If the most recent iteration of proposed amendments to the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure becomes effective on July 1, 2019, then virtually all civil cases will be affected. The Ohio Commission on the Rules of Practice and Procedure recently submitted proposals to the Ohio Supreme Court for several sets of rules, including civil procedure, criminal procedure, evidence, appellate procedure, and others. While many of the proposed amendments relate to the recently-enacted Marsy’s Law, civil litigation attorneys should be aware of at least two of the proposals to amend the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure that relate to motion and discovery practice.
First is the proposal to amend rules 6(C) and 7(B)(2) to create a more consistent motion briefing schedule across the state. Although Civ. R. 6 currently sets a default schedule of 14 days to file a response to a motion and 7 days to file a reply to the response, it broadly allows courts to alter that default schedule by local rule or court order. The proposed amendment would restrict the ability of courts to alter that default schedule. To allow a court to reduce or enlarge the briefing period, a party would need to file a motion and show “good cause.” (The default briefing schedule for motions for summary judgment would be 28 days to file a response and 7 days to file a reply.) The staff notes to the proposal indicate that the purpose for the amendment is to “eliminate confusion and create consistency by providing uniform statewide deadlines.” A different amendment to Civ. R. 6 would apply to motions for purposes of a hearing or trial (e.g., motions in limine).
Second is the proposal to amend rules 33, 34, and 36 to require that any party that issues written discovery requests (e.g., interrogatories, requests for production of documents, and requests for admission) must also serve an electronic copy of the requests “on a shareable medium and in an editable format.” This would include, for example, serving a copy of the requests in Microsoft Word format by email. Although rules 33(A) and 36(A) currently require that a party serve interrogatories and requests for admission in “an electronic copy” that is “reasonably useable for word processing and provided on computer disk, by electronic mail, or by other means agreed to by the parties,” the proposed amendments (1) clarify that the electronic copy be provided “on a shareable medium and in an editable format” for ease in responding to such requests, and (2) add such a requirement under rule 34 dealing with requests for production. A party would still be able to seek leave of court to be relieved of the requirement.
Implementing these two amendments should make motion practice more predictable and make it easier and faster to craft responses to discovery requests. However, while there is variety across the state, practically speaking, many courts and Ohio attorneys already operate in accordance with these amendments. The Ohio Supreme Court is accepting public comment on all of the proposed amendments until February 13, 2019. A complete copy of the proposed amendments, which again also includes amendments to the rules of criminal procedure, evidence, appellate procedure, and others, as well as additional amendments to the civil rules, can be found here. That document also provides information regarding how to submit comments.