United States: Objections To Document Demands Under Amended Rule 34

The approach of objecting to document demands with boilerplate language containing half a dozen or more objections that have no actual nexus to the demands at issue has been used by litigators for decades. However, this approach is no longer acceptable in federal courts. December 1, 2015, marked the enactment of a substantial package of amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that was driven in large part by concerns related to e-discovery and the production of electronically stored information (ESI). Although the amendments to Rule 26(b)(1) and Rule 37(e) have received greater attention, a major revision to Rule 34 will result in a more significant day-to-day change for litigators. Notably, objections to discovery requests must now (1) state with specificity the grounds for objecting and (2) state whether any responsive materials are being withheld on the basis of that objection. Additionally, producing parties must indicate when a document production will be completed.

Rule 34 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (as Amended December 1, 2015)

The relevant sections of amended Rule 34 provide as follows:

Rule 34(b)(2)(B) Responding to Each Item. For each item or category, the response must either state that inspection and related activities will be permitted as requested or state with specificity the grounds for objecting to the request, including the reasons. The responding party may state that it will produce copies of documents or of electronically stored information instead of permitting inspection. The production must then be completed no later than the time for inspection specified in the request or another reasonable time specified in the response.

Rule 34(b)(2)(C) Objections. An objection must state whether any responsive materials are being withheld on the basis of that objection. An objection to part of a request must specify the part and permit inspection of the rest.

Consequently, boilerplate objections are no longer acceptable in federal courts. In fact, general objections by their very nature appear entirely prohibited under amended Rule 34.

Time will tell as to the level of specificity that will be required of parties objecting to document demands (though it is noted that Rule 33(b)(4) has required since 1993 that "the grounds for objecting to an interrogatory must be stated with specificity"). But the drafters have provided clear guidance as to stating whether responsive materials are being withheld on the basis of an objection. As confirmed in the Rule 34 Committee Notes, it is acceptable to indicate whether materials have been withheld by stating "the limits that have controlled the search for responsive and relevant materials." In other words, by identifying the scope of a search (i.e., search terms, custodians or data locations), the producing party is stating that materials outside of that scope have been withheld.

Considering the nature of the amendment to Rule 34, there is perhaps no longer such a thing in federal courts as form responses to document demands. That being said, litigators can operate under a general framework while individually tailoring objections to specific document demands. It also must be noted that counsel's success cooperating with plaintiff's counsel and reaching an agreement on the scope of discovery could significantly impact the manner in which objections need to be asserted. Regardless, litigators must develop a new method for objecting to document demands and can no longer rely on the "kitchen sink" approach when asserting objections.

General Framework for Objections under Amended Rule 34

The traditional approach of first asserting objections and then identifying responsive documents should be reversed. Some litigators have been taking this approach for years (though without necessarily complying with the requirements under amended Rule 34) in a desire to indicate a level of cooperation and avoid an appearance of obstructionist tactics. When incorporating the requirements of amended Rule 34, a response to document demands should include three sections: (1) identification of responsive documents, (2) objections and (3) an indication of how a search is limited in scope.

By way of example, a response to an overbroad demand could be structured as follows:

Following a reasonable search, Defendant has identified the following documents responsive to this request.... [identify documents, indicate Bates numbers, or refer to production media, etc.]

To the extent Plaintiff's request seeks additional materials, Defendant responds as follows:

This request is overbroad as it places no limitation on relevant time frame despite the subject matter of this litigation occurring from [indicate date range]. Defendant has therefore limited its search to materials from [indicate date range]; and,

Materials pertaining to [indicate the reason why the referenced materials are not relevant] are not relevant to any party's claim or defense. [An objection in the product liability context might state "materials pertaining to product lines other than the product line at issue in this litigation are not relevant to any party's claim or defense."] Defendant has therefore limited its search based upon previously disclosed / agreed upon search terms, document custodians and data locations and/or in accordance with the Discovery Order / Agreement entered on _____________. See Appendix ___.

This request is not proportional to the needs of the case considering (1) the marginal importance of the materials to the claims and defenses in this litigation and (2) the substantial cost to identify additional responsive materials balanced against the amount in controversy. Defendant has therefore limited its search based upon previously disclosed / agreed upon search terms, document custodians and data locations and/or in accordance with the Discovery Order / Agreement entered on _____________. See Appendix ___.

Upon request by Plaintiff, Defendant is willing to meet and confer regarding its response to this document demand.

Regarding the above objection as to proportionality, this format can be used for any of the proportionality considerations in Rule 26(b)(1), as amended on December 1, 2015. However, it may be necessary to provide additional detail to explain the asserted lack of importance of materials or to support an objection based on cost to comply versus amount in controversy. (When possible, of course, the preferred approach is to cooperate with plaintiff and reach an agreement in advance to avoid a discovery dispute.) Counsel should also remember to indicate, perhaps within a preliminary statement, when documents are being withheld pursuant to the attorney-client privilege or work product doctrine. The objections otherwise follow the requirements of amended Rule 34; they are specific by articulating a basis for limiting the search while indicating whether responsive materials are being withheld on the basis of the objection in a manner approved within the Committee Notes.

Specifying Time for Production

In addition to requiring that objections be stated with specificity, Rule 34(b)(2)(B) mandates that "the production must ... be completed no later than the time for inspection specified in the request or another reasonable time specified in the response."

A defendant might specify a time for production as follows:

Defendant anticipates that it will begin producing materials responsive to this request, as limited by the asserted objections, within [indicate number of days] following entry of an ESI protocol. Defendant intends to complete its production, including any subsequent rolling productions, within [indicate number of days] following entry of an ESI protocol. Defendant will amend this response or otherwise place all parties on notice should additional time be required to complete the production.

Upon request by Plaintiff, Defendant is willing to meet and confer regarding its response to this document demand.

Determining what constitutes a "reasonable time" for purposes of Rule 34(b)(2)(B) will hinge primarily on the volume and complexity of ESI that must be searched and reviewed by a defendant. In many situations, commencing production within 30 days following entry of an ESI protocol and completing a final rolling production within 120 days could be deemed reasonable.

Final Thoughts

Best practices for responding to document demands under amended Rule 34 will emerge in the coming months. Although the framework set forth above has not been fully tested, it presents a reasonable approach that meets the requirements of Rules 34(b)(2)(B) and (C) while remaining consistent with the critical concepts of cooperation and proportionality in discovery. As always, we are interested in hearing the thoughts and comments of our readers on this subject.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of www.mondaq.com

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about Mondaq.com’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to unsubscribe@mondaq.com with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to webmaster@mondaq.com.

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to EditorialAdvisor@mondaq.com.

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at enquiries@mondaq.com.

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at problems@mondaq.com and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.