May 22, 2020 View from the Bench

Making the Most of Informal Discovery Conferences

Discovery disputes do not always have to result in a montion to compel

By Hon. Karen L. Stevenson

Discovery disputes do not always have to result in a motion to compel. Pre-motion conferences with a magistrate judge can be an efficient and cost-effective way to resolve nondispositive discovery disputes and keep the case moving forward on the merits. In fact, some magistrate judges, myself included, require that the parties participate in a premotion conference with the court before it will allow any party to file a discovery motion. In such cases, if you file a discovery motion without first having the informal conference, the court will likely strike the motion entirely and require that it be refiled (if at all) after the court’s conference.

Pre-motion conferences can keep cases moving forward

Pre-motion conferences can keep cases moving forward

TommL via iStockphoto | Getty Images Plus

Motion practice is expensive and usually creates weeks of delay in resolving discovery issues. The parties must prepare and file their briefs, the court may want to hear oral argument, and then the court will typically need time to issue its ruling. After all that, even more time is needed for compliance with the court’s decision.

Magistrate Judges Can Resolve Discovery Disputes Without Formal Motion Practice

Pre-motion conferences are within the discretion of the individual magistrate judge as part of his or her inherent authority to manage court proceedings. The advisory committee notes to the 2015 amendments to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 16 expressly acknowledge the court’s authority to resolve discovery matters without formal motions where appropriate, stating: “Many judges who hold such conferences find them an efficient way to resolve most discovery disputes without the delay and burdens attending a formal motion, but the decision whether to require such conference is left to the discretion of the judge in each case.”

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