What is the discovery process?

Discovery usually consists of serving requests for production of documents (to obtain papers and other forms of evidence); serving written lists of questions that must be answered under oath (interrogatories); and examining witnesses under oath, before a notary public (depositions.) It is the lawyers who perform the discovery, not the court, and attorneys for the parties have the right to engage in reasonable discovery as they deem appropriate. While the court will settle disputes between the lawyers involving discovery, and while the court may stop unreasonable discovery, most courts allow tremendous latitude to counsel in conducting discovery and the process normally takes months, and quite often, takes years. Arizona state court depositions are limited to four hours. Federal court depositions have no presumptive time limit. Since the answers given by the party or witness may be used at trial to convince a judge or jury, and since alteration of testimony at trial from that of the deposition can result in total destruction of the witnesses' credibility, discovery effectively determines the winner or loser in the bulk of civil cases. Well over ninety percent of all cases settle before trial. However few cases settle before discovery is completed.