Paralegal Tips: Written Interrogatories in Federal District Court Litigation

Discovery is permitted in civil litigation in both Federal District Courts, and also in Bankruptcy Courts pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP). While depositions are permitted the use of other discovery methods is often more cost effective. Written interrogatories are extremely useful in obtaining the facts, witnesses and existence of documents that support the opposing party's claims or defenses. They are also particularly useful in obtaining facts and information when a party wishes to take a deposition, but does not want to do so until pertinent facts and information have been ascertained.
The scope of discovery under FRCP Rule 26(b) is very broad. "Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense - including the existence, description, nature, custody, condition, and location of any documents or other tangible things and the identity and location of persons who know of any discoverable matter. For good cause, the court may order discovery of any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action. Relevant information need not be admissible at the trial if the discovery appears reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence."
Written interrogatories to the other party are permitted pursuant to Rule 33 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. However, unless leave of court is obtained a party may serve on any other party no more than 25 written interrogatories, including all discrete subparts. Some courts may have local rules that further restrict the number of written interrogatories.
An interrogatory may relate to any matter that may be inquired into under FRCP Rule 26(b). An interrogatory is not objectionable merely because it asks for an opinion or contention that relates to fact or the application of law to fact, but the court may order that the interrogatory need not be answered until designated discovery is complete, or until a pretrial conference or some other time.
The responding party must serve its answers and any objections within 30 days after being served with the interrogatories. Each interrogatory must, to the extent it is not objected to, be answered separately and fully in writing under oath.
The grounds for objecting to an interrogatory must be stated with specificity. Any ground not stated in a timely objection is waived unless the court, for good cause, excuses the failure.
The person who makes the answers must sign them, and the attorney who objects must sign any objections.

The author of this article, Stan Burman, is a freelance paralegal with extensive experience in adversary proceedings in bankruptcy court and other civil litigation, particularly in California courts.

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