Rule 34.01: Scope.

Any party may serve on any other party a request (1) to produce and permit the party making the request, or someone acting on the requesting party's behalf, to inspect, copy, test or sample any designated documents or electronically stored information (including writings, drawings, graphs, charts, photographs, sound recordings. images, phonorecords, and other data and data compilations stored in any medium from which information can be obtained either directly or, if necessary, after translation by the respondent though into a reasonably usable form), or to inspect and copy, test, or sample any designated tangible things which constitute or contain matters within the scope of Rule 26.02 and which are in the possession, custody or control of the party upon whom the request is served; or (2) to permit entry upon designated land or other property in the possession or control of the party upon whom the request is served for the purpose of inspection and measuring, surveying, photographing, testing, or sampling the property or any designated object or operation thereon, within the scope of Rule 26.02.

[As amended July 1, 1979, and by order of January 8, 2009, effective Jly 1, 2009.]

Advisory Commission Comments [2009].

As originally adopted, Rule 34 focused on discovery of "documents" and "things." Later, Rule 34 was amended to include discovery of data compilations, anticipating that the use of computerized information would increase. Since then, the growth in electronically stored information and in the variety of systems for creating and storing such information has been dramatic. Lawyers and judges interpreted the term "documents" to include electronically stored information because it was obviously improper to allow a party to evade discovery obligations on the basis that the label had not kept pace with changes in information technology. But it has become increasingly difficult to say that all forms of electronically stored information, many dynamic in nature, fit within the traditional concept of a "document." Electronically stored information may exist in dynamic databases and other forms far different from fixed expression on paper.

Rule 34.01 is amended to confirm that discovery of electronically stored information stands on equal footing with discovery of paper documents. The change clarifies that Rule 34 applies to information that is fixed in a tangible form and to information that is stored in a medium from which it can be retrieved and examined. At the same time, a Rule 34 request for production of "documents" should be understood to encompass, and the response should include, electronically stored information unless discovery in the action has clearly distinguished between electronically stored information and "documents."

Discoverable information often exists in both paper and electronic form, and the same or similar information might exist in both. The items listed in Rule 34.01 show different ways in which information may be recorded or stored. Images, for example, might be hard-copy documents or electronically stored information. The wide variety of computer systems currently in use, and the rapidity of technological change, counsel against a limiting or precise definition of electronically stored information. Rule 34.01 is expansive and includes any type of information that is stored electronically. A common example often sought in discovery is electronic communications, such as email. The rule covers - either as documents or as electronically stored information - information "stored in any medium," to encompass future developments in computer technology. Rule 34.01 is intended to be broad enough to cover all current types of computer-based information, and flexible enough to encompass future changes and developments.

The Rule 34.01 requirement that, if necessary, a party producing electronically stored information translate it into reasonably usable form does not address the issue of translating from one human language to another. See In re Puerto Rico Elect. Power Auth., 687 F.2d 50 1, 504-510 (1st Cir. 1989).

Rule 34.0 1 is also amended to make clear that parties may request an opportunity to test or sample materials sought under the rule in addition to inspecting and copying them. That opportunity may be important for both electronically stored information and hard-copy materials. The current rule is not clear that such testing or sampling is authorized; the amendment expressly permits it. As with any other form of discovery, issues of burden and intrusiveness raised by requests to test or sample can be addressed under Rules 26.02 and 26.03. Inspection or testing of certain types of electronically stored information or of a responding party's electronic information system may raise issues of confidentiality or privacy. The addition of testing and sampling to Rule 34.01 with regard to documents and electronically stored information is not meant to create a routine right of direct access to a party's electronic information system, although such access might be justified in some circumstances. Courts should guard against undue intrusiveness resulting from inspecting or testing such systems.

Rule 34.01 is further amended to make clear that tangible things must - like documents and land sought to be examined - be designated in the request.

Back to Top