After a lawsuit is filed, the parties are entitled to learn what their opponents know about the case. Specifically, each party can schedule depositions, send written questions called "interrogatories," inspect documents and other tangible evidence, and demand that certain facts and other things be admitted without a trial. In some states, these procedures are referred to as "discovery," and in others, as "disclosure." The names may be different, but the rules are basically the same.
Discovery is subject to limitations. The subject matter can be very broad and therefore obtrusive; if overly broad or obtrusive, however, the responding party can obtain a court order that remedies the situation. The number of interrogatories, requests for admission, and demands for production of documentary and tangible evidence usually is limited. For example, in California a party can submit only 35 specially drafted interrogatories unless the party's attorney submits a declaration setting forth why a greater number would be justified. (See California Code of Civil Procedure, sec. 2030.010 et seq.)
Each party in the lawsuit is required to respond to requests for discovery. Failure to respond may result in substantial penalties, from fines all the way to losing the case.
Responses to discovery have to be verified in some manner. In states like California, the party (not his attorney) must sign a form under penalty of perjury that confirms that the responses are true and correct. Some states require that the verification form be notarized.
Objections may be made to discovery requests. The type of objection and how it must be made are set forth in the civil procedure laws of each state. For California, see T. Bloomfield, L. DeArmas and W. Karns, Effective Use of Objections in Responding to Interrogatories.
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