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Federal Bar Update: Pilot program for discovery in employment cases

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FedBarMaley-sigIn the Southern District of Indiana, if you are litigating an adverse-action employment case you might be part of a pilot program that aims to streamline and tailor discovery and scheduling. You will know this upon receipt of an early order in the case indicating that your case is in the pilot program. The nine-page order then sets forth detailed instructions, definitions, instructions and deadlines.

The pilot program is an initiative of the Advisory Committee on the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and is being utilized in various courts across the country. (The Northern District of Ohio, for instance, is participating.) Highlights of the pilot program order include the following:

First, the order sets forth Initial Discovery Protocols that supersede Rule 26(a)(1) disclosures. Second, the order sets the relevant time period for discovery as beginning three years before the date of the adverse action unless otherwise specified. Third, the order provides that electronically stored information shall be produced in searchable .pdf format with native format versions of ESI to be preserved for possible production for good cause shown. Fourth, the unintentional production of a privileged or work-product document does not constitute waiver.

Fifth, the order has an expedited schedule, starting with plaintiff providing its initial mandatory discovery production due within 30 days of the answer or responsive motion. Plaintiff must produce a listing of 10 items, ranging from claims, charges and unemployment documents to mitigation-related documents and documents concerning the termination of any subsequent employment. Plaintiffs must also list witnesses, categories of damages and whether any disability benefits have been applied for.

Defendants, meanwhile, must also produce documents and information 30 days after the answer or motion to dismiss. Required information is set forth in a 14-point list and includes the plaintiff’s personnel file, policies in effect relevant to the adverse action, relevant job descriptions, compensation and benefit documents, non-privileged investigative documents, and a listing of plaintiff’s supervisors and managers, and decision-makers.

Next, the order has a self-contained “Interim Protective Order” that provides for confidentiality designations and protections and fairly standard procedures. It does not address attorney’s-eyes-only requests and designations, but does state that parties may apply for any further protective order or modification.

Supreme Court decision on class actions

In Standard Fire Ins. Co. v. Knowles, the Supreme Court of the United States recently ruled that class-action plaintiffs cannot evade removal to federal court by stipulating, pre-certification, that they seek damages less than the jurisdictional threshold required for removal. Knowles stipulated in his complaint that “Plaintiff and the Class . . . will seek to recover total aggregate damages of less than five million dollars.” By so stipulating, Knowles sought to evade the jurisdictional minimum of $5 million set forth in the Class Action Fairness Act of 2005.

He was initially successful, as after removal the court remanded the case because of the stipulation and in spite of its finding that the amount in controversy would have exceeded the jurisdictional minimum otherwise. In its unanimous decision, the Supreme Court found that Knowles’ stipulation was not binding on the class he purported to represent, as he could not legally bind members of a proposed class prior to that class being certified. Although the court agreed that an individual could limit the amount in controversy as to himself, that plaintiff could not “resolve the amount-in controversy question [by stipulation] in light of his inability to bind the rest of the class.”

7th Circuit Conference

The 7th Circuit Conference is in Indianapolis this year, from May 5-7. Excellent CLE programs and dinner programs are featured. Register online at 7thcircuitbar.org.•

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John Maley – jmaley@btlaw.com – is a partner with Barnes & Thornburg, LLP, practicing federal and state litigation, employment matters, and appeals. The opinions expressed are those of the author.

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  1. I like the concept. Seems like a good idea and really inexpensive to manage.

  2. I don't agree that this is an extreme case. There are more of these people than you realize - people that are vindictive and/or with psychological issues have clogged the system with baseless suits that are costly to the defendant and to taxpayers. Restricting repeat offenders from further abusing the system is not akin to restricting their freedon, but to protecting their victims, and the court system, from allowing them unfettered access. From the Supreme Court opinion "he has burdened the opposing party and the courts of this state at every level with massive, confusing, disorganized, defective, repetitive, and often meritless filings."

  3. So, if you cry wolf one too many times courts may "restrict" your ability to pursue legal action? Also, why is document production equated with wealth? Anyone can "produce probably tens of thousands of pages of filings" if they have a public library card. I understand this is an extreme case, but our Supreme Court really got this one wrong.

  4. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

  5. JOE CLAYPOOL candidate for Superior Court in Harrison County - Indiana This candidate is misleading voters to think he is a Judge by putting Elect Judge Joe Claypool on his campaign literature. paragraphs 2 and 9 below clearly indicate this injustice to voting public to gain employment. What can we do? Indiana Code - Section 35-43-5-3: Deception (a) A person who: (1) being an officer, manager, or other person participating in the direction of a credit institution, knowingly or intentionally receives or permits the receipt of a deposit or other investment, knowing that the institution is insolvent; (2) knowingly or intentionally makes a false or misleading written statement with intent to obtain property, employment, or an educational opportunity; (3) misapplies entrusted property, property of a governmental entity, or property of a credit institution in a manner that the person knows is unlawful or that the person knows involves substantial risk of loss or detriment to either the owner of the property or to a person for whose benefit the property was entrusted; (4) knowingly or intentionally, in the regular course of business, either: (A) uses or possesses for use a false weight or measure or other device for falsely determining or recording the quality or quantity of any commodity; or (B) sells, offers, or displays for sale or delivers less than the represented quality or quantity of any commodity; (5) with intent to defraud another person furnishing electricity, gas, water, telecommunication, or any other utility service, avoids a lawful charge for that service by scheme or device or by tampering with facilities or equipment of the person furnishing the service; (6) with intent to defraud, misrepresents the identity of the person or another person or the identity or quality of property; (7) with intent to defraud an owner of a coin machine, deposits a slug in that machine; (8) with intent to enable the person or another person to deposit a slug in a coin machine, makes, possesses, or disposes of a slug; (9) disseminates to the public an advertisement that the person knows is false, misleading, or deceptive, with intent to promote the purchase or sale of property or the acceptance of employment;

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