The most time-consuming part of getting any case ready for trial is discovery. This is the process of the two sides learning (discovering, get it?) information about each other’s cases before trial. This is what the lawyers and clients spend their time doing for most of the year between when the case is filed and the trial.
Discovery happens two ways- by exchanging written material, and in person. In-person discovery is usually in the form of a deposition, where witness testimony is taken under oath and transcribed for use later on. That’s not what this blog post is about.
I am here to talk about written discovery, or more accurately, the often ridiculous objections I see used in an effort to avoid answering it. The two primary forms of written discovery are interrogatories and a request for production. Interrogatories are written questions to the other side that must be answered under oath. A request for production is kind of the same, except it is a set of written requests that the other side produces documents or other tangible things relevant to the case.
When you receive the other side’s answers to your written discovery, you will get one of these three things (or some combination thereof): 1) an answer, 2) an objection, or 3) an objection with a partial answer. Under the Maryland Rules, only options 1 & 2 are really allowed, but option 3 is kind of an “everybody does it anyway” type deal.
That’s all fine. Objections to discovery requests are and should be allowed. Sometimes they are even meritorious (usually not). But what really bugs me is the way the objections I see over and over are supported. I think there are law firms in Maryland that have been using the same cases to support discovery objections since before I was born.
The Crazy Law Cited
Here is a smattering of citations that were used to support objections to discovery requests that I have received this year (I swear this is true):
Sperti v. Muir, Court of Common Pleas of Baltimore City, Prendergast, J., Daily Record, Aug. 10, 1966, Maryland Rules Decisions, Pg. 291.
Thorn v. Good Humor Ice Company of Baltimore, Superior Court of Baltimore City, Prendergast, J., Daily Record, May 8, 1964, Maryland Rules Decisions at 265.
Brocato v. King, Daily Record, June 29, 1956.
OK. Here’s the thing. First, these are all unreported trial court opinions, which may not be cited as an authority under Md. Rule 1-104 and the cases interpreting it. So that’s a problem. Second, they are trial court opinions from trial courts that no longer exist. Go to the Maryland Judiciary’s website and let me know when you find the Superior Court of Baltimore City or the Court of Common Pleas of Baltimore City. Third, Maryland Rules Decisions was never an official reporter, just an unofficial volume put together by one of the bar associations. Finally, you can’t even get copies of these opinions anymore, at least not on Lexis. I even tried just to see if I could and got nothing.
So the moral of this story is that if you will object to my discovery requests, why not try to find some authority that is younger than I am, that’s actually from a published case, and maybe even from a court that still exists? I mean, it can’t really be that hard to find a real case that supports your objection, right? If you have to dig this deep, you probably do not have a very well-founded objection.