One of the most misunderstood aspects of litigation is the concept of discovery. The rules of discovery are complex and varied, causing both legal professionals and scholars alike to differ on their application. If you are party to litigation in New York, a brief overview of the discovery process can help you understand the role of discovery and how the right lawyer can make discovery work for you.
Discovery refers to the process either by civil or criminal courts of gathering evidence from the opposing side in preparation for a trial. Regardless of whether the process is in criminal or civil court, the discovery phase occurs before trial. The process of discovery stems from the founding principle that someone accused of wrongdoing has the right to face their accuser and hear the evidence against them.
The concept of discovery is fairly straightforward: in order for all parties to have a fair trial or litigation, each is entitled to know, or “discover,” the evidence that will be used by the other side. Application of the discovery process, however, can be highly contested, as each party will argue that the evidence should not be given to the other side because it is not discoverable; either because it does not directly relate to the legal issue or crime at hand, or is protected by privilege, such as doctor-patient privilege or attorney-client privilege.
Examples of evidence that may be discoverable are emergency room records for a personal injury lawsuit (civil) and crime scene surveillance tapes for a murder trial (criminal). Examples of evidence that may not be discoverable are your mental health records in a tax evasion trial (criminal) and attorney notes for a custody case (civil).
Make discovery work for you
One of the ways attorneys advocate for their clients is by gathering as much evidence as possible from the other side in order to prepare a legal strategy, while simultaneously protecting as much of their own evidence, as well as the client’s privacy, as possible. The importance of an attorney who is adept and knowledgeable about the discovery process cannot be overstated. In many cases, the discovery process is crucial in that oftentimes a judgment can hinge on a specific type of evidence in the case, such as a confession or camera footage of a slip-and-fall case. Blocking certain evidence can often cause a case to crumble and, by knowing in advance what proof the opposing side has, a good discovery attorney can prepare an effective defense or devise a winning counter-strategy.
At The Levoritz Law Group, our experienced civil and criminal attorneys make discovery work for you. All of our attorneys—no matter the area of law in which they practice—are proud to provide New York residents with excellence in the discovery process. To schedule a consultation, please check out our contact page today.