Personal Jurisdiction

One of the preliminary considerations before filing a lawsuit is whether or not the court in which you intend to file the lawsuit has personal jurisdiction, that is jurisdiction over the defendant.  As the plaintiff, it is important that the court’s judgment be binding on the defendant under the United States Constitution, which requires that one state recognize and enforce the judgment of another state if the originating court had personal jurisdiction over the defendant.

Personal jurisdiction of the plaintiff is not really an issue. By filing an action in the state, the plaintiff consents to personal jurisdiction by the state.

The problem arises primarily with the defendant. Personal jurisdiction over a defendant exists if the defendant is domiciled in the state with an intent to remain in the state indefinitely. This would be evidenced by having obtained a driver’s license or voter’s registration in the state.

The bigger problem is when one has an out-of-state defendant. In the situation of the out-of-state defendant, the plaintiff must show that the defendant had sufficient “minimum contacts” with the state that the defendant could reasonably foresee being sued or called into court in the state.

The issue of what constitutes “minimum contacts” is a United States Constitutional issue.

Discovery – Depositions (The Paralegal’s Part)

Depositions, as we discussed in the last post, can be taken of parties or non-parties.  Any of the parties may attend the deposition of any witness whether or not they asked for the deposition.  Typically, the one who noticed the deposition pays for it and has first “shot” at the witness although all the lawyers and parties in pro per have a chance to ask questions since a witness many only be deposed once under most circumstances.

The paralegal may be involved in all or some of these aspects of the preparation for the deposition:

  • Send notices
  • Serve Subpoenas on non-party witness
  • Prepare Notice to Produce Documents
  • Arrange location
  • Schedule Court Reporter
  • Prepare an outline of topics/questions for the deposition
  • Copy and organize exhibits to be referred to
  • Prepare client for Deposition
  • Take notes at the deposition
  • Summarize Deposition Transcript

One thing the paralegal in California cannot ethically do is take the deposition.

Discovery – Depositions (Part 1)

Depositions are not the least expensive discovery device, but they can yield very valuable information that paper discovery cannot.

  • For example, they allow the attorneys get a feel for the witness and how effective he or she is under the pressure of questioning.  The deposition is more informal than the trial, but the witness is still under oath.  At the deposition, both sides are able to:
  • to see the witness
  • hear the witness
  • test the witness’ ability to testify under pressure
  • find out how the witness intends to answer contentions made in the lawsuit

For the litigator, the deposition may be the first time to size up the witness for credibility and competency.  If the witness is weak or lacking in credibility or competency, it will affect settlement of the case.  If the witness is strong, competent and believable, it will also affect settlement.  These factors help the attorneys involved to set a value on the case.

The statutes governing depositions are found in the California Code of Civil Procedure.

Paralegal Essentials – Contention Interrogatories

There is a sub-set of Special Interrogatories known as Contention Interrogatories.  Proper drafting this type of interrogatory is very important for discovery.  It is part art and part science.  The following is a good article which gives some valuable information and samples of this type of interrogatory.  The one drawback is that it is written for plaintiff’s counsel.   As with all information, you must filter and apply it to the type of work you are doing at the time.  Not everything will be applicable or helpful.

Everything the Plaintiff’s Lawyer Needs to Know About Contention Interrogatories

Discovery: Objections

Here’s a good discussion of some of the more common discovery objections by CEB.

Shoot Back with 10 Discovery Objections

Discovery – Declaration for Additional Discovery

When you have more Special Interrogatories than the allowable 35, you must send a Declaration for Additional Discovery along with the Special Interrogatories when you serve them.  Sample language for this declaration is found in the California Code of Civil Procedure section 2030.050:

DECLARATION FOR ADDITIONAL DISCOVERY

I, __________, declare:
1. I am (a party to this action or proceeding appearing in propria
persona) (presently the attorney for __________, a party to this
action or proceeding).
2. I am propounding to __________ the attached set of
interrogatories.
3. This set of interrogatories will cause the total number of
specially prepared interrogatories propounded to the party to whom
they are directed to exceed the number of specially prepared
interrogatories permitted by Section 2030.030 of the Code of Civil
Procedure.
4. I have previously propounded a total of __________
interrogatories to this party, of which __________ interrogatories
were not official form interrogatories.
5. This set of interrogatories contains a total of __________
specially prepared interrogatories.
6. I am familiar with the issues and the previous discovery
conducted by all of the parties in the case.
7. I have personally examined each of the questions in this set of
interrogatories.
8. This number of questions is warranted under Section 2030.040 of
the Code of Civil Procedure because __________. (Here state each
factor described in Section 2030.040 that is relied on, as well as
the reasons why any factor relied on is applicable to the instant
lawsuit.)
9. None of the questions in this set of interrogatories is being
propounded for any improper purpose, such as to harass the party, or
the attorney for the party, to whom it is directed, or to cause
unnecessary delay or needless increase in the cost of litigation.
I declare under penalty of perjury under the laws of California
that the foregoing is true and correct, and that this declaration was
executed on __________.

_____________
(Signature)
Attorney for_____________________________________

Discovery – Supplemental Interrogatories

We have talked about Form Interrogatories and Special Interrogatories, but what about Supplemental Interrogatories?

Supplemental responses to interrogatories may be requested during litigation after the responses have been served.  If considerable time and/or additional discovery has occurred, a party may ask another party to supplement their original responses with any additional information and/or responses.  This type of request is referred to as “Supplemental Interrogatories.”  This is not a separate category of interrogatory, but rather a request for supplemental or up-dated responses to the interrogatories (whether form or special) already served and responded to earlier in the discovery process.

California Code of Civil Procedure section 2030.070. (a) provides:  ” In addition to the number of interrogatories permitted by Sections 2030.030 and 2030.040, a party may propound a supplemental interrogatory to elicit any later acquired information bearing on all answers previously made by any party in response to interrogatories.”

Sub-section (b) goes on to provide: “A party may propound a supplemental interrogatory twice before the initial setting of a trial date, and, subject to the time limits on discovery proceedings and motions provided in Chapter 8
(commencing with Section 2024.010), once after the initial setting of a trial date.”

More information regarding Supplemental Interrogatories can be found in the California Code of Civil Procedure.

Discovery – Form Interrogatories

One of the easiest and cheapest discovery devices in California is the set of form interrogatories.  Interrogatories are written questions that are propounded (asked) of the other party in a civil matter.

Form Interrogatories are questions that have been approved by the California Judicial Council as appropriate and non-objectionable in civil matters.  The subject matter of the form interrogatories is relevant and not intended to seek privileged information.

The California Judicial Council has authorized form interrogatories in the following subject matter areas:  General Civil, Family Law, Unlawful Detainer, and Limited Jurisdiction.  If you are doing litigation in one of these areas, the form interrogatories are a good starting point.  The Form Interrogatories are available on the California Courts website (http://www.courts.ca.gov/.

Form interrogatories:

  • are served on a party
  • not subject to objection (most of the time)
  • require 30 days be allowed for the response (additional time if mailed)
  • are cost-effective requiring only staff time to draft (mostly checking boxes) and postage


Additional information and rules relevant to Form Interrogatories can be found in the California Code of Civil Procedure.


Discovery – The Devices

In a civil litigation firm, the paralegal will be engaged much of the time in discovery, propounding it and responding to it.  The paralegal in training needs to learn all that he or she can about discovery and the various types of discovery devices.

In becoming familiar with discovery, it is important to know the parameters and requirements of the different discovery devices.  To begin with, you should focus on learning the following information about each device:

  • Name
  • On whom can it be served? (party or non-party)
  • What are the time limitations?
  • Are there other limitations?
  • What are the costs associated with this device?

This information is most easily found in an attorney practice guide or in the California Code of Civil Procedure sections 2016 et. seq.

The following are some of the more commonly used devices with which the California paralegal should definitely be familiar:

Interrogatories (Form and Special)

Demand for Inspection (or Production) of Documents

Deposition

Request for Admissions

Subpoena for Business Records

Request for Physical or Mental Exam

Request for Exchange of Expert Witnesses

Look for future posts on each of the devices.

Litigation – What’s involved?

Litigation (resolution of disputes through the legal system)

Pleadings

Discovery

  • Scope (any matter, not privilegedrelevant to the subject matter, admissible as evidence or reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence)
  • Interrogatories (Form and Special)
  • Demand for Production of Documents
  • Request for Admissions
  • Mental/Physical Exam
  • Request for Statement of Damages
  • subpoena

Motions

  • Summary Judgment
  • Discovery (Motion to Compel/Motion for Protective Order)

Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR)

  • Arbitration
  • Mediation

Pre-Trial

  • Motions in limine
  • Final Status Conference
  • Jury Selection (voir dire)

Trial

  • Opening Statements
  • Direct Examination
  • Cross-Examination
  • Re-Direct
  • Closing Argument
  • Jury Instructions

Post-Trial

  • JNOV
  • Motion for New Trial
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