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    Civil Procedure

    CIVIL PROCEDURE: Strictly Construing Service of Process Rules to Devastating Effect

    Posted by Steven G. Friedman on January 12, 2017 at 4:56 PM

    Steve Friedman, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

         "Without proper service of process, consent, waiver, or forfeiture, a court may not exercise personal jurisdiction over a named defendant." 36 C.J.S. Federal Courts § 31 (Westlaw database updated Sept. 2016). "Personal jurisdiction usually is obtained over a defendant by service of process." Id. Thus, untimely or ineffective service of process can stop a case dead in its tracks. The means of serving process is typically set forth by statute or court rule, the terms of which are often strictly construed. Below are two cautionary tales to illustrate the point.

         In New York, service of process is governed by Rule 2013 of the Civil Practice Law and Rules ("C.P.L.R."). Typically, service can be accomplished "by mailing the  paper to . . . the address designated by that attorney for that purpose or, if none is designated, at the attorney's last known address." The statute further notes that "service by mail shall be complete upon mailing." C.P.L.R. 2013(b)(2) (service upon attorneys); accord C.P.L.R. 2013(c) (incorporating C.P.L.R. 2013(b)(2) for service upon a party).

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    Topics: service of process, civil procedure, ineffective service

    CIVIL PROCEDURE: The Attorney Testimony Rule—Attorney Affidavits and Summary Judgment

    Posted by Lee P. Dunham on December 1, 2016 at 9:18 AM

    Lee Dunham, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

          Model Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 3.7 contains the well-known prohibition on lawyer testimony known as the "Lawyer as Witness Rule" or the "Attorney Testimony Rule." It provides:

    (a) A lawyer shall not act as advocate at a trial in which the lawyer is likely to be a necessary witness unless:

    (1) the testimony relates to an uncontested issue;

    (2) the testimony relates to the nature and value of legal services rendered in the case; or

    (3) disqualification of the lawyer would work substantial hardship on the client.

    (b) A lawyer may act as advocate in a trial in which another lawyer in the lawyer's firm is likely to be called as a witness unless precluded from doing so by Rule 1.7 or Rule 1.9.

    Ann. Model Rules of Prof'l Conduct R. 3.7 ("Lawyer as Witness").

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    Topics: civil procedure, Lee Dunham, attorney testimony rule, Rule 3.7, professional conduct

    CIVIL PROCEDURE: Achieving "Proportionality" in Discovery

    Posted by Paul A. Ferrer on August 18, 2016 at 10:50 AM

    Paul Ferrer, Senior Attorney, National Legal Research Group

         For many years, trial attorneys were familiar with the broad scope of discovery under Rule 26(b)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which provided that unless otherwise limited by court order, parties could "obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense." As indicated in Rule 26(b)(1), the scope of discovery could be limited by the entry of a protective order if the court determined, among other things, that "the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, considering the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties' resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, and the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues." Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(C)(iii) (amended), quoted in EEOC v. Thompson Contracting, Grading, Paving & Utils., Inc., 499 F. App'x 275, 281 n.5 (4th Cir. 2012). As part of the "Duke Rules" package of amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which took effect on December 1, 2015, that language was moved out of Rule 26(b)(2)(C)(iii) and into Rule 26(b)(1), which now provides that

    [u]nless otherwise limited by court order, [p]arties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party's claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case, considering the importance of the issues at stake in the action, the amount in controversy, the parties' relative access to relevant information, the parties' resources, the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues, and whether the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit.

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    Topics: Paul A. Ferrer, civil procedure, discovery, proportionality to case

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