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Informal Discovery Conferences

Informal Discovery Conferences

In the October 2016 issue of Los Angeles Lawyer, Samantha P. Jessner and Amy D. Hogue, judges in the Los Angeles Superior Court of California, and several attorneys authored an article on how informal discovery conferences (IDCs) can resolve discovery disputes, narrow issues, and speed up litigation.

In California, a personal injury case may take over 3 years to resolve. Since 2009, budgeted funds for California’s court system have decreased by over $1 billion. This has created delays in cases because the court system has suffered layoffs and closures of 52 court houses across the state. In the Los Angeles Superior Court, a hearing for a motion could be calendared 6 months from filing. The Los Angeles Superior Court has reduced annual spending by $187 million, one-quarter of its staff, and courthouses.

Based on historical data the Los Angeles Superior Court’s law and motion practice in civil personal injury cases was minimal. The court changed its operations to transfer the pretrial case management of all personal injury cases from the independent calendar courts to personal injury courts in the Stanley Mosk Courthouse.

IDCs invest judicial time to mediate discovery disputes before motions to compel are filed. Courts that try personal injury in Los Angeles use IDCs to reduce costly and time consuming motions. Every motion appearance requires courtroom staff to calendar the motion, check in with parties, and prepare minute orders to record the outcome, and the judge and research attorney to analyze the motion.

IDCs do not require staff beyond scheduling a date and time. With a judge in the room, attorneys are more reasonable to discuss disputed issues. An informal meeting identifies and narrows the litigation issues.

To prepare for an informal discovery conference, the parties must first determine if the dispute under consideration is appropriate for an IDC, depending on the complexity and the legal issues involved. Second, the areas of impasse must be identified. IDC judges are called upon to address the overarching issues creating the impasse rather than specific discovery requests or objections. Third, the party seeking discovery will need to articulate why the discovery is necessary for trial and explain why the evidence sought will be admissible and relevant to proving or disproving an element of a cause of action or affirmative defense.

With a docket of approximately 7,500 cases in each personal injury court, these personal injury courts (pursuant to a 2011 general (standing) order) formally adopted informal discovery conferences as the preferred method of resolving discovery disputes.

Read the article here.

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