In this recently filed opinion, Hon. Royce Lamberth recounts a discovery violation of “exotic magnitude” by the District of Columbia. The District of Columbia neglected to produce thousands of responsive e-mails until after the trial had already finished. Lamberth states that this “’document dump’” might be legitimately explained if these e-mails were new and thus couldn’t have been produced sooner.” However, the emails were over two years old.
After knowledge of the Defendants’ gross infraction came to light, the Court ordered the production of the remaining emails immediately and without privilege rights. When asked why the information was withheld, the Defendants stated that they were “understaffed, the discovery was voluminous, and there simply were not enough bodies to process it all before trial.” After the Court ordered sanctions, the District argued Rule 37(d), which “authorizes sanctions only in response to a complete failure to respond to a request for production—not merely an incomplete or inadequate response.” The District stated that it made a “good-faith effort to produce all responsive emails”, the “plaintiffs are not prejudiced by its post-trial production” and “plaintiffs have also committed discovery violations.”
The Court denied the District’s motion on the grounds that the Defendants failed, repeatedly, to comply with Court orders. Additionally, the Court stated, “The Rules require more than a good-faith effort to produce documents.” Hon. Royce Lamberth also noted that the Court disagrees with “the District’s attempt to profit from their discovery misconduct by shifting the burden to the plaintiffs.” Although the District disagreed with the Court, sanctions were imposed. Hon. Royce Lamberth finished the opinion with a moral we can perhaps all learn from, “In short, this is a prime example of the lesson many learn as children: When you point one finger at another, three point back at you.”