Before going head-to-head in court, you need to have all the facts straight. Simply put, you can’t form an argument or defend a case if you’re missing evidence.  

Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to obtain the information you need to make your case most effectively. Most of the time, another party will control the evidence. Information may live on private computers, storage systems, or employee mobile devices, for example. Because of this, you typically need to ask another individual to produce information before going to court. This is one of the most important parts of the pretrial process. It’s something you and your team have to master for success in court.  

Keep reading to learn all about how requests for production of documents work and how to streamline the process to get better legal outcomes. 

What Is eDiscovery?

During the pretrial phase, legal teams have to go through the eDiscovery process. This involves formally exchanging information with the other party. 

The point of eDiscovery is to ensure a fast and efficient trial. After all, it’s much more effective to request evidence before going to court than to ask for information during a trial. It’s also a basic requirement in civil court.  

The eDiscovery process begins after an official meet-and-confer session. During this session, both sides agree on the scope and limitations of digital evidence. This meeting basically establishes ground rules for sharing evidence to ensure a productive legal battle.  

What Is a Request for Production of Documents?

A request for production of documents is a list that includes the documents, audio and video recordings, and electronically stored information (ESI) that a legal team wants. It can also include tangible evidence like paper files and hardware. 

Any party may request production of documents from an opposing side and at any time. You can also ask to copy and inspect the information. 

Why Do Legal Parties Request Information?

A request for production of documents can provide a foundation for a case. A legal team may request documents to support or refute an argument. The purpose is to gather as much evidence as possible so you don’t miss any evidence.  

To demonstrate, consider a case where an employee files a lawsuit for workplace harassment. The attorney may request information like emails, text messages, and video or audio recordings. These items can prove instrumental in court.  

What Is Data Culling?

Oftentimes, legal teams wind up with too much information. For example, if you request a video file, you may only need one or two minutes out of a four-hour clip. Hence, data culling involves trimming down evidence to reduce the cost and burden of managing, producing, and protecting it.  

You have to be very careful when culling data. The last thing you want is to accidentally destroy or lose evidence. In light of this, it’s a good idea to consult with IT professionals during this stage.  

What Is Rule 34 of the FRCP?

The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) govern operational procedures for US district courts. Altogether, the FRCP has 86 rules.  

FRCP Rule 34 allows for producing documents within the scope of Rule 26(b). In short, parties can obtain discovery regarding nonprivileged matters relevant to the case at hand.  

Of note, the court may limit the number of requests that your legal team is allowed to make under Rule 26. Therefore, it’s important to plan accordingly. Prioritize the information that you need before asking for it. That way, you don’t have to keep issuing requests.  

Rule 34: An Overview

At a very basic level, Rule 34 gives you permission to copy, inspect, test, or sample a variety of items from another party. This may include writings, drawings, photographs, graphs, sound recordings, images, and other data or compilations.  

Additionally, Rule 34 allows you to request tangible evidence and request entry onto designated land or other property that another party controls. 

How to Request a Production of Documents 

A request for production of documents is a formal procedure.  

Under FRCP Rule 34, you have to describe each item or category that you want to inspect and send it to the other party. Further, you have to specify a reasonable time, manner, and place for inspection and for performing related acts. You may also describe a particular form for producing ESI.  

Waiting for a Reply 

After delivering a request to another party, you may have to wait a few days or weeks to hear back. Under the law, after you serve the other party, they have 30 days to provide information. 

If you deliver a request under Rule 26(d)(2), then the party has 30 days to respond after the first Rule 26(f) conference. The court may also adjust the time frame under Rule 29 or by court order.  

What to Expect From Another Party 

The other party needs to state whether they permit or object to an inspection. If the party objects to a request, they need to explain why.  

The party may also say that it will produce copies of documents or ESI instead of permitting inspection. In other words, they may produce copies of emails instead of allowing you to comb through their email servers. 

What’s more, an objection has to state whether the party is withholding any materials on the basis of that objection. It must also state the part they are objecting to and allow access to the rest.  

How a Party Should Produce Documents 

Rule 34 says you have to produce documents as you typically keep them in the usual course of business. And you also have to organize and label them to correspond to the categories in the request. 

If the request doesn’t specify a particular form for ESI, then you have to produce it in a reasonable form. You also don’t have to produce the same ESI in more than one form. 

What Is a Nonparty?

Under FRCP Rule 45, a party may force a nonparty to produce documents or tangible evidence, or submit to an inspection.  

A nonparty is a third-party entity that’s not directly involved in the case. For example, a company may hire a third-party IT vendor for data storage. It’s possible this vendor may have to answer questions during a case about an issue like security or account authorization. 

Don’t Go It Alone With eDiscovery

The eDiscovery process may seem cut-and-dried. In reality, it’s anything but that. Legal teams often have to scramble for information and rush to meet deadlines and avoid court sanctions.  

It’s much faster and easier to request and produce documents with a purpose-built platform like VenioOne. Using VenioOne, your team can centralize all eDiscovery data in one user-friendly, highly secure platform. VenioOne is a one-stop shop for requesting and issuing ESI. By using VenioOne, your team will reduce the time and cost of eDiscovery. 

Feeling Overwhelmed? Venio Is Here to Help

The eDiscovery process is still relatively new and continues to evolve.  Contact us to learn more.

You can also take VenioOne for a spin by requesting a demo today

This post was written by Justin Reynolds. Justin is a freelance writer who enjoys telling stories about how technology, science, and creativity can help workers be more productive. In his spare time, he likes seeing or playing live music, hiking, and traveling.

Download "The Benefits of an Integrated eDiscovery Solution"