Thursday, April 14, 2005

Today's classic rant - the futility of the discovery letter

One of my pet peeves is the existence in the events list for electronic filing in the Western District of Virginia of an entry called the "discovery letter."

By "discovery letter," I mean simply the cover letter for written discovery requests, that gets sent to the Court without the enclosures sent to the parties. Under the Court’s standing orders, "discovery material" is not to be filed in most judges' cases. Similarly, under Rule 5(d) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, specified discovery documents "must not" be filed. There is no provision for "discovery letters" (or any other letters) in the Rules.

Over the years I have argued, threatened, and pleaded with my co-workers and staff to not send any mail related to written discovery to the clerk’s office in federal court cases. With the advent of e-filing, however, the clerk’s office is encouraging people to e-file these discovery letters. I believe that the docketing of "discovery letters" conflicts with the reasons for non-filing of discovery material; does not match the way the Court handles other, similarly insignificant cover letters (which aren't even filed, mostly); and is not done in other courts (at least not the ones for which I have e-filing passwords). These "discovery letters" contain no information of use to the Court. Instead of requiring lawyers to add these letters to the online docket, the Court should be discouraging the lawyers from sending out such letters at all.

I last ranted on this subject in August 2004, and it has been building up again, so I thought I would let it out.

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