What is a Request for Production?

Mary McMahon

A request for production is a formal legal document requesting tangible items such as copies of letters or electronic media from an opposing party in a trial. This is part of a legal process known as discovery, where people have access to items that may be useful in the trial so they can start to build a case. A potential outcome of this process may be an attempt to plea or settle the case out of court on the basis of the materials presented, if people suspect the outcome of the case in court might not be in their favor and they can negotiate a deal before going in front of a judge.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

In a request for production, an attorney asks for specific materials relevant to a trial. Attorneys are not allowed to fish by wording requests vaguely, and must be as clear and precise as possible. They can ask for documents, physical items, or the right to inspect real property such as a home where a crime was committed. The subject of the request generally has 30 days to respond.

If people cannot respond to a request for production because of an issue like an error citing a document that does not exist, they are responsible for communicating this to the opposing attorney to explain why the request will not be honored as written. People may also appeal to the judge if they feel a request is worded in a confusing way, asking for clarification so they know which items to submit to comply.

Usually, the request for production is carefully reviewed by attorneys. On the basis of the language used, they decide on the scope of the request and pull the appropriate material. Attorneys generally want to avoid presenting the other side with any more information than they are legally required to provide, as they do not want to hand out free ammunition for use in court. While people cannot actively conceal trial materials in an attempt to influence the outcome, they are protective of the materials they have and want to make sure they are used appropriately.

Along with other documents filed over the course of the trial, the request for production will go on file. If disputes arise over the course of the trial or in the future, these documents can be consulted and the parties to the trial can be queried to see if they were complied with. People who claim they don't have evidence and later produce it, for example, will be scrutinized carefully.

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