When you represent yourself in court, discovery can be intimidating. Discovery lets both parties know about evidence that might be important in their case. This article discusses part of the “request” stage of discovery.
What is the "discovery period"?
The discovery period is the time before trial when the parties can find evidence for their case. You can request discovery from other parties only during the discovery period. The discovery period begins after the submission of initial disclosures.
Why should I request for inspection or entry?
Requests for inspection or entry let you examine physical evidence like documents, emails, and property from the other side. These requests must be specific and relevant to your case (Rule 196.1(b)).
Discovery requests must be specific. The request must identify the particular evidence you are looking for. The request must also state the time, place, and procedure of any examination.
Note: the party receiving the request will have 30 days to respond.
When may I serve a request for inspection or entry?
You may begin submitting discovery requests after initial disclosures are due. Texas Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 190.3(b)(1). Initial disclosures give parties the overview of the case and general case information. Read Required Initial Disclosures In Texas to ensure that you have met all the requirements before moving on to requests. For more information, review Rule 194 of the Texas Rules of Civil Procedure.
The timing of your requests depends on the level of discovery that applies to your case. Texas Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 190 identifies the three levels of discovery. In most cases, discovery level 2 (Rule 190.3) governs the timing of discovery.
After initial disclosures, you can serve requests for discovery until 30 days before the date set for trial, or the date set by the court.
Note: discovery requests usually must give the other party a chance to respond during the discovery period.
What if the other party will not provide me with the evidence I am looking for?
Parties must respond to all proper discovery requests. If the other party denies your request, they must explain why the request is either privileged or irrelevant.
If the opposing party denies or ignores your discovery request, then you may have to move for an order compelling discovery under Texas Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 215. This rule applies to evasive or incomplete responses as well as wrongful denials. An order compelling discovery requires the refusing party to disclose the evidence requested.
What is privilege?
Parties may receive discovery about any matter that is not privileged and is relevant to the subject matter of the case. Texas Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 192.3(a).
Privileges are the exception to the discovery rule. The Texas Rules of Evidence govern privilege. Privileges are not always absolute; an exception may apply to the privilege in your case. The privileges relevant to discovery include:
- Lawyer-client privilege: communications with your lawyer about case strategy.
- Spousal privilege: conversations between spouses if the conversation was held in confidence.
- Communications to clergy: confidential communications to clergy for spiritual advice.
- Political vote privilege: votes in a secret ballot unless the vote was cast illegally.
- Trade secrets privilege.
- Informer's identity privilege: the right to refuse disclosure of a potential informant.
- Physician-patient privilege: confidential communication between a patient and their physician as it relates to treatment, and confidential protection of records maintained by the physician.
- Mental health information privilege: confidential communications made to a mental health professional.
Note that these privileges are subject to exceptions (for example: physician-patient privilege does not apply when the communications are the subject of the dispute). Review Article V of the Texas Rules of Evidence for privileges and exceptions.
What is relevant evidence?
Relevant evidence is evidence that helps determine a fact that is central to the case. Relevant evidence should show that a fact in the case is more or less likely to be true.
What if the other party does not have the evidence I'm looking for?
The evidence sought in a discovery request must be in the opposing party's control. This means that if the party does not have access to the evidence, they have no duty to provide it.
This article offers information about the rules governing discovery in Texas.
This article explains the work that happens before a trial in a Texas civil case.
This article tells you what evidence is and provides information on the evidence rules that are followed in Texas courts.