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Discovery IV: What are requests for production?

3 October 2011

Bob Casey Federal Courthouse in Houston, Texas

Requests for production are a common discovery device used between parties to a lawsuit so that documents and things may be obtained from the opposing sides.

Let me predicate my discussion of Requests for Production by clarifying that I am specifically referring to the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure as that is my jurisdiction and the one with which I am most familiar. However, many states’ rules are modeled after the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and are therefore typically the same or similiar. Use this article as a guide ONLY and be sure to Google for your own state’s rules, and even for local (ie county) rules.

In Texas, Requests for Production can be used against both parties and non-parties (the latter via a notice to appear + a subpoena, see Rule 176 here–scroll down to Rule 176). Rule 196 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure governs requests for production of documents and things from a party to a lawsuit; Rule 176 governs the same from non-parties. This is the discovery device utilized to get your hands on a contract at issue, or perhaps a company’s records related to a lawsuit. You may request any document related to the lawsuit that is either a hard copy or stored in an electronic format. The request may not seek privileged documents–such as attorney work product–and it must be “reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” See TRCP 192.3(a). (Helpful also is the South Texas College of Law’s Texas Rules Project here.) The format of a request for production should look like a pleading, though requests for production are not filed with the court in Texas (check your local rules!). The requests must be in writing, and must be signed by an attorney, or yourself if you are pro se. See TRCP 191.3.

Like other forms of discovery, the time given to respond, and in this case produce, is generally 30 days from service, though you may give or seek additional time by written agreement of both parties. The caveat here is that the request must state the due date, and any extensions must be in writing to be enforceable. If a request for production is served before the defendant’s answer is due, ie served along with the original petition, then the response is due in 50 days, not 30.

Requests must be specific, and must relate to the lawsuit at hand. You must tailor each request to apply to your specific situation in time, number, circumstance, etc. For example, you might write “Please produce all copies of warranties for XXXX vehicle,” or “Please produce all drafts of the contract on which this suit is based.” Your request must be specific enough so that it is not objectionable as a so-called fishing expedition. The documents also must be produced as they are kept “in the ordinary course of business.” See TRCP 196.1(b).

Generally, the opposing side will produce said documents, but all they are required to do is provide a time and place of convenience to both parties for inspection and copying of the documents. You may not request trial exhibits, or make over-broad requests, as in “Please produce all documents.” All documents to what? For what? Which time period? You get the idea. The response must also be in writing, within the time allotted (usually 30 days from service), and signed, but they need not be verified.

A responding party must:

•Produce the documents requested; or

•Object; or

•Assert a privilege; or

•Specifically state why they’re unable to locate the documents in question. **Parties face sanctions for not complying with discovery requests, including having the suit dismissed. See sanctions TRCP 215.2(b).

The procedure for nonparties to the suit is somewhat different, so make sure to consult TRCP 176.

Please see the other blog posts in this series:

What is discovery, and what are interrogatories?

Discovery II: What are requests for disclosure?

Discovery III: What are Requests for Admissions?

What is a discovery subpoena?

Discovery V: Depositions–What is a deposition on written questions, or DWQ?

For more info: My reference here – and favorite book to use – is O’Connor’s Texas Rules, fully annotated, which can be found at the publisher’s site here, or on Amazon here.

Another favorite site of mine is www.SmartRules.com. You can look up any jurisdiction in the US, and either state or federal! The site generally explains things step-by-step. Some fees may apply. Happy discovering!!

For more info:
You can find particular judges’ and courts’ web-sites in Harris County here.
Or just Google for your state, county, or particular judge’s website. You might be surprised how much information you can find there. You may also call the clerks to ask questions; just keep in mind court clerks are very busy, so it would behoove you to be on your best manners when making inquiries.

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Note: I am not an attorney. If you need legal advice, you should consult an attorney licensed to practice law in your state.

Sami K. Hartsfield, ACP is a freelance writer and NALA Advanced Certified Paralegal living in downtown Houston. She has worked as a law firm Webmaster, law firm social media marketer, and ghostwriter for personal injury law firms. She holds a degree in paralegal studies with a 4.0 GPA and a bachelor of science degree in political science, graduating summa cum laude. Sami interned with Texas’ 14th Court of Appeals under Chief Justice Adele Hedges, and completed the University of Houston Law Center’s Summer 2008 Prelaw Institute with a 4.0. A glutton for acquiring new knowldedge–in addition to her national advanced paralegal certification–she has earned six specialty certifications since 2007: Discovery; Trial Practice; Contracts Management; Social Security Disability Law; and Entity & Individual Medical Liability. You can find her on Facebook and e-mail her with questions, comments, or ideas at LegallyBlog@yahoo.com. When she is not blogging, working (or fishing), she is furiously scribbling away on her upcoming legal topical book.

Sami Hartsfield

  

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Copyright 2011 Sami K. Hartsfield – All Rights Reserved
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2 Comments
  1. HI Sami,
    I am glad to find your blog. You are building a great resource for paralegals. I am a freelance paralegal and I am sure I will be a frequent reader. Thanks for the great content. BTW I found your site through Twitter.

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