Discovery Basics for the Pro Se – What is Discovery and What is Disclosure?
Sometimes those of us who spent a long time in the legal industry forget that not everyone understands all of the legal-ese that gets thrown around so I thought it might be a good idea to do an article every now and then over some of the basics ideas that people who choose to, or are forced to, represent themselves can get a quick read on some of the fundamentals.
One of the most important things that every pro se litigant needs to understand is the discovery process. Simply put, the discovery process is what is used in a lawsuit to learn what the other side knows and to learn what they intend to offer at trial.
LessonsInLaw.com, in conjunction with RebellionBooks.com, offers an e-book titled The Guerrilla Guide to Written Discovery which is instantly downloadable and is available in PDF, Kindle, and Nook formats. That book goes into detail about how to use discovery both offensively and defensively, but to anyone representing themselves a basic understanding of the process is still necessary whether they you invest in the book or not.
Different Types of Discovery
Essentially there are different types of discovery used in most lawsuits:
- Requests for Production
- Requests for Admission
- Depositions – Oral and Written
We will discuss each of these in separate articles.
What is Disclosure?
Disclosure is going to be different depending on where you are, but for our purposes think of it as a type of discovery that the court or legislature has said can be sent or must be provided in every case, sometimes upon request and sometimes automatically.
Lawyers and judges know that in every case, there are certain questions (aka “interrogatories”, more about that in the next section) that are absolutely going to be asked if any discovery is sent. So the courts (or, again, the legislature) puts it into the rules that these items must be automatically considered as sent, responded to as if they were sent, or can be sent and must be answered with no BS objections.
The disclosures can include not only questions which must be answered but also may require that the parties produce to each other certain documents.
To see an example of what a Disclosure statute looks like you can view Rule 194 established by the Texas courts at this link. Bear in mind that this is just an example and each state's rules will be different as will the rule in each circuit or district of the Federal Courts.