Pleadings and disclosures
Understanding how they work in MasterFile
Understanding how they work in MasterFile
During the course of prosecuting a litigation many procedural and evidentiary documents are disclosed to the court and the other parties. These may be disclosed informally with covering correspondence, formally in court filings as attachments to documents such as affidavits, pleadings, or as part of the production of documents for trial, etc.
Keeping track of all these disclosures is important for various reasons and so in this post we’ll look at how MasterFile lets you record and track pleadings and disclosures.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
What exactly do we mean by pleadings and disclosures ↓
Recording disclosures — by individual, by hearing or by document production ↓
Finding what’s been disclosed to whom — the disclosure and production views ↓
When designing this aspect of MasterFile, we couldn’t find a precise enough definition of what exactly a pleading was. The general consensus was that pleadings arise from or are procedural documents that have been filed with the Court. But then, since pleadings are just documents, the term “Pleadings” was often used as a document type, in the same way correspondence, expert reports, etc., are document types. This lead to a confusing situation: a document’s type seemed to change from say a “Notice of Motion” during its draft stage to a “Pleading” after it was been filed. Furthermore, one regularly asked to see all the “Pleadings” for a particular motion or application, again suggesting “Pleadings” are a type of document. Therefore, there was the temptation to change document types from whatever they were before being filed to “Pleadings” after filing — often by creating a “Pleadings” subdirectory and copying or moving those documents into it. This turns out to be inherently problematic, and the problems quickly get out of hand as documents get reused in further motions or applications or are used as “evidence” in one situation while in support of a “pleading” in another.
In reality, however, document types don’t change. For example, a revealing letter may become “evidence” when used in Court, but its document type is still ‘letter’ nonetheless. Similarly Notices or Subpoenas may be referred to as pleadings after filing or service but they are still Notices or Subpoenas. And in fact when you need a specific document, you’ll look for the “Notice of Motion” for the such and such issue.
The solution to dealing with pleadings is realizing that pleadings are not a document type but the word is simply a term used to collectively describe documents that have been used for a specific purpose, just as the term “evidence” is used to collectively describe letters, e-mail, expert reports, etc. used at trial.
Therefore, in dealing with pleadings, first it must be decided that a document type doesn’t change because it is used for different purposes. And second, when a document is used formally in support of one or more court applications (whether as evidence, for procedural matters, etc.), we need to record each of these events. In this way, each document can be reviewed to see when and for what purpose it has been used and also all documents used for a particular purpose, such as a hearing, can also be gathered and reviewed as a collection. In this way the documents can still be found by type, but also by when and for what purpose they were used — making duplicate copies unnecessary, no changing of a document’s type nor other similar “band-aid” solutions.
This is the approach MasterFile uses and next we’ll explain how it accomplishes it.
In MasterFile we refer to a use of a document as a “disclosure”, as in essence that is what is being done — it is being disclosed for some purpose. MasterFile distinguishes between three types of disclosures:
These three disclosure types are recorded in the “Disclosures” subsection, shown below, under “Additional Information” in the document profile.
As can be seen, this expert report has been disclosed:
Informal and hearing disclosure details can be set or reset for documents individually as needed, or rapidly, in bulk, using MasterFile’s global maintenance utilities.
Production history information can be recorded several ways:
The disclosure and production views — which you open from the menu panel shown below — are where you find historical details of each production and disclosure.
Next, the disclosure and production views.
All documents formally disclosed for a particular motion are listed here in chronological order. Note that the grey twisty is open exposing the Extract Repository which shows you immediately key information culled from Steven Doherty’s Examination for Discovery.
Here, the same, documents are shown, only this time categorized by document type — so you can now go to specific documents instantly rather having to sift through the entire “by Date” list to locate them. Note that documents which would normally appear under MasterFile’s “Court Documents” category get placed under the “Pleadings” category here, since they have been used formally as part of a court proceeding. Only “Court Documents” appear as pleadings — that is the definition of “Pleadings” we use in MasterFile.
All disclosures are listed here whether formally, informally, or as part of a document production, under their respective categories, and then by document type.
Most document views show a column with their most recent Bates numbers, as in the “by Doc type” view here. The views can be sorted by Bates numbers by simply clicking the column title.
Lastly, the “Production history” view lets you view all documents by production set. It lists each document within a production set by Exhibit and corresponding Bates page number. Shown above are the three documents disclosed in the production July 14th, 2005 and an additional production set created on May 4th, 2005. The highlighted dcoument, Meeting minutes, is the same document shown highlighted in the by Doc type view shown earlier.
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