1. What is the time limit for responding to a Demand for Production of Documents?
You must respond to a demand for production of documents within 30 days of service. That time is extended if the document was sent through the mail, overnight delivery, or fax. (C.C.P. 2031.260.) Check the date next to the signature on the last page of the document. That usually will give you the date it was served. Sometimes there is a proof of service attached that is different from the date and signature on the last page. If a proof of service is attached (and it should be), check the date on that document to find out when the clock started to run.
The response is not filed with the court. (C.C.P.2031.290.)
2. What are the ways to respond to a Demand for Production of Documents?
You can respond in writing and produce all of the documents the other party asked for, you can produce some of the documents and object to others, or you can write a motion for a protective order.
You are only required to produce the documents “as they are kept in the usual course of business, or be organized and labeled to correspond with the categories in the demand.” C.C.P. 2031.280.
HINT: Even if you keep your documents thrown into a shoe box, it is not the other side’s job to dig through and organize your mess. If your docs are a mess, organize and label them so the other side knows what request you are responding to.
HINT: Do not think that if you roll up to their office with a shipping container of documents that you are actually responding. You need to identify what documents respond to which request. That kind of “have at it” attitude may land you with sanctions. So BEWARE!
The response can contain the following three options: a statement of compliance, a statement of inability to comply and the reason for the inability to comply, or a statement of objection. (C.C.P 2031.030, 2031.210, 2031.220.)
I am not going to list all of the possible objections available to you because too often people abuse objections to get out of complying. There is a liberal policy favoring discovery so if you are self-represented and do not actually understand an objection, please do not copy and paste objections from the internet so you can avoid responding to valid requests.
HOWEVER, if you honestly believe the documents requested are confidential or somehow private I would suggest contacting an attorney or going to your local law library so that you can fully understand any objections or privilege claims you intend to make.
4. What are the consequences if you do not respond to a demand for production of documents?
You waive all objections. You risk a motion to compel. You risk sanctions. If you need additional time to respond, call the other side and request and extension or put a request for an extension in writing. Do not abuse the extensions you are given, but make every attempt to respond! Eventually the other side may tire of giving you extra time without seeing results. (C.C.P. 2031.300.)
CHECKLIST FOR FORMATTING RESPONSES TO DEMAND FOR PRODUCTION OF DOCUMENTS
If you have no basis to move for a protective order and no grounds for objection, then follow the checklist below for preparing your response:
Step One: Respond in writing. Whether you intend to respond with a statement of compliance, partial compliance, objections, and/or direct them to a third-party who has the item they are requesting. If something does not exist, say so. If it never existed, say so.
Step Two: Identify who the responding party is.
Step Three: Identify who the propounding party is. (Propounding means the party that sent you the demands).
Step Four: Identify which set number of demand for production you are responding.
Step Five: Respond to each demand separately. Identify using the same number or letter of the demand you are responding. The text of the demand does not need to be repeated; however, I feel that it is courteous to do so.
Step Six: Verify your answer. (Sign it and attest that the foregoing is true and correct.)
Step Seven: Prepare a proof of service and either mail or personally deliver your responses. Make sure that they will still arrive on time if you send them in the mail. Keep a copy for yourself!
This checklist is based upon the California Code of Civil Procedure Sections 2031.210-2031.320. For information on preparing demand for production of documents, please see my earlier blog post here.
by Attorney Judith Elaine Hoover on 03/02/13
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