Ask the County Law Librarian – Motion to Compel Responses to Interrogatories
Q. I am the plaintiff in a motor vehicle personal injury case in Sacramento Superior Court. I went to your wonderful Civil Self-Help Center, which helped me get started with my complaint, and I want to thank you for offering that service! I also attended the Discovery Class on a Thursday, where the staff attorney explained all about the discovery process, and a Discovery Lab the next Thursday, where, again with the help of the staff attorney, I drafted some Interrogatories, and served them on the defendant. The problem now is she won’t answer them. What do I do?
A. Thank you very much for your kind words about the Civil Self-Help Center, Georgette! For those of you that don’t know, the Sacramento County Public Law Library’s Civil Self-Help Center (CSHC) is intended to assist unrepresented persons who have chosen to pursue or defend a civil lawsuit in the Sacramento Superior Court. The CSHC provides workshops and individual assistance with a variety of civil legal issues. To receive a one-on-one appointment, you must be present in the Law Library at 8:30 a.m., Monday through Friday, to be entered into a random drawing to determine the order in which we evaluate your case. If an appointment is appropriate, it will be made for later in that day.
Back to your problem, Georgette–if an opposing party fails to respond to your Form or Special Interrogatories, or a Request for Production, you may file a “Motion to Compel” a response. Before filing your motion, however, the California Code of Civil Procedure (CCP) § 2016.040 requires you to try and “meet and confer” with the opposing counsel or self-represented party. This typically means sending a letter that informs the opposing counsel or self-represented party that the deadline to respond has passed, and providing him or her a reasonable time to respond, after which you would file a motion to compel responses. A reasonable time could be two weeks, or longer if the interrogatories or request for production is or are particularly complicated. The “meet and confer” requirement is your opportunity to demonstrate to the court that you are making a “reasonable and good faith attempt at an informal resolution.” CCP § 2016.040.
Since there are no pre-printed Judicial Council forms for motions to compel responses, you must draft them yourself. Motions must be typed on 28-line pleading paper and follow a specific format. Luckily, we have a Step-by-Step Guide on our website with a down-loadable template of the motion that complies with all of the court’s formatting rules!
The first step is to select the date of the hearing on your motion. You can select whatever date is convenient for you as long as it meets two very important statutory requirements: the filing deadline and the service deadline. Your Motion to Compel Responses must be filed with the court at least sixteen court days before the hearing. CCP § 1005. Court days are Monday through Friday, excluding court holidays.
Prior to filing the motion with the court, all other attorneys or self-represented parties must be served with a copy of the motion. This means that someone over the age of 18 who is not a party in the case must either personally deliver or mail (by first class) the attorney for the party or the self-represented party a copy of the motion and related documents.
If the motion is personally served, the service must be at least sixteen court days prior to the date of the motion, the same as the minimum filing deadline. If the motion is served by first-class mail additional time is added, depending on where the mail originates and where it is sent. CCP §1005. If the documents are mailed from California to California, five calendar days are added after the sixteen court days. Calendar days include weekends and holidays, but if the final day lands on a weekend or holiday, it is rolled over to the next court day. Luckily, our Step-by-Step Guide includes a calendar and detailed instructions on how to calculate court and calendar days to meet the filing and service deadlines.
At this time there is a $60 filing fee for filing a motion, unless your fees were waived. Current fees are available on the Sacramento County Superior Court’s website.
If opposing counsel or self-represented party opposes your motion, he or she may serve and file an opposition at least nine court days prior to your motion date. No fee is required to file an opposition. You may choose to serve and file a reply to the opposition at least five court days prior to the motion. No fee is required to file a reply.
If you still need help even after reading the Step-by-Step Guide, Georgette, please feel free to come to the Law Library at 8:25 a.m. for the lottery for CSHC appointments. We’d be happy to help you!
Do you have a question for the County Law Librarian? Just email firstname.lastname@example.org. If your question is selected your answer will appear in next Thursday’s column. Even if your question isn’t selected, though, I will still respond within two weeks.