If you’ve found yourself in any type of lawsuit or even if you just like to watch legal dramas, you’ve probably heard the term discovery. If you’re anything like most of normal people that I talk to, you probably either have a general idea of what it is or no idea at all. This week we’ll take a look at what discovery is and how it is used in a case.
Discovery is a tool lawyers use to get information from the other side that would likely not be provided otherwise. It comes in many forms such as: a request for production, interrogatories, and oral depositions. Each serve a similar but different purpose and are used to further a case.
A request for production is the tool of discovery that is used to obtain documents from the other side. So in a divorce one could request bank statements from the last two years or journal entries about the other spouse or the kids. Basically you would request any document you could think of that would further your case. What you can’t do however, is request that a document that doesn’t already exists. So for example if you ask someone for a complete transcript of their Twitter feed from the start of their account to present, and they don’t already have that on hand; then they don’t need to provide it to you.
Interrogatories are similar to requests for production, but instead of asking for documents, you are asking specific questions. They are a way to get the answers to pressing questions in writing and under oath. It will give you and your attorney an idea of what evidence will be presented at trial, and how the other side will try to frame their case. It will also let you know what the other side is trying to hide if they respond with many objections. However, it is important to choose your questions wisely, because in most cases you are limited to 25 written interrogatories.
Oral depositions are like discovery in that your attorney is asking questions, but it is face to face with the other side. Think of depositions as a practice trial. The party being deposed is under oath, an attorney is asking them questions, but there is no judge present. What happens instead is a reporter is present to record the deposition, which becomes a piece of evidence that can be used when it comes time to head to trial.