In the harsh realm of the law, discovery tools, not
dogs, are your best friends. As your best friend, you
should know everything there is to know about discovery.
Wouldn't it be nice to know every single
discovery rule, and procedure, and the legislative
intent, the case law and the history of each discovery
rule? Well, this article doesn't cover these issues.
Instead, it takes a clear-cut look at the most useful
discovery tools available to obtain the most essential
information in your case.
The following discovery outline will serve as a helpful
reference to assist you in your never-ending quest for
information. I have listed your discovery tools in the
procedural order which may be most helpful, along with
some helpful hints and strategies to best utilize your
Your discovery toolbox should include the following
- Illinois Supreme Court Rule 214 Notice to
Produce: Make sure you serve this document
request at the initial stage of your case. Your
opponent has 28 days in which to respond or object.
They must also supplement all prior discovery. You
may need to petition the Court to insure that full
and complete document production is provided.
A. Illinois Supreme
Court Rule 201(k): Before Petitioning the Court to
enforce your prior discovery request, you must
follow Supreme Court Rule 201(k) and make an attempt
to work out discovery issues outside the court room.
Therefore, on the 29th day after you have served
your discovery request, write a brief letter to the
opposing attorney, reminding them that their
discovery is due, that you require full compliance
and that you are willing to meet for a discovery
conference or to discuss any questions or issues
they may have regarding your discovery request. Give
them 7-10 days to respond to your letter and make
another request by phone to them in that time. If
they still fail to respond, take the next step.
B. Motion to Compel Discovery Production: File a
Motion to Compel Discovery Production if they fail
to respond to your 201(k) letter. It is essential
that you have an order entered at your hearing
setting forth a specific compliance deadline date.
If they fail to provide the documents, take the next
C. Illinois Supreme Court Rule 219(c): File a Motion
for Sanctions if they fail to comply with the
previous court order(s) compelling discovery
compliance. Rule 219(c) allows sanctions ranging
from monetary sanctions such as attorneys fees, to
barring witness testimony or barring evidence from
being introduced at trial. You must make sure that
if you are requesting extreme relief, the relief is
justified by the actions of
- Illinois Supreme Court Rule 213
These are written questions which must be responded
or objected to within 28 days. These provide an
excellent resource to obtain specific information
about all aspects of your case. The only negative
aspect of interrogatories is that you cannot ask
follow-up questions to the written answers until a
deposition or hearing. If you are served with
interrogatories, remember that you may produce
documents or refer to previously produced documents
in response to any of the interrogatories. See Rule
213(e). You also have a duty to supplement all
information originally provided in your Answers to
Interrogatories. See Rule 213(i).
A. Custom-made Interrogatories: Must be less than
30, including sub-parts, unless approved by the
court for good cause shown.
B. Standard Interrogatories: Illinois Supreme Court
Rule 213(j) provides standard forms of
interrogatories for difference classes of cases
(Medical Malpractice, Motor Vehicle, Personal Injury
Enforcement Hints: Same as 214 Notice to
- Illinois Supreme Court Rule 216 Requests to
Admit Facts or the Genuineness of Documents:
This discovery tool is most useful for saving trial
time and eliminating the necessity to call certain
witnesses to authenticate documents or testify as to
the truth/credibility of certain facts.
Once a Request for Admission
of Fact or for Genuineness of Documents is served on
the other party, they have 28 days to deny or object
to the genuineness of that document or fact. If they
fail to deny or object, then that fact or document
is deemed to be admitted.
- Illinois Supreme Court Rule 204(a)(4) Record
One of the most cost-efficient and comprehensive
discovery tools available; but, what do you subpoena
when a party has failed to respond to Rule 213 and
214 discovery requests?
A. Subpoena credit cards, bank account and financial
institutions where the party has accounts. You can
usually obtain this information from your client.
B. Subpoena employment records for income
information. There are often summaries of assets and
income history prepared by the party when first
applying for his job. This information can lead you
to other entities to subpoena.
C. Review tax returns- specifically Schedule B for
dividends and interest income. Subpoena the
brokerage houses and banking institutions listed.
For banks, besides bank accounts and monthly
statements, ask for all loan documents. If you
receive credit applications, you can subpoena other
lending institutions, other banks and additional
entities from the credit applications you receive.
- In divorce cases: If finances are not a problem,
start sending record subpoenas out immediately. If
your client does not have access to significant
income or assets, send subpoenas out the moment the
28 days expire for your Rule 214 request. This way,
you will have a better chance of collecting payment
for these discovery expenses, since that party
failed to comply with your Rule 214 request.
- Banks: Always ask for records pertaining to any
safe deposit boxes. You can obtain the log records
and determine when and how often a party has visited
their box. You can also determine whether you need
to petition the court to freeze access to a safe
deposit box, based on the amount of activity and who
has control over the safe deposit box.
- Credit cards: Always ask for the credit
application and proof of all payments made. You can
obtain additional information from the credit
applications. The copies of checks used to pay the
monthly bills will lead you to the party's banking
- To obtain your records as quickly as possible,
call the entity you are subpoenaing before issuing
the subpoena to confirm the exact location to send
the subpoena. Be sure to obtain a phone number so
you can call back to get status reports on the
- Keep a chart of all entities you subpoena to save time in the future.
Keep track of addresses, phone numbers, and contact
- Illinois Supreme Court Rule 237(b):
Requires a party to appear at a hearing or trial
and to bring documents to said hearing or trial.
This tool should be used when the client has failed
to produce certain documents which are essential to
the pending pleadings set for hearing.
- This discovery tool cannot be used in place of Illinois Supreme Court Rule 214. This means that you must have a 214 Notice to Produce in place prior to filing the Rule 237 document request. Many attorneys try to get around this by filing a Rule 214 document request at the same time, or just a few days prior to a Rule 237(b) document request. This may be open to a Motion to Strike since, under Rule 214, you are provided 28 days to respond. Unless the hearing or trial is 28 days away from the time you serve the Rule 214 request, you may not be able to obtain your documents by Rule 237.
- Be sure to serve this request at least five to seven days prior to the hearing to allow the other party an opportunity to locate and produce the documents at the hearing. If you wait until two or three days prior, the other party may complain that there was insufficient notice. However, you can then pursue the counter-argument that they have had notice of the requested documents from the time you first filed your 214 Notice to Produce.
- Illinois Supreme Court Rule 206 Discovery
Probably the most popular and extensive discovery
- I recommend taking a deposition only after you have reviewed discovery
obtained by the aforementioned discovery tools, so
you are fully informed as to the central issues in
- Send Notice to the other attorney concerning
the time and place of the deposition and the name
and address of the deponent. See Rule 206(a).
- The deposition is limited to three (3) hours
in duration unless stipulated by the parties or
extended by order of the court upon a showing of
good cause. See Rule 206(d).
- Attach a rider to the subpoena or the Notice for Deposition which
requests any and all documents you need from the deponent. See Rule 204(a).
These are the most helpful tools to have in your
tool-box of discovery. As with all tools, the more
practice you have, the more proficient you become. Learn
to use your tools of discovery and you will have nothing
to fear when you are faced with an attorney on the other
side who refuses to comply with your Rule 213 or 214