Drafting Interrogatories

The following is a blog post from the CEB (Continuing Education of the Bar) on the subject of how to draft interrogatories:

7 Rules for Drafting Interrogatories


It is always good to be reminded of the basics.

Published in: on October 14, 2013 at 8:47 am  Leave a Comment  
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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 – 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 – Special Interrogatories

While not quite as cost-effective as Form Interrogatories, Special Interrogatories  are another very effective and inexpensive discovery device which can be quite effective.

Special Interrogatories are drafted by the attorney or party.  These are questions that must be relevant to the subject matter and must not seek privilege information.

Special interrogatories are subject to a 35-question limit.  Questions must not have sub-parts and must be totally self-contained and not refer to any earlier question.

Special Interrogatories:

  • are served on a party
  • are subject to a 35-question limit unless accompanied by a declaration regarding the necessity of additional questions over the 35 allowable
  • require 30 days be allowed for response
  • are cost-effective requiring only staff or attorney time to draft and postage

Additional rules and requirements 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.

Great info on Discovery

Here’s a link to some great information about discovery in California:

Discovery by the Numbers

Paralegal Essentials – Discovery (Disadvantages)

While discovery has many advantages in the litigation process, it is not without its drawbacks.  First of all, many of the discovery devices result in considerable cost for the client.  For example, a 3-hour deposition may cost well over $1,000 when you consider the cost of the transcript and the attorney’s time.  In addition, a subpoena for documents could be several hundred dollars for just a couple of years of bank statements when you factor in research time, copies and other fees charged by financial institutions.  In my experience practicing law, often clients don’t want to spend the money to do the discovery beyond the basic devices like interrogatories and demands for production.  It is just too costly.

Another disadvantage of discovery is the lack of court oversight.  Without the court’s involvement, some lawyers and their clients will abuse or try to over-reach the bounds of discovery.  Sometimes they will use discovery to harass, oppress or annoy the other side because they can.   Only by filing a motion can a party protect against abuse and over-reaching.  Motions are expensive and the outcome cannot be guaranteed.

Discovery can educate the others.  In fact, that is one of the goals.  Discovery is designed to make the playing field level, taking away any advantage of surprise at time of trial.  It is a double-edged sword to be sure.

Finally, discovery can alienate the parties even more than they already are.  This can result in slowing efforts to settle the litigation.

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