District of Columbia Discovery Law

Evidence – Discovery – District of Columbia

Note: This summary is not intended to be an all inclusive summary of discovery law in the District of Columbia, but does include basic and other information.

Definitions

Discovery: A procedure designed to allow disclosure of information between Plaintiffs and Defendants. Written questions, oral questioning, document production and admissions requests are generally allowed. Discovery was designed to to prevent trial by ambush.

Interrogatories: Written questions from Plaintiff to Defendant, or from Defendant to Plaintiff. The questions are mailed to the Plaintiff, Defendant or the attorney for response in writing.  The answers or responses are usually due between 20-30 days.

Deposition: A procedure where verbal questions are asked a Plaintiff or Defendant for immediate response. Depositions are usually recorded by a court reporter, who swears the person to tell the truth before questioning begins.

Production of Documents: The method of obtaining documents from the other party relevant to the case such as all documents a party intends to introduce at trial.

Requests for Admissions: Written questions where you request the other party to admit or deny some relevant fact.

Objections: Objections may be made to all discovery questions if the questions are not relevant, or likely to lead to the discovery of relevant evidence.

Civil Procedure Rules: Virtually all states have adopted a version of civil procedure rules which include rules dealing with discovery.
District of Columbia Rules of Civil Procedure

The District of Columbia has adopted the District of Columbia Rules of Civil Procedure for General Sessions-Civil (Class “GS” Actions). The discovery rules also apply in divorce actions. The District of Columbia Code Encyclopedia for D.C. Courts explains that the purpose of the rules governing pre-trial discovery is to reduce the possibility of surprise at trial by compelling disclosure of revelant facts before trial.

When Depositions May Be Taken: Any party is allowed to take the testimony of any person by deposition upon oral examination or written interrogatories for the purpose of discovery or for use as evidence in the acton or for both purposes. Rule 26(a)

Scope of Examination: Unless otherwise ordered by the court, the deponent may be examined regarding any matter, not subject to privilege, which is relevant to the subject matter of the pending action. Rule 26(b)

Depositions

Before Whom Depositions May Be Taken: Within the United States or within a territory subject to the dominion of the United States, depositions will be taken before an officer authorized to administer oaths by the laws of the United States or the place where the examination is held, or before a person appointed by the court in which the action is pending. Rule 28(a)

In a foreign country, depositions may be taken on notice before a person authorized to administer oaths in the place where the examination is held, or before a person commissioned by the court, or pursuant to a letter rogatory. Rule 28(b)

Stipulations:

If the parties so stipulate in writing, depositions may be taken before any person,at any time, or place, upon any notice, and in any manner. Rule 29

Interrogatories

Any party may serve upon any adverse party written interrogatories. Interrogatories may be served after commencement of an action and without leave of the court, except that, if service is made by the plaintiff within ten days after such commencement, leave of court granted with or without notice must be obtained. Interrogatories must be answered separately and fully in writing and under oath.

The number of interrogatories to be served is not limited except as justice requires to protect the party from annoyance, expense, embarrassment, or oppression. Rule 33

Production

Upon motion of any party showing good cause and upon notice to all other parties, the court, in which an action is pending, may order any party to produce and permit the inspection and copying or photographing of any designated documents, papers, books, accounts, letters, photographs, objects, or tangible things which are not privileged and within that particular party’s possession, custody, or control. Rule 34

Physical and Mental Examinations of Persons

If the mental or physical condition of a party is in controversy, the court may order that party ot submit to a physical or mental examination by a physician. Rule 35

Requests for Admissions

After commencement of an action a party may serve upon any other party a written request for the admission by the latter of the genuineness of any relevant documents described in and exhibited with the request, or of the truth of any relevant matters of fact set forth in the request. Rule 36

Compel Discovery

If a party refuses to answer any questions upon oral examination, the affected persons may apply for an order compelling an answer. Rule 37

Domestic Actions Discovery Notes

If you require extra time to respond to discovery, you should ask the other side for an extension in writing.  It may also be necessary to enter an order granting the extension to protect your rights.

Discovery questions are limited in number so select the most important questions to ask the other side.  Don’t waste your requests writing questions that you already know the answer to.


Inside District of Columbia Discovery Law