U.S. Judicial Conference Approves Key Discovery Reform Rules
In a major milestone on the road to rule reform, the United States Judicial Conference approved by unanimous vote the proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure addressing discovery proportionality. The key amendments include a revision to Rule 26(b)(1) and Rule 37(e). If the Supreme Court approves the amendments, Congress will vote on them in April 2015. Unless both houses of Congress vote to reject or modify the amendments, the amendments will become effective December 1, 2015.
The amendment to Rule 26(b)(1) will make the scope of discovery more proportional, which means discovery must be conducted in proportion to the needs of the case. It requires the parties and the court to consider the amount in controversy, the importance of the issues at stake, the parties' resources, the importance of discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit. Rule 26(b)(1) will no longer allow discovery regarding "any matter relevant to the subject matter involved in the action." Discovery will be limited to the parties' claims or defenses. The goal of the amended rule is to make discovery more focused and affordable for parties on both sides.
The new Rule 37(e) will govern electronically stored information ("ESI") preservation and sanctions for eDiscovery violations. Preservation guidelines will be increasingly straightforward and standardized. In addition, the amendment will create more uniform standards for imposition of sanctions as a result of ESI destruction.