Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Federal Court Ruling on Boilerplate Discovery Objections

A very interesting ruling came down today from District Judge Mark Bennett of the Northern District of Iowa. From the opening paragraph:

This ruling involves one of the least favorite tasks of federal trial and appellate judges—determining whether counsel and/or the parties should be sanctioned for discovery abuses. This case squarely presents the issue of why excellent, thoughtful, highly professional, and exceptionally civil and courteous lawyers are addicted to “boilerplate” discovery objections.

Judge Bennett finds that the parties’ objections violated several discovery rules, including Rule 26(b)(5)’s provisions on asserting privileges and Rules 33 and 34’s requirements that objections to interrogatories and requests for production be stated “with specificity.” He concludes (footnotes omitted):

To address the serious problem of “boilerplate” discovery objections, my new Supplemental Trial Management Order advises the lawyers for the parties that “in conducting discovery, form or boilerplate objections shall not be used and, if used, may subject the party and/or its counsel to sanctions. Objections must be specific and state an adequate individualized basis.” The Order also imposes an “affirmative duty to notify the court of alleged discovery abuse” and warns of the possible sanctions for obstructionist discovery conduct.

I recall the words of a former U.S. Attorney General in a different context: “Each time a [person] stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, [they] send[ ] forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” I pledge to do my part— enough of the warning shots across the bow.

The conduct identified in the Show Cause Order does not warrant sanctions, notwithstanding that the conduct was contrary to the requirements for discovery responses in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. NO MORE WARNINGS. IN THE FUTURE, USING “BOILERPLATE” OBJECTIONS TO DISCOVERY IN ANY CASE BEFORE ME PLACES COUNSEL AND THEIR CLIENTS AT RISK FOR SUBSTANTIAL SANCTIONS.

The case is Liguria Foods v. Griffith Laboratories.

Download 14cv3041.Liguria v. Griffith.Order On Show Cause.final.031317

 

 

 

http://lawprofessors.typepad.com/civpro/2017/03/federal-court-ruling-on-boilerplate-discovery-objections.html

Discovery, Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, Recent Decisions | Permalink

Comments

“If there is a hell to which disputatious, uncivil, vituperative lawyers go, let it be one in which the damned are eternally locked in discovery disputes with other lawyers of equally repugnant attributes.” Dahl v. City of Huntington Beach, 84 F.3d 363, 364 (9th Cir. 1996) (quoting Krueger v. Pelican Prod. Corp., No. CIV-87-2385-A (W.D. Okla. Feb. 24, 1989).

It's amazing how commonplace boilerplate discovery objections are, considering how hated they've been for so long. “Boilerplate, generalized objections are inadequate and tantamount to not making any objection at all.” Walker v. Lakewood Condo. Owners Ass’n, 186 F.R.D. 584, 587 (C.D. Cal. 1999); accord Adelman v. Boy Scouts of Am., 276 F.R.D. 681, 688 (S.D. Fla. 2011) (“[J]udges in this district typically condemn boilerplate objections as legally inadequate or meaningless.”); accord Ritacca v. Abbott Laboratories, 203 F.R.D. 332, 335 n.4 (N.D.Ill. 2001) (“As courts have repeatedly pointed out, blanket objections are patently improper, . . . [and] we treat [the] general objections as if they were never made.”).

But the truth is that boilerplate objections are still around because, by and large, courts allow them. If more judges would force parties to raise the "real" objections the first time around, we wouldn't keep having this problem.

Posted by: Max Kennerly | Mar 15, 2017 4:34:56 AM

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