A Reference Guide to a Request for Documents

  • Will Pfeifer
  • July 16, 2021

When building a legal case or defending a position, you may need to obtain information from the other party. The easiest way to do this is by issuing a request for production of documents (RPD). It’s critical to have a working knowledge of this process so you can distribute requests quickly and accurately. 

If you’re new to RPDs, you’ve come to the right place. This post explains how a document request works and what to include in a letter. 

What Is a Request for Production of Documents?

Just as the name suggests, an RPD is a request for information. It’s not a formal court order, and the recipient has the right to ignore the request or refuse to comply by objecting (more on this below).

What this boils down to is that the best time to issue a request for production is during the eDiscovery process. This takes place before two teams square off in court. During this stage, both sides meet to request and exchange information. Going through eDiscovery helps ensure a fast, fair, and efficient trial for both parties. 

Rule 34 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) grants legal teams the ability to issue document requests. If you’re new to eDiscovery, the FRCP governs procedure for all US district courts.

Who Can You Request Documents From?

FRCP Rule 34 says that any party may issue a request from any other party, within the scope of Rule 26(b). In other words, this means that you can issue a request to an opposing party. At the same time, that party can ask you to produce documents. 

Further, Rule 34(c) also allows you to request evidence from nonparties or compel them to permit an inspection. For example, this may include the vendor of a corporate partner. 

What Information Can You Request?

You can request permission for your party or a representative to copy, inspect, test, or sample various items. Examples may include documents or electronically stored information (ESI), like writings, drawings, photographs, graphs, sound clips, data, and images. 

You may also request tangible evidence from another party or entry onto private land. 

How to Request Documents 

For the best results, follow the guidelines outlined in FRCP Rule 34 when issuing document requests. 

The request must describe each item or category of items that you want to inspect. In addition, you have to specify a reasonable time, manner, and location for an inspection or for performing related acts.

You can also specify the form or forms for producing ESI, like a spreadsheet, table, or specific file type. Keep in mind that the other party may object to providing a certain form. But you’ll cross that bridge if you get to it.

How Long Should You Wait for a Response?

As with most court proceedings, you have to be patient when expecting a response. Remember, the receiving party has 30 days to respond in writing to your request. So, if you don’t receive an instant response, that’s perfectly normal. 

If you deliver a request under Rule 26(d)(2), the party has 30 days after the first Rule 26(f) conference.

The window of time may be shorter or longer either by court order or by Rule 29, which provides stipulations for discovery procedure.

What to Include in a Request 

There is no limit to how many document requests you can make in federal court. However, a court may limit the number of discovery requests that you make if it determines that the requests are redundant, excessively burdensome, or irrelevant. 

As such, it’s important to think carefully and prioritize requests before submitting them to avoid any potential issues. Distribute the most important requests first. You should have a strong and compelling reason for submitting each one.

Prioritize any documents that directly support your case and save more specific requests for later in the process when you need to clarify information or gather more insights. 

Common Types of Requests

The type of documents that you request will vary from case to case. You should gain a clearer understanding of what you need after a meet-and-confer session.

During a corporate case, you may ask for documents like contracts, emails, text messages, and payments. Other examples may include training materials, personnel files, and phone call records.

For a personal injury case, you may ask for documents like medical records, bills, witness testimonies, and photographs.

Drafting a Request for Production of Documents

A request for production of documents typically contains three sections: instructions, definitions, and requests. 

1. Instructions 

Start by informing the receiving party about the request for production of documents. Mention that the request aligns with Rule 34 and Rule 26(b) of the FRCP.

In this section, it’s a good idea to outline some additional points within Rule 34, like producing documents as they are kept in the usual course of business. You can also remind the recipient to answer in good faith.

2. Definitions

After outlining clear instructions, include a section for legal definitions. For example, you may need to define words like “agreement,” “communications,” and “defendant.” 

3. Document Requests 

The third section should clearly outline the specific document requests. List each request in numbered form. It’s common and appropriate to include multiple requests in the first letter, which means you don’t have to send separate letters for each request. At the end of the document, sign your name and include your address.

To see what the finished product should look like, check out this defendant’s request for production of documents from the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS). The Philadelphia Bar Association also offers a useful sample plaintiff’s request for production of documents

For additional sample letters, head over to the US Department of Justice and the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania

What to Do If a Party Ignores Your Request 

If you don’t receive a response within the acceptable time frame, you can choose to file a motion for order compelling evidence. This document asks the court to order the opposing party to provide evidence.

If the party still does not comply, you may file a motion to dismiss, which will most likely end the case.

Objecting to a Request

An opposing party may choose to object to any request that seems invasive or irrelevant. The party has to state whether they are withholding any responsive materials on the basis of that objection. They also have to specify the part that they’re objecting to and permit the inspection of the rest of the materials.

If the party objects to a particular form, they need to state the form that they intend on using.

Using Venio to Manage Requests

Managing and tracking eDiscovery requests can be challenging, especially when handling multiple cases at once. It helps to have a centralized platform for issuing and receiving requests.

Venio offers Venio Cloud, a leading cloud-based eDiscovery solution. Using Venio Cloud, you can easily issue, track, and respond to requests from a single portal. The platform also simplifies data analysis through artificial intelligence (AI) and filtering tools. Venio offers up to 10x faster data processing, at a rate of over 10 TB per day. Plus, the platform handles multiple simultaneous projects.

Requesting documents is a breeze with Venio Cloud. To see the platform in action, request 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.