the issues at stake in the action” so that the amount of money was listed after the importance of the issues. This change was made to place less emphasis on the amount of money at stake as the leading factor (even though all of the factors must be considered if significant). The Advisory Committee also moved the issue of whether the burden or expense outweighed the likely benefit of the additional discovery from being a main issue in considering good cause (as phrased in Federal Rule 26(b)(2)(C)(iii) and Colorado Rule 26(b)(2)(F)(iii)) to being simply another factor to be considered. Thus, as revised, the federal and Colorado provisions regarding the scope of discovery are virtually identical and state:

Subject to the limitations and considerations contained in subsection (b)(2) of this Rule, parties may obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party 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. (Emphasis added)

This new rule is patently designed to limit “full discovery” in all but the larger, more important and more complex cases. This is an important brick in the new paradigm of giving parties only what they need rather than whatever they want.

The Supreme Court’s 2015 Comments to Rule 26 emphasize the case-by-case considerations that may impact proportionality. All the listed factors should be thought about, but individual factors may carry very different weights depending on the case and claims. The amount in controversy may not be as much of a factor as the desired enforcement of fundamental civil or constitutional rights. The public interest may demand resolution of issues in the case. In employment and professional liability cases and for the amount of damages, for example, the parties’ relative access to key information may prove to justify more discovery for one party than to the other on selected issues.

Other limitations on the scope of discovery. In addition to the requirement that discovery be proportional to the needs of the case, a second change in both the Federal and Colorado Rules was to delete the authority of a court to “order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action,” as allowed in the previous version of Rule 26(b)(1). This, too, strikes a blow at potentially vast discovery of material even less directly relevant to the specific claims and defenses of the lawsuit. Discovery as the fishing expedition to find out whether a party can uncover new causes of action should no longer be available.

The third change in Rule 26(b)(1) is a clarification relating to information that is not admissible at trial. The last sentence of this section still allows discovery of information that may not be admissible, but only if the information sought is “within the scope of discovery.” Thus, such inadmissible information must still be relevant to the parties’ claims and defenses, not just to the “subject matter involved in the action,” and must still be proportional to the needs of the case.

Rule 26(b)(2)—Limitations [on Discovery]

This Rule retains Colorado’s previous basic limitations on the use of the various discovery devices. It retains the ability to expand or contract the uses of those devices “for good cause shown,” but also imports the proportionality factors of subsection (b)(1).

The only change is in subsection (b)(2)(F)(iii)—the subsection describing the factors to be considered in determining “good cause,” and the subsection from which the proportionality factors were removed for relocation into subsection (b)(1). This new consideration in reworded (b)(2)(F)(iii), taken verbatim from the proposed Federal Rule amendment, is whether the proposed additional discovery is “outside the scope permitted by C.R.C.P. 26(b)(1).” However, subsection (b)(2) specifically allows exceptions to its limits on use of discovery methods for good cause. Thus, this factor in (b)(2)(F)(iii) does not mean that good cause cannot be shown in situations if discovery is sought beyond subsection (b)(1)’s scope of discovery. If the broader discovery is sought, however, the other considerations in (b)(2)(F)(i), (ii), and (iv) will need to be quite persuasive.

Rule 26(b)(4)—Trial Preparation: Experts

Depositions of Experts. The subject of expert depositions has, from the beginning of CAPP, been a hotly debated topic. Opponents of expert depositions have argued that with requirements for disclosures of full expert reports and limiting their testimony to what is disclosed in detail, depositions of experts are unnecessary, expensive, and counterproductive. They argue that the main result of deposing experts is to “educate and make them smarter” and better able to prepare for and to withstand cross-examination at trial. Proponents of expert depositions counter that depositions allow lawyers to get a feel for the quality of the expert as a person, prospective witness, and expert in the designated field. They contend that the added cost of the deposition is not great in the overall expense of expert study and preparation, and that expert depositions enhance settlement once the lawyers have seen how well the expert can withstand intense examination. Finally, as noted above, a number of lawyers claimed that depositions were necessary because they could not rely on the judges to limit the expert’s testimony to the report or summary.

Although the Civil Rules Committee ultimately recommended that depositions for retained experts should be limited to three hours, the Supreme Court decided to apply the standard of six hours to all experts, as well as to all other deponents. Because of the varying importance of expert testimony in cases, this rule specifically authorizes trial courts to expand or limit deposition time in accordance with proportionality.

Disclosures and Discovery About the Preparation of Expert Opinions and Reports. In 2010, Federal Rules 26(b)(4)(B) and (C) were added to preclude discovery of drafts of expert reports or disclosures made pursuant to Rule 26(a)(2) and to provide work-product protection to communications between a party’s attorneys and the party’s retained experts and the expert’s assistants. The discovery bar does not extend to other information gathered by the expert or to questions about alternative analyses or approaches to the issue on which the expert is testifying.[16] Discovery may extend to communications relating to the expert’s compensation for study or testimony; facts and data provided by the attorney that the expert considered in forming the opinions expressed; or assumptions that the attorney provided and the expert relied on.[17] Among other things, these rules were adopted to prevent game playing with experts, such as counsel telling them to never make notes of what they discuss, to not prepare and send drafts, and to always make revisions to the original version of the report while deleting all portions that had been changed.

After this amendment was adopted in the Federal Rules in 2010, the Colorado Civil Rules Committee was prepared to recommend a similar change. However, it decided that such a change might adversely impact the information that was to be gained from the study of how CAPP worked and, therefore, the amendment was not further considered until the study of CAPP was concluded. Although there are slight variances in language between new subsection 26(b)(4)(D) of the Colorado Rules and subsections 26(b)(4)(B) and (C) of the Federal Rules, the substance of the changes is identical.

Rule 26(c)—Protective Orders

This Rule allows courts to issue a variety of protective orders to protect against annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense. The new amendment to Colorado Rule 26(c)(2), taken verbatim from the amendment to Federal Rule 26(c)(1)(B), now also gives courts the authority to allocate the expenses of discovery among the requesting and delivering parties (or non-parties) where appropriate. This amendment does not mandate any allocation, but simply adds this tool to the court’s tool box of alternatives. Indeed, the Committee Note relating to the Federal Rule change provides that “recognizing the authority to shift the costs of discovery does not mean that cost-shifting should become a common practice,” and that “[c]ourts and parties should continue to assume that a responding party ordinarily bears the costs of responding.”[18]

Rule 26(e)—Supplementation of Disclosures,
Responses, and Expert Reports and Statements

A provision has been added to the requirement to supplement expert reports or statements where a party intends to have the expert testify on direct examination about matters disclosed for the first time during the expert’s deposition, but that are not in the expert’s report or statement. The supplementation must be a specific description of the deposition testimony to be offered and relied on. This additional supplementation is intended to allow the court to determine from the expert’s Rule 26(a)(2) report and its supplementation whether the direct testimony offered at trial has or has not been properly disclosed. These provisions are designed to avoid the court’s need to read scattered portions of the deposition before ruling on admissibility of the new testimony. It also avoids the opponent arguing surprise because it did not understand what deposition testimony was going to be offered as additional and admissible expert testimony.

When the expert report is properly supplemented with this subsequent deposition opinion testimony, Rule 26(e) instructs the trial courts that those supplemented opinions must be permitted, unless the court finds that the opposing party has been unfairly prejudiced by the failure to have made disclosure in the original expert report.

Rule 30—Depositions Upon Oral Examination

The only changes of note in Rule 30 are contained in subsection 30(d)(2). They shorten the standard deposition for all witnesses from one day of seven hours to one day of six hours (unless otherwise ordered by the court). With the usual practice now being to clock deposition times to the minute (not counting breaks for consultation or bathroom breaks), seven hours has frequently devolved into about ten hours of actual time spent at the deposition. Furthermore, many felt that six hours of solid time, leaving out boilerplate questions, was still normally sufficient to get the genuinely necessary evidence. If more is likely to be needed, the parties should determine that before the deposition and request the court’s permission for more time.

Rule 33—Interrogatories

After the Civil Rules Committee agreed on the changes to Rule 34 for the reasons described below, those changes seemed to be equally applicable to responses to interrogatories. Thus, Rule 33(b) was amended to add the requirements that objections to interrogatories specify the grounds for objection and to state whether responsive information is being withheld on the basis of the objection. Such objection also stays the need to answer those objectionable portions pending a ruling by the trial court and without filing a motion for a protective order.

Rule 34—Production of Documents

Over time, litigants have developed the habit of making a string of boilerplate objections to requests for production of documents. The objections are then incorporated verbatim, or by reference, at the beginning of the response to each document request. (To be fair, these responses are often invited by equally boilerplate definitions and instructions in the opposition’s request.) Thus, the requesting party has no real information about which of the objections are intended to apply or why they are being made. This confusion can then be aggravated by the boilerplate comment to the effect that “notwithstanding these objections, and without waiving them, [defendant] is producing the following documents.” With this response, the requesting party has no idea whether the responder is providing all the documents it has or whether it really is withholding some of them and, if so, how many are being withheld and the basis on which the responder is refusing to produce them.

Colorado Rule 34(b) and Federal Rule 34(b)(2) are being amended with virtually identical language. First, the amended rules provide that the response to each request must “state with specificity the grounds for objecting to the request.” The objections must then be specific, not generic, and relevant to the precise request to which objection is being made. Second, the amended rules require that an objection state whether any responsive materials are actually being withheld on the basis of that objection.

Separately, the rules are also being amended to allow production of materials instead of offering inspection of the materials. Essentially, this simply recognizes what has for many years been the practice in most cases, at least where the produced documents are not especially numerous or burdensome.

Finally, Colorado Rule 34(b) adds a new provision to clarify the effect of a fairly common practice. When a party objects to production of certain documents, it has been unclear whether the objecting party also must request a protective order under Rule 26(c) or whether the requesting party must file a motion to compel production. The newly amended Colorado Rule now specifies that an objection to production stays the obligation to produce these documents until the court resolves the objection and that no motion for protective order is necessary. Frequently, when the requesting party receives an objection, especially if some responsive documents are produced, the requesting party will decide that it is unnecessary to fight for more documents or the parties can reach an acceptable compromise as to what documents will be produced. Thus, it seems appropriate to await the requesting party’s determination that it really is worth the effort to obtain the withheld documents rather than requiring the objecting party to move for protection and involve the court on matters that the requesting party may no longer need.

Rule 37—Failure to Make Disclosure
or Cooperate in Discovery: Sanctions

Rule 37(a)(4)(A) and (B) have allowed courts to award reasonable expenses, including awarding attorney fees in favor of prevailing parties and against opposing parties and their attorneys, unless the court finds certain factors that ameliorate against such an award, including “other circumstances that make an award of expenses unjust.” Experience has shown that courts, which historically have been unwilling to award monetary sanctions, have used this latter escape valve to justify the lack of monetary sanctions.

The CAPP rules, however, required that courts grant sanctions “unless the court makes a specific determination that failure to disclose in a timely and complete manner was justified under the circumstances or [was] harmless.”[19] Judges handling CAPP cases found this extra pressure to impose sanctions helpful in some instances, although they still felt that encouraging compliance and emphasizing that attorneys cooperate with each other was ultimately more desirable.

After struggling with this dichotomy at some length, the subcommittee of the Civil Rules Committee, the full Committee, and ultimately the Supreme Court chose the path of encouraging courts to be more aggressive with the imposition of sanctions, but not to go as far as CAPP went. Thus, rather than making the mere determination that other circumstances made monetary sanctions unjust—a low standard for avoiding monetary sanctions—Rule 37(a)(4)(A) and (B) were amended to allow that reprieve from imposing sanctions only where it would be manifestly unjust to award monetary sanctions to the prevailing party.

Under these rules, however, courts may still decline to impose sanctions where the movant did not make a good-faith effort to obtain compliance before seeking court action or where the accused party was substantially justified for the nondisclosure, response, or objection. Indeed, those findings might trigger a sanction against the complaining party or its counsel. This counter-provision significantly increases the pressure on parties seeking these sanctions to meet, confer in person, and diligently endeavor to reach a reasonable resolution.

Conversely, Rule 37(c)(1) has authorized preclusion at trial or for summary judgment of nondisclosed information required to be disclosed by Rules 26(a) or (e), unless such failure is harmless. Because it is so easy to articulate some kind of harm, this rule has caused preclusion of evidence that failed to cause significant harm or where the harm caused by the nondisclosure would be substantially outweighed by the harm resulting from preclusion. The amended subsection 37(c)(1) prohibits preclusion as a sanction simply upon allegations of some harm. Thus, preclusion for nondisclosure may not be imposed where the failure has not and will not cause significant harm or where the preclusion is disproportionate to the alleged harm.

Rules 54 and 121 § 1-22—Costs

Although only tangentially related to the issue of amending pretrial procedures to increase access to the judicial system by advancing the concept that cases should be just, speedy, and inexpensive, the Civil Rules Committee also submitted two amendments relating to controlling costs awarded to prevailing parties. First, in Rule 54(d), as approved by the Supreme Court, awarded costs must be reasonable considering any relevant factors that may include the needs and complexity of the case and the amount in controversy. Second, Rule 121 § 1-22 is amended to allow hearings on bills of costs where the requesting party has identified the issues to be heard and where the court has concluded that a hearing would be of material benefit to the court in ruling on the bill of costs.

Conclusion

With the revisions and amendments to the foregoing Rules, Colorado has moved to address the increasingly severe problem of a litigation culture that appears to be driven by and has thrived on frequently excessive demands for information. These demands can add substantial unnecessary expense and foreclose the societal benefits of efficient judicial systems for the peaceful resolution of disputes and wrongdoing. By encouraging and expediting a new culture focused on the genuine and limited needs of clients and not their (or their lawyers’) desires—a culture trained in and dedicated to the prompt and efficient handling of disputes—it is hoped that civil litigation can indeed incorporate a new paradigm.

Richard P. Holme is senior of counsel in the Trial Group at Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP. He is a member of the Colorado Supreme Court Standing Committee on Civil Rules and was chair of its Improving Access to Justice Subcommittee, which drafted the proposed changes—(303) 892-7340, richard.holme@dgslaw.com. He has also been a member of the ACTL Joint Task Force since 2010, and was involved in the latter stages of the Joint Project of the ACTL and the IAALS. This article expresses the author’s views and does not endeavor to represent all the views of the Civil Rules Committee or the Supreme Court.

The opinions and views expressed by Featured Bloggers on CBA-CLE Legal Connection do not necessarily represent the opinions and views of the Colorado Bar Association, the Denver Bar Association, or CBA-CLE, and should not be construed as such.

[1] See Holme, “Back to the Future—New Rule 16.1: Simplified Procedure for Civil Cases Up to $100,000,” 33 The Colorado Lawyer 11 (May 2004), www.cobar.org/tcl/tcl_articles.cfm?articleid=3427.

[2] FRCP 26(a)(1)(A)(i) and (ii). See Advisory Committee Notes re 2000 Amendment.

[3] Colo. RPC, Preamble and Scope at [1].

[4] Colo. RPC 3.1.

[5] Colo. RPC 3.2.

[6] Colo. RPC 3.3.

[7] Colo. RPC 3.4.

[8] Colo. RPC 4.1.

[9] See discussion of Rule 26(e), infra.

[10] CRCP 26(b)(2)(F)(iii).

[11] ACTL/IAALS, supra note 24 at 7. See “Part I: A New Paradigm,” supra note 2 at 46.

[12] See Holme, supra note 3 at 46 and notes 35 to 37 and accompanying text.

[13] Advisory Comm. Memo at B2 to B3. See Holme, supra note 3 at 46.

[14] PPR 9.1. See Holme, supra note 3 at 47.

[15] FRCP 26(b)(2)(C)(iii).

[16] See Advisory Comm. Notes re: 2010 Amendments to FRCP 26(b)(4).

[17] Id.; FRCP 26(b)(4)(C)(i) to (iii).

[18] See 2014 Rules Report, supra note 26 at 26.

[19] PPR 3.7.