Earlier this month, the federal judiciary’s Committee on Rules and Procedure approved proposed rules aimed at reducing cost and delay in civil litigation, including amendments specifically directed at keeping discovery proportional to the case at hand.  Unlike prior discovery rule amendments which have broadened discovery, the proposed amendments look to significantly narrow the scope and size of discovery in a meaningful way.

The most important proposed amendment is to Rule 26(b)(1).  The amended rule would drastically reduce the broad scope of discovery under the current rule which permits discovery of “any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action” including any discovery which “appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.”  If the amendment is adopted, discovery would have to be “proportional to the needs of the case considering the amount in controversy, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.”  It would also be limited to what is relevant to the parties’ claims or defenses.

Additional proposals aimed at proportionality include limits to specific discovery mechanisms governed under the Rules of Civil Procedure.  Under amended Rules 30 and 31, only five depositions per side, rather than the existing limit of ten depositions, would be allowed, and there would be a new time limit of one-six-hour day of examination per deposition.  The number of interrogatories permitted under Rule 33 would be reduced from 25 to 15.  Additionally, a limit of 25 requests for admission (“RFAs”) per party in Rule 36 would be included (currently, there is no limit on the number of RFAs allowed).  And finally under Rule 34, regarding requests for production of documents and things, any objections to such requests would have to be stated with specificity and include a statement whether any responsive materials are being withheld on the basis of the objection.  However, Rule 34 document requests would remain without any numerical limits.

A six-month public comment period will commence on August 15, 2013.  The amendments, if adopted, are expected to be finalized by December 2015.