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Trial lawyers propose changes to discovery rules

[JURIST] High litigation costs are impeding the advancement of justice in the United States, and significant changes should be made to federal discovery rules, according to a report [text, PDF; ACTL press release, PDF] issued Wednesday by a special task force composed of members of the American College of Trial Lawyers (ACTL) [advocacy website] and the University of Denver's Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System (IAALS) [academic website]. Responding to what it described as a popular perception that the US civil justice system is "broken" [AP report] and in need of repair, the Task Force Committee on Discovery Project said it intends the 29 principles proposed in its report to act as a guide and provide an eventual underpinning for an anticipated "transformation of civil procedure in federal and state systems throughout the United States." Among the topics covered by the principles are: the "one-size-fits-all" approach to lawsuits contained in the current Federal Rules of Civil Procedure [text]; a move from notice-based pleadings to fact-based pleadings; details and mechanics of pre-trial discovery, including electronic discovery; the role of expert witnesses; and dispositive pre-trial motions.

The committee was formed to examine federal and state rules of civil procedure pertaining to discovery in order to determine [committee membership page] if the current rules could be adjusted to provide a "fair and less expensive approach to information exchange in litigation[.]" The group is composed of a number of prominent litigation attorneys from across the country, and has characterized the current discovery rules as outdated and not flexible enough to adapt to the rapid technological advances in litigation and trial practice.

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