Q: What are the different ways an attorney finds out information about a case through discovery?
A: Request for Admissions, Interrogatories and Request for Production of Documents.
There are a number of different methods employed in pre-trial discovery. The most common methods are interrogatories, request for production of documents, requests for admissions, depositions, and subpoenas duces tecum. Interrogatories are written questions that must be answered, or objected to, in writing under oath. Requests for production of documents demand the production of particular documents or described classes of documents from a party by a certain date. Requests for admissions require that the party admit or deny statements of fact or the authenticity of certain documents; requests for admissions are not supposed to address ultimate issues in the case. A party or witness can be asked questions orally while under oath in a deposition. The testimony of the deponent is usually transcribed by a court reporter, who produces a written transcript of the proceeding. Subpoenas duces tecum are used to compel the production of described documents from third parties.
Experienced litigators will often employ the various methods of discovery in a fairly predictable order, based on the pleadings, with interrogatories and requests for production usually coming first for information gathering, followed by subpoenas duces tecum, followed by deposition(s), with requests for admissions usually coming last, shortly before trial, to narrow the issues and minimize issues with exhibits. Sometimes counsel want to gather enough useable discovery material to support a motion for summary judgment. Counsel usually want to understand the other party's foundation for the theory of the case and obtain some useable material before conducting depositions, so counsel can ask the deponent about particular documents or the factual basis for certain assertions or allegations. Most of the expense of a lawsuit and most of the time spent in litigation is spent on pre-trial discovery.
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