RULE 34. PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS AND THINGS AND ENTRY UPON LAND FOR INSPECTION AND OTHER PURPOSES

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Rule 34.02: Procedure.

The request may, without leave of court, be served upon the plaintiff after commencement of the action and upon any other party with or after service of the summons and complaint upon that party. The request shall set forth the items to be inspected, either by individual item or by category, and describe each item and category with reasonable particularity. The request shall specify a reasonable time, place and manner of making the inspection and performing the related acts. The request may specify the form or forms in which the electronically stored information is to be produced.

The party upon whom the request is served shall serve a written response within 30 days after the service of the request, except that a defendant may serve a response within 45 days after service of the summons and complaint upon that defendant. The court may allow a shorter or longer time. The response shall state, with respect to each item or category, that inspection and related activities will be permitted as requested, unless the request is objected to, including an objection to the requested form or forms for producing electronically stored information, stating with specificity the grounds and reasons for objecting to the request. If objection is made to part of an item or category, the part shall be specified. An objection must state whether any responsive materials are being withheld on the basis of that objection

If objection is made to the requested form or forms for producing electronically stored information-or if no form was specified in the request - the responding party must state the form or forms it intends to use.

Unless the parties otherwise agree, or the court otherwise orders:

(1) The party submitting the request may move for an order under Rule 37.01 with respect to any objection to or other failure to respond to the request or any part thereof, or any failure to permit inspection as requested.

(2) A party who produces documents for inspection shall produce them as they are kept in the usual course of business or shall organize and label them to correspond with the categories in the request.

(3) If a reauest does not specify the form or forms for producing electronically stored information. a responding party must produce the information in a form or forms in which it is ordinarily maintained or in a form or forms that are reasonably usable; and

(4) a party need not produce the same electronically stored information in more than one form.

[As amended July 1, 1979 and by order entered January 31, 1984, effective August 20, 1984; amended by order dated January 8, 2009, effective July 1, 2009; and amended by order filed January 8, 2019 effective October 1, 2019.]

Advisory Commission Comment [2009].

Rule 34.02 provides that a party must produce documents as they are kept in the usual course of business or must organize and label them to correspond with the categories in the discovery request. The production of electronically stored information should be subject to comparable requirements to protect against deliberate or inadvertent production in ways that raise unnecessary obstacles for the requesting party. Rule 34.02 is amended to ensure similar protection for electronically stored information.

The amendment to Rule 34.02 permits the requesting party to designate the form or forms in which it wants electronically stored information produced. The form of production is more important to the exchange of electronically stored information than of hard-copy materials, although a party might specify hard copy as the requested form. Specification of the desired form or forms may facilitate the orderly, efficient, and cost-effective discovery of electronically stored information. The rule recognizes that different forms of production may be appropriate for different types of electronically stored information. Using current technology, for example, a party might be called upon to produce word processing documents, e-mail messages, electronic spreadsheets, different image or sound files, and material from databases. Requiring that such diverse types of electronically stored information all be produced in the same form could prove impossible, and even if possible could increase the cost and burdens of producing and using the information. The rule therefore provides that the requesting party may ask for different forms of production for different types of electronically stored information.

The rule does not require that the requesting party choose a form or forms of production. The requesting party may not have a preference. In some cases, the requesting party may not know what form the producing party uses to maintain its electronically stored information, although Rule 26.06 is amended to call for discussion of the form of production in the parties' prediscovery conference.

The responding party also is involved in determining the form of production. In the written response to the production request that Rule 34 requires, the responding party must state the form it intends to use for producing electronically stored information if the requesting party does not specify a form or if the responding party objects to a form that the requesting party specifies. Stating the intended form before the production occurs may permit the parties to identify and seek to resolve disputes before the expense and work of the production occurs. A party that responds to a discovery request by simply producing electronically stored information in a form of its choice, without identifying that form in advance of the production in the response required by Rule 34.02, runs a risk that the requesting party can show that the produced form is not reasonably usable and that it is entitled to production of some or all of the information in an additional form. Additional time might be required to permit a responding party to assess the appropriate form or forms of production.

If the form of production is not specified by party agreement or court order, the responding party must produce electronically stored information either in a form or forms in which it is ordinarily maintained or in a form or forms that are reasonably usable. Rule 34.01 requires that, if necessary, a responding party "translate" information it produces into a "reasonably usable" form. Under some circumstances, the responding party may need to provide some reasonable amount of technical support, information on application software, or other reasonable assistance to enable the requesting party to use the information. The rule does not require a party to produce electronically stored information in the form in which it is ordinarily maintained, as long as it is produced in a reasonably usable form. But the option to produce in a reasonably usable form does not mean that a responding party is free to convert electronically stored information from the form in which it is ordinarily maintained to a different form that makes it more difficult or burdensome for the requesting party to use the information efficiently in the litigation. If the responding party ordinarily maintains the information it is producing in a way that makes it searchable by electronic means, the information should not be produced in a form that removes or significantly degrades this feature.

Some electronically stored information may be ordinarily maintained in a form that is not reasonably usable by any party. One example is "legacy" data that can be used only by superseded systems. The questions whether a producing party should be required to convert such information to a more usable form, or should be required to produce it at all, should be addressed under Rule 26.06.

Whether or not the requesting party specified the form of production, Rule 34.02 provides that the same electronically stored information ordinarily need be produced in only one form.

Advisory Commission Comment [2019].

Rule 34.02 is amended to require that objections to requests for production of documents and things be stated with specificity. The amendment is intended to make clear that vague, generalized,or "boilerplate" objections are improper. Instead, objections should be specific as to the grounds for the objection, describing the reason(s) in a manner that will reasonably inform the adverse party as to what aspect of the request the objection pertains, thereby facilitating the resolution of discovery disputes without the need for judicial intervention. In addition, the rule is amended to require that any objection or response under Rule 34 make clear what documents and things are actually being withheld pursuant to that objection, if any. A responding party may object to part of a request, or to any item or category sought, but a party should produce those documents and things as to any part of a request for which no objection is made, making clear which parts, items, or categories are being produced. For example, a responding party may object to a Rule 34 request as overly broad on the grounds that the time period covered is too long, or that the breadth of sources from which documents are sought is unduly burdensome, providing the specific bases therefore, and further making clear whether the objection is being made in whole or in part. For any such objection or response that covers only a part of the request, it should be clear from the response that production is being limited to documents or electronically-stored information covering the specifically identifiedtime period or sources for which the responding party has no objection.

This amendment should end the confusion that frequently arises when a producing party states several objections, but then still produces information, documents, and things, leaving the requesting party uncertain whether and to what extent relevant and responsive information has been withheld on the basis of the objection. The producing party does not need to provide a detailed description or log of all documents and things withheld, but does need to respond in a manner that will alert and inform parties what documents and things are being produced, and what categories or types of documents and things has been withheld pursuant to objection,thereby facilitating an informed discussion of the objection.

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