Proposed Changes to Federal Rules Would Place New Limits on Discovery

Proposed changes to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure would significantly affect the scope of discovery. The modifications arise from concern about the long life of a case before trial or settlement and a worry that discovery is not proportional to the needs of a case — perceived as the result of both attorney attitudes (a need to know absolutely every fact about the case and an overly adversarial approach) and lack of court involvement. The hope is that the proposed rules will foster greater efficiency and cooperation between attorneys, lead to early and frequent management by the court, and encourage lawyers and courts to think about proportionality of discovery.

Proposed changes to Rule 26(b) require discovery to be “proportional to the needs of the case considering the amount in controversy, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, 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.” The new requirement would mean that a responding party could object based on proportionality and the burden would be on the requester to demonstrate proportionality.

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