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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. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  2. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  3. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  4. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

  5. "No one is safe when the Legislature is in session."

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