Motion to Compel

A motion to compel is a document filed with a court asking for someone to produce “discovery” as part of a lawsuit. A motion to compel may ask the court to require someone to produce documents, the answer to a question, a witness for a deposition or some other form of discovery that the person is refusing to turn over. Motions to compel happen in the discovery phase of a lawsuit.

Pennsylvania Discovery Process

In state court in Pennsylvania, motions to compel are not considered appropriate until one has made an attempt to “meet and confer” with the other side. This means that in addition to a discovery request which is answered by objections or a non-answer, the party seeking the discovery is expected to either send a letter, have a phone call, or have other conversations with opposing counsel or the other party in an effort to work out the dispute before asking the court to intervene. This is based on the principle that courts do not want to be involved in matters unless they absolutely have to be.

In many counties, including Berks County, a discovery dispute has been referred to a discovery master. A discovery master is a private attorney who has nothing to do with the case who is hired by the county to hold weekly hearings and issue recommendations on discovery disputes. The presiding judge in a case reviews and usually approves these recommendations. In putting together a motion to compel and in proceedings before a discovery master, the important points to stress are why the discovery is relevant to the case, why it cannot conveniently be obtained somewhere else, and why the other party’s claims of privilege or objection are not appropriate.

Federal Court Discovery Process Requires Meet and Confer

Federal Court rules are similar. Federal judges want the parties to “meet and confer” as discussed above, and some judges in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania prohibit the filing of any motion without a teleconference with the presiding judge to explain why “meet and confer” failed to solve the problem. Furthermore, federal judges tend to be a little more willing to parse through lists of documents and demand production than some of their state court counterparts. This depends, of course, on the specific judge.

Conclusion: Discovery is Key to Litigation Success

Discovery is where cases are won and lost, and insisting on documents and answers in a case is an important part of being ready for trial. At Cornerstone Law Firm, our litigation attorneys deal with discovery disputes regularly, and we can help you with your case. Call us today for a consultation on your rights and obligations in discovery.

Contract Cases in Federal Court

When your business is sued in federal court, it can be a strange and surprising experience. A common question that we receive from business owners is, “How can my business be sued in federal court over a contract? Isn’t federal court just for crimes and serious litigation?”

How it Works

In most cases, federal cases over contracts are brought because one party is from a different state than the opposing party and there is more than $75,000 in damages that are at issue in the lawsuit. In other words, your first instinct might be right: a contract case only enters the federal court because it is a pretty big deal. 

Beyond this, contract cases in federal court are much different than contract cases in state court. A breach of contract action requires that the plaintiff (the person bringing the lawsuit) demonstrate that the defendant violated the terms of an agreement. This agreement doesn’t have to necessarily be written (although it usually is when there is a lot of money at stake). 

Several defenses to contract actions exist, including proof that the contract was impossible to perform or that the plaintiff violated the contract first. In rare cases, the contract itself might violate state or federal law, which means it cannot be enforced in court.

More About Federal Court Cases

Cases in federal court should be taken seriously because they tend to move quickly. This is especially true of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, often referred to as “the rocket docket” because of the speed with which the cases move to trial. In other words, if you are not preparing from day one, you are not going to be ready by the time the case gets to the summary judgement phase and to trial. 

Contact Cornerstone Law Firm

If you or your business has been sued in federal court, it is important to seek litigation attorneys who can handle your case. Contact the Cornerstone Law Firm and speak with our experienced federal litigators to discuss your options in moving forward and how you can best defend your case.

Representation in Federal Court

If you’ve been sued in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, there are a number of questions you will need to confront quickly. These questions include whether you were properly sued in the Eastern District, whether the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has “personal jurisdiction” over you in a lawsuit, and whether you have any counter-claims or defenses that you will need to raise in your first pleadings.

In federal court, if you have been served with a complaint you typically have only 21 days from the date of service to answer. If you waive service in advance, you will have longer to respond. 

Does Your Case Belong in Federal Court?

In addition to determining counterclaims and affirmative defenses available to you, an important question you should analyze is whether the case belongs in federal court rather than state court. Unlike state courts, federal courts are of limited jurisdiction, which means they can only handle cases specifically authorized by the Constitution and by Congress.

Whether the case you are involved in falls under those categories of cases authorized by Congress and the Constitution is a question requiring legal analysis that needs to be done immediately to determine whether the court has subject-matter jurisdiction over the claim. 

Choosing Your Next Steps

Additionally, like any other case, as a defendant, you need to decide up front whether you wish to fight the case and defend it on its merits or attempt to settle it and avoid the rising costs of defending a lawsuit. This decision can be difficult, but is made easier when you really understand the likelihood of your success in defending a case and the possible risks involved in losing it. This requires an exploration of the facts and law that gave rise to the lawsuit.

The Eastern District of Pennsylvania is sometimes called the “rocket docket” because of the speed with which litigation moves and the promptness of trial dates. Most cases in the Eastern District are set for trial in less than a year from the date the suit is filed. This is remarkably fast for courts of any kind and makes the Eastern District of Pennsylvania one of the most fast-paced courts in the country. 

Contact Cornerstone Law Firm

Perhaps you have heard the expression, “Don’t make a federal case out of it.” This simple expression confirms one truth about federal cases—they are serious and shouldn’t be ignored.

If you have been sued in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, we welcome you to contact Cornerstone Law Firm. Contact us today for a consultation on your federal case: