The Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Civil Rules is poised to decide whether to recommend a set of proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that would reduce critical discovery tools like depositions and interrogatories, constrict the scope of discoverable evidence by inserting a proportionality balancing test unfairly weighted against low damages claims, and restrict a court’s ability to impose sanctions and remedies when a party destroys evidence it was under an obligation to preserve. These measures will unquestionably make it more difficult to prove civil rights violations.
Relman, Dane & Colfax submitted comments last month detailing our grave concerns about these amendments, grounded in the extensive civil rights litigation the firm has undertaken since its founding in 1999. The comments explain that in civil rights cases the need for discovery is often lopsided, as defendants most often control access to the witnesses and documentary evidence at the core of the dispute. We argue that the tradition of liberal discovery—which would be undermined by the proposed amendments—is crucial to enforcing our nation’s civil rights laws and safeguarding the bedrock principle of equality before the law.
These comments follow testimony by John Relman and Jennifer Klar (on behalf of the Metropolitan Washington Employment Lawyers’ Association) on the proposed amendments before the Judicial Conference Advisory Committee on Civil Rules last November.
Additionally, Jennifer Klar submitted written testimony to the Senate Subcommittee on Bankruptcy and the Courts focusing on the harm that the proposed amendments to Rule 37(e) would inflict on the search for truth in civil rights cases.
Our current Civil Rights Fellow, Anne Bellows, assisted with the firm’s testimony and comments.