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Idea Time! The Newly Created Informal Discovery Conferences May Save You a Fortune in Your Next Lawsuit

We want to talk to you about a fantastic device that we’re starting to use in our cases called the Informal Discovery Conference. We call these IDCs for short. What is an Informal Discovery Conference? It’s an informal meeting with the judge to resolve a discovery dispute. Discovery disputes arise where a party either refuses to provide proper answers to discovery requests, or where the parties have a legitimate disagreement about what should be provided. Before IDCs, the only way to obtain a court ruling on a discovery dispute was to file a motion to compel. But motions are expensive, time-consuming, and waste court resources. It’s a tedious task.

 

An IDC, by contrast, is where the court sets up an informal discussion between the lawyers and the judge to see if we can come to a resolution of the impasse we’re having in the discovery fight. These are fantastic. We’ve been able to do a couple of these so far since the law became effective on January 1, 2018. You can find the rules for IDCs under California Code of Civil Procedure section 2016.080. There’s one judge in Los Angeles that’s made it a standing order in her courtroom that you cannot bring a motion to compel unless you’ve done an IDC first.

How the Informal Discovery Conference Works

So what happens at the IDC? Both lawyers show up, the judge is there. Some judges hold them in chambers, some judges hold them from the bench. We tell the judge why we’re entitled to the discovery we’ve asked for. The opposing counsel says why we’re not entitled to the discovery. And the judge, based on his or her experience of being a judge and their experience from when they were trial lawyers, they will give an opinion. It’s not an order, the discussion is informal and will not result in a forced decision. The judge will give their opinion. They’ll tell you their gut reaction to how they would rule on this dispute if you were to bring a motion to compel. Of course, if the judge says you’re not entitled to your requested discovery, you should move on. If the judge says you are entitled to your requested discovery, more than likely, the other side is going to agree to give you the discovery you’ve been asking for. If the parties cannot agree on a resolution, then a motion to compel must still be filed. In our brief experiences with IDCs, however, the parties tend to reach an agreement.

We are so hopeful, as trial litigators in California, that these IDCs become the norm. We look forward to meeting with the judge, have an informal discussion with that judge, and with the opposing counsel, because it speeds up resolution. There is a much higher chance that the parties can agree to a resolution with the judge present. And when that occurs, it obviates the need for a costly, time-consuming motion to compel. We will report back and let you know how we’re doing with IDCs.