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What Is The Meet And Confer Requirement Under California Law?

Many areas of the law require attorneys to meet and confer. What does that mean? It means the lawyers must communicate the basis for their disagreement on a legal issue and make a meaningful attempt to reach a resolution. You may be surprised to learn that lawyers rarely agree on anything, but the law still mandates they try.

 

Meet and confer is required most often in discovery disputes. For example, a party to a lawsuit can ask for documents or answers to written questions (called Interrogatories) from an opposing party. If the opposing party fails to properly respond, then the asking party has the right to file a motion with the court and ask the judge to order that a proper response be given.

But that type of motion cannot be filed until the party seeking the court order first engages in a meet and confer. The meet and confer process can occur by letter, telephone call, at court, at deposition, at lunch, wherever. The point of the meet and confer is for one lawyer to give the legal basis for why they think the discovery responses are deficient. The other lawyer then must respond by either agreeing to provide updated responses, or stating why they think the original responses are appropriate.

Only after the meet and confer process is complete can a party file a motion with the court. Most judges would prefer that disputes over discovery be handled by the attorneys outside of court. It saves the court time and resources not having to hear about, and decide, discovery disputes. But there are times when disputes cannot be resolved outside of court. As such, a motion to the court must be filed and an order from the judge is required to resolve the dispute.

Recently, California has extended the meet and confer requirements to demurrers and motions for judgement on the pleadings. These are responsive documents that defendants often file in an attempt to dismiss the lawsuit, or simply to cause the plaintiff time and money. The law now requires that the party who wishes to bring a demurrer or motion first engage in meet and confer. That means the lawyer must discuss the legal basis for the demurrer or motion and the opposing attorney must be given a chance to respond.

The law is optimistic that if the lawyers meet and confer, then disputes can be resolved without having to file a motion in court. The reality of your lawsuit is probably less optimistic that the law (and most judges) are hoping for. But at least the lawyers must make an attempt at reaching resolution. And it never hurts to try because sometimes it actually works. That’s right, lawyers can agree on things sometimes…sometimes. Don’t get excited, it’s still rare.