What does "Meet and Confer" really mean?
When dealing with formal discovery disputes, litigants and attorneys generally need to engage in a "meet and confer." Unfortunately, what constitutes a "meet and confer" is not specifically outlined in the California Civil Discovery Act. Thus, we must turn to other resources, like case law.
"Meet and Confer" really means "Meet and Confer"Conducting discovery in a Family Law matter can be a daunting task. This becomes even more difficult when you deal with an opposing side that engages in gamesmanship. When gamesmanship is rampant, we quite often consider the filing of a motion to compel. However, pursuant to the Civil Discovery Act, prior to the filing of a motion, one must first engage in a meaingful "meet and confer" attempt. This is not merely a suggestion but rather a statutory requirement. However, what consitutes an actual "meet and confer" is not specifically defined in the Civil Discovery Act. Thus, we look to case law. In the 2013 case of Ellis v. Toshiba America 218 Cal.App.4th 853 our appellate court addressed discovery compliance. Specifically, it addressed what "meet and confer" really means. In that case, the Court reiterated and underlined what an earlier California appellate case had said about the meaning of "meet and confer" within the content of the California discovery act of 1988. Pursuant to said case, a meet and confer requires counsel attempt to talk the matter over, compare their views, consult and deliberate. Given this ruling, it is obvious that the run-of- the-mill warning letter demanding responses in a week will not suffice. You need to "meet and confer." Thus, it is recommended that prior to the filing of a motion, one seek to actually meet in person or engage in phone conference regarding the alleged discovery dispute. During said meeting (or phone conference), one should be ready and able to go through each discovery demand, each alleged deficiency and each demand for further responses. During this exercise, most people will either realize that the demand is unnecessary or that their lack of compliance needs to be rectified. Assuming, however, that the gamesmanships continue, you now have a green light to seek judicial intervention, and most likely the payment of your fees for having to seek judicial intervention.
Judges Don't Like Discovery Disputes!Do everything you can to avoid a court appearance for a discovery dispute. Even if you have a pro per litigant on the other side, I still believe it is your duty as an attorney or self represented litigant to do your best to resolve the matter informally. I for example offer to meet at the Courthouse, where the case is filed. I also make my office available for a sit down. Put the burden of rejecting this offer on the other side. Trust me, when it comes to the payment of fees, you will be golden. In addition, in cases with financial resources, one should be open to the idea of stipulating to the hiring of a discovery referee. If the parties can afford it, the use of a discovery referee can help cut down tremendously on Court time and the expenditure of fees. The usual suspects for these sorts of appointments are retired judges or experienced Family Law practitioners.