Readers may recall that last fall I did an extensive post on the history of discovery standards in the Eastern District of Texas, beginning with Dan Quayle (no, that’s not a joke). At that time, an extensive survey of 2016 Eastern District of Texas cases – including patent and nonpatent cases, as well as published in unreported opinions, indicated that with one Implicit exception (now that is a joke) no case appeared to apply the new “proportionality” test added to FRCP 26 by the 2015 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. A few cases quoted the rule and ruled specific discovery in or out, but only Judge Gilstrap’s Implicit opinion explicitly referenced the permitted discovery as being proportional to the needs of the case under the new standard.
At the time I testified before the advisory committee on the 2015 amendments, and through their enactment, I was of the opinion that the addition of the proportionality test was going to provide parties with a significant tool to delay or frustrate discovery previously considered permissible, especially in smaller cases, and in particular in the “bulk filer” or “high-volume” plaintiff cases, requiring parties to repeatedly seek court assistance to obtain discovery. But as the absence of court decisions applying the proportionality test indicates, that has not been the case, and parties have been able to resolve any questions regarding the proportionality of discovery without needing to resort to the court.
But when they do, it is worth noting. Recently, an Eastern District of Texas judge addressed a discovery issue in a patent case and explicitly referenced the proportionality test in his decision, as I analyze below.