The Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee heard testimony on on a bill that seeks to change Missouri’s court rules on civil discovery.Two years ago, the state legislature passed a bill that overhauled Missouri’s discovery rules, and the governor signed it into law.
But if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.
The Senate Judiciary and Civil and Criminal Jurisprudence Committee heard testimony on Jan. 19 on a bill that seeks to change Missouri’s court rules on civil discovery. The sponsor, Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville and an attorney, told the committee that “the bill may seem familiar to you,” as it contains many of the same provisions that the legislature passed in 2019 as Senate Bill 224.
Nonetheless, none of the legislature’s changes appear in the court rules published on the Missouri Supreme Court’s website. Instead, a footnote appears at the bottom of the page stating that SB 224 “purports to amend this Rule.”
The Missouri Constitution allows the legislature to change court rules through “a law limited to the purpose.” Luetkemeyer said he believes the Supreme Court’s concern is that “you can only amend one rule at a time in a single bill.” The 2019 bill, however, amended parts of Rules 56, 57, 58, 59 and 61.
“In this case we amended five rules, so we’d have to have five separate bills,” Luetkemeyer said, adding that such an approach would be “cumbersome.”
Instead, this year’s bill places all of the proposed changes into Rule 56.01, which covers the general provisions governing discovery. Among the provisions are that discovery must be “proportional to the needs of the case considering the totality of the circumstances,” that parties generally would be limited to 25 written interrogatories and 10 depositions of no more than seven hours, and that discovery of electronically stored information could be limited if it is “not reasonably accessible because of undue burden or cost.”
However, the bill omits changes to criminal-law procedures that were included in the 2019 version. That bill had sought to give prosecutors more latitude to redact identifying information from court records to help to prevent witness intimidation.
The bill drew support from business groups and defense lawyers. Dana Frese of the Missouri Organization of Defense Lawyers said the provisions would prevent “unnecessary discovery that only increases the cost of litigation.”
No one spoke in opposition to the bill, and no one from the Supreme Court testified. Beth Riggert, the court’s communications counsel, declined to comment.
The bill is SB 52.