What exactly is the “discovery cutoff date”?

Magistrate Judges in federal court usually issue the scheduling orders, which inform the litigants of discovery deadlines, pretrial motion deadlines, settlement conference date, pretrial conference date, and trial date. Some scheduling orders are more detailed than others. Nearly all of them have a “discovery cutoff date”. It may be a non-expert discovery cut-off date, or an expert discovery cut-off date. Still, it causes confusion. Some people wonder if it’s the last date by which you can get discovery requests out the door. Others think it’s also the last date for filing discovery-related motions.

To make sure you don’t miss any deadlines, you should always check the Local Rules and the Judge’s standing orders, if any. If the Court’s orders seem vague at all, you should confirm the deadlines with a clerk. Northern District of California Local Rule 37-3, for example, defines discovery cutoff date as “the date by which all responses to written discovery are due and by which all depositions must be concluded.”

The nearly uniform meaning of discovery cutoff date in federal court scheduling orders refers to the last date by which depositions must be completed and the last date by which responses to all previously served discovery requests must be served. The discovery cut-off date is not the last date on which discovery motions can be filed. While some scheduling orders will designate a separate discovery motion filing date, most of them simply designate a pretrial motion cutoff date.

Check the Local Rules frequently, as they are updated throughout the year.

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