Discovery Limitations in California

Learn the key restrictions on legal discovery in California with our concise guide on CCP-imposed limits. Learn how timing, scope, and protective orders shape the discovery process in California civil cases.

By Brad Nakase, Attorney

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The right to discovery, though extensive, has its bounds. Understanding these limitations is crucial; a California civil litigation attorney plays a crucial role in navigating the complexities of discovery limitations under California law, ensuring compliance with CCP regulations and effective case management.

A. Scope of Discovery

  1. CCP § 2017(a) Criteria: Discovery requires information to be non-privileged, relevant to the action’s subject matter, and either admissible or likely to lead to admissible evidence. This limit on the right to discovery ensures that the process remains focused and respects privileged information.
  2. Relevance and Admissibility: The limits right to discovery by ensuring that only pertinent and legally permissible information is sought.

B. Timing of Discovery

  1. Pending Action Requirement (CCP § 2017(a)): Discovery is contingent on an ongoing lawsuit. This limit on the right to discovery prevents premature information gathering.
  2. Special Procedures Before and After Trial: Court orders are necessary for discovery before a lawsuit or during an appeal, emphasizing the limits right to discovery by controlling its timing.
  3. Post-Judgment Discovery (CCP § 708.020): Specific statutes regulate discovery from judgment debtors, highlighting how the limits right to discovery extends beyond the trial.
  4. Initial “Discovery Hold” (CCP § 2025(b), § 2030(b), etc.): Plaintiffs face restrictions in initiating early discovery, illustrating how the limits right to discovery also applies in the early stages of litigation.
  5. Anti-SLAPP Motion Hold (CCP § 425.16(g)): Discovery is paused during anti-SLAPP motion considerations unless the court permits otherwise, indicating the limits right to discovery in specific legal contexts.
  6. Post-Arbitration Discovery (CCP § 2024(b)): Post-arbitration discovery is restricted, showing how the limits right to discovery applies in various procedural stages.
  7. Pre-Trial Cut-Off (CCP § 2024(a)): Court orders are required for last-minute discovery, emphasizing the limits right to discovery as trial approaches.
  8. Summary Judgment Considerations: Discovery timing is crucial for summary judgment motions, reflecting how strategic litigation decisions are influenced by the limits right to discovery.
  9. Informal Investigations Unaffected: Despite formal discovery limits, parties retain the right to conduct informal investigations.

C. Geographic Limits

  1. Deposition Distance Restrictions (CCP § 2025(e)): Witnesses cannot be compelled to travel excessively for depositions, showing geographical boundaries that limit the right to discovery.

D. Protective Orders

  1. Scope and Frequency Limitations (CCP §§ 2017(c), 2019(b)): Courts can limit discovery if it’s burdensome or irrelevant, demonstrating judicial discretion in enforcing the limits right to discovery.
  2. Procedure for Obtaining Orders: Courts provide a structured process to seek protective orders, balancing discovery needs with the limits right to discovery.

E. International Discovery

  1. International Comity (Societe Nationale Industrielle Aerospatiale v. United States Dist.Ct.): Special considerations are given to foreign nationals in discovery, respecting international relations and exemplifying the limits right to discovery on a global scale.
  2. Hague Evidence Convention: This offers an alternative discovery method in international cases, reflecting the nuanced limits right to discovery in different jurisdictions.

G. Limited Civil Cases

  1. Economic Litigation Rules: In limited civil cases, discovery is restricted, illustrating how case type can influence the limits right to discovery.

H. Small Claims and Appeals

  1. No Discovery Allowed (Ca Civ Pro §§ 116.310(b), 116.770(b)): Small claims and appeals from small claims judgments are exempt from discovery, showing categorical limits right to discovery.

I. Federal Law Prohibitions

  1. Preemption by Federal Law: When federal law expressly prohibits discovery, it overrides state rules, indicating how federal legislation can limit the right to discovery.
  2. Nonparty Federal Agencies and Employees: Sovereign immunity and federal regulations can prevent state court subpoenas against federal entities, further highlighting the limits right to discovery.

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