November 18, 2011
Pilot Project on Initial Discovery Protocols for Employment Cases
Now available on the Federal Judicial Center’s website are Initial Discovery Protocols for Employment Cases Alleging Adverse Action. From the Introduction:
The Initial Discovery Protocols for Employment Cases Alleging Adverse Action provide a new pretrial procedure for certain types of federal employment cases. As described in the Protocols, their intent is to “encourage parties and their counsel to exchange the most relevant information and documents early in the case, to assist in framing the issues to be resolved and to plan for more efficient and targeted discovery.” Individual judges throughout the United States District Courts will pilot test the Protocols and the Federal Judicial Center will evaluate their effects.
This project grew out of the 2010 Conference on Civil Litigation at Duke University, sponsored by the Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Civil Rules for the purpose of re-examining civil procedures and collecting recommendations for their improvement. During the conference, a wide range of attendees expressed support for the idea of case-type-specific “pattern discovery” as a possible solution to the problems of unnecessary cost and delay in the litigation process. . . . Following the conference, Judge Lee Rosenthal convened a nationwide committee of attorneys, highly experienced in employment matters, to develop a pilot project in this area. Judge John Koeltl volunteered to lead this committee. By design, the committee had a balance of plaintiff and defense attorneys. . . . The committee’s final product is the result of rigorous debate and compromise on both sides, undertaken in the spirit of making constructive and even-handed improvements to the pretrial process.
The Protocols create a new category of information exchange, replacing initial disclosures with initial discovery specific to employment cases alleging adverse action. This discovery is provided automatically by both sides within 30 days of the defendant’s responsive pleading or motion. While the parties’ subsequent right to discovery under the F.R.C.P. is not affected, the amount and type of information initially exchanged ought to focus the disputed issues, streamline the discovery process, and minimize opportunities for gamesmanship. The Protocols are accompanied by a standing order for their implementation by individual judges in the pilot project, as well as a model protective order that the attorneys and the judge can use a basis for discussion.
(Hat Tip: Emery Lee)