What Is A Federal Discovery Process?

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A Federal Discovery Process is one of the steps in the preparation of a trial in many cases.  In a Civil Federal Case, the goal of the discovery process is for litigants to prepare legitimate evidence to support their claim.  A Criminal Federal Case differs in the Discovery Process to some degree. In a Civil Federal Case, the discovery process is generally a process of revelation to uncover the facts surrounding the case, including, but not necessarily limited to:

  • Documents relating to the case, such as, copies of print documents, photos, and email communication.
  • Disclosure of witness identity.
  • Deposition whereby the lawyers question witnesses in the presence of a court reporter to obtain a word for word accounting under oath of the question and answer session.
  • Transcript is the court reporter accounting of witness testimony gathered during a deposition.
  • Motions may be filed in which the litigants may seek out court ruling on evidence that has been discovered, such as documentation or deposition, as well as, procedures to be followed at trial.

Deposition Preparation

Since the purpose of a deposition is for a lawyer to discover information that would support their claim, opposing attorneys will focus questioning about your background, education, employment history and medical history in an attempt to support their claim or establish inconsistencies in your testimony. Opposing attorneys will want to target any inconsistencies in the information you present to compromise your credibility under oath during the deposition or following completion of discovery during a trial.

Your attorney will work with you to help you be more effective during communication in a deposition. Clearly, a deposition usually involves a difficult subject matter. Thus, the more you can do to be responsive honestly, clearly and concisely, the less complex the case may be.

  • If you do not remember the correct answer, it is wise to indicate you “do not remember at this time” when compared to making a guess or presenting an unclear answer.
  • Yes or No answers are highly desirable unless an explanation is required to help support your claim.
  • Generally, it is wise to assume that the opposing attorney will attempt to seek out information to discredit you during your deposition and for presentation at a trial through questioning.  Keep in mind the Judge will decide what evidence can be presented in Court.

Your attorney may also object to an opposing attorney’s question if it is unreasonable, such as, out of the scope of the witness’ understanding, unfair or irrelevant. In the end, the deposition is designed to accomplish the following:

  • Uncover the facts of the case;
  • Help identify a possible means to discredit a witness and claim;
  • Help determine whether the defendant is responsible for harming the plaintiff;
  • Help identify the amount of damages the defendant may be exposed to.

The Supreme Court has long advocated that it is in the best interest of all parties to contain costs to the extent reasonably possible. The Supreme Court also serves to set the bar for helping to ensure that truth and justice work hand in hand to resolve issues outside of the court when possible.   Fundamental fairness is essential in all aspects of The Supreme Court. In this vein, the judge may advocate that litigants resolve their disputes through another means, known as Alternative Dispute Resolution, Mediation, Arbitration or Settlement Conference.  These alternative forms offer a way to resolve issues more swiftly, as well as, contain costs for litigants and the Court system.

The Criminal Federal Discovery Process

In a Criminal Federal Discovery Process, the defendant is promptly interviewed to gather the facts and uncover the defendant’s background. This information is designed to help a judge qualify the defendant for release into the community before trial; and/or conditions of the release; or the need for the defendant to go directly to jail. The interview is conducted by a probation officer of the court or pretrial services officer. It is important to bear in mind that the burden of proof in a Federal Criminal Case is the government’s responsibility.

The U.S. attorney is usually the assigned Prosecutor. It is The U.S. Attorney that reviews and prepares the evidence collected in most criminal cases.  Then, The U.S. Attorney presents the information to the grand jury for its determination to justify if sufficient evidence has been gathered “beyond reasonable doubt” to demand that a defendant stand trial.  Defendants have a right to an attorney. Those who are unable to afford an attorney are informed of their right to a court-appointed attorney. In Criminal Federal Cases, this attorney may be a federal public defender or a private attorney who has agreed to accept the appointment from the court.

For the above mentioned reasons, it is vital for plaintiffs and witnesses to retain a highly experienced attorney in the field of Criminal Federal Law or Civil Federal Law.  Highly experienced federal attorneys have the hands on experience required to identify red flags when preparing you for a deposition or appearance in court, as well as, offer strategies and preparation to overcome red flags and prevent harm to you during a Civil Federal Trial or a Criminal Federal Trial.