When you watch television dramas that center on legal matters, much of the focus falls on the trial itself. Before you even get the opportunity to put on a winning case at trial, though, you have to have engaged in the proper preparatory steps that happen before a single opening statement is given. That includes many things, including conducting insightful, strategic and effective discovery. Doing discovery right is vital to get the information you need to put on that winning presentation in court. To get the best out of all of these steps in a discrimination case, it pays to have a skilled New Jersey employment attorney on your side every step of the way.
Successful discovery means, not only making the right requests, but knowing how to fight effectively when the other side tries to foil your requests for information to which you are entitled. As an example, consider a recent case of an African–American employee of the state’s Juvenile Justice Commission. L.R.’s lawsuit contended that he suffered multiple forms of discrimination that were connected to his race, including harassment, a hostile work environment and retaliation for pursuing his rights under the Law Against Discrimination.
L.R. asked for all race-based Equal Employment Opportunity complaints filed by commission employees in the previous five-year period. That was likely a wise discovery request because, in any discrimination case, a very useful and effective type of proof can be evidence that the employer has engaged in similar discrimination in the past.
The commission did not turn over the documents. Instead, it steadfastly advanced an argument that, before it made the disclosures that the employee requested, the judge was first required to perform an “in camera review,” which means that she inspects the documents privately to decide which of the documents could be withheld and which ones must be shared with L.R.
‘Reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence’
The judge did not agree and refused to grant the review. The employer took the case to the Appellate Division, but still lost. In its ruling, the appeals court reminded its audience that parties to lawsuits, including parties to Law Against Discrimination actions, are entitled to seek discovery of a “wide breadth” of information. Basically, if your request is “reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence” and the information you seek isn’t privileged, then you are entitled to it and the other side must turn it over.
In L.R.’s case, it was clear that previous alleged instances of racial discrimination by the commission would be information that was reasonably calculated to lead to admissible evidence – namely, proof that the employer had a history of race-based employment discrimination. So, the commission either had to give the courts a valid privilege or else turn over the documents. The employer never gave the courts a privilege that would protect the files from discovery, so the commission was required to give L.R. the documents he sought.
The employee succeeded, and the employer was required to turn over all of the documents.
Discovery can come in many varieties, including depositions, requests for admission and document production demands. All of these are important because any of them may potentially contain information that is a key piece of evidence that will tip your case from defeat to success. To make sure that your case is getting the skilled handling it needs, from pre-trial to trial to post-trial, contact the diligent New Jersey employment attorneys at Phillips & Associates. Our attorneys are here to help you pursue your case to get what you deserve. Reach us online or at (609) 436-9087 today to set up a free and confidential consultation and to find out how we can help you.
More blog posts:
North Jersey Jury Awards an African-American Police Lieutenant $1.2M After He Was Improperly Denied a Promotion, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, April 25, 2018
Racial Slurs, Racist Symbols, and What You Need to Succeed in a New Jersey Hostile Work Environment Case, New Jersey Employment Lawyer Blog, Jan. 29, 2018