The federal rules of civil procedure generously allow parties to seek relevant information in discovery that may be useful in the preparation and trial of a case. While the liberal scope of discovery permitted by the federal rules is helpful to parties in building a case for trial, it also creates the potential for abuse. As the U.S. Supreme Court has explained, “Rules designed to facilitate the expeditious resolution of civil litigation have too often proven to be tools of harassment and delay.” Because of this potential for abuse, federal rules empower courts to protect litigants from abusive discovery:
Liberal Discovery is provided for the sole purpose of assisting in the preparation and trial of, or resolution of, litigious disputes. Because of the bounty of pre-trial discovery permitted by Rule 26(b)(1), it is necessary for the trial court to have the power to issue orders of protection conferred by Rule 26(c). It is clear from experience that pre-trial discovery through depositions and interrogations has significant potential for abuse.
Originally published in The Foundation for Natural Resources and Energy Law in the Natural Resources and Energy Litigation Special Institute Handbook – 2022
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