What is Discovery?

Discovery is a process that occurs after a civil lawsuit has been filed but before trial occurs in the case.[1]  During this “pretrial” period, the parties in the lawsuit may obtain information from each other and witnesses who have knowledge of facts relevant to the case. This information can be obtained in various forms – testimony, documents (both written and electronic) and tangible items.

The purpose of discovery is two-fold:

  1. First, discovery helps streamline the actual trial of cases. By discovering all of the relevant evidence in advance of trial, both sides can properly prepare for the efficient presentation of and objection to certain evidence at trial. With effective use of pretrial discovery, the parties may also be able to identify certain undisputed facts which may be summarily stipulated to in lieu of the more time-consuming traditional process of introduction of testimony and/or documents at trial.
  2. The second purpose of discovery is to facilitate settlement between the parties so that a trial may not be necessary in the case.  Properly conducted, discovery aids both sides in learning the strength and weaknesses of their own, as well as their opponent’s positions.  Because having this knowledge in advance of trial allows the parties to assess the relative merits of their positions, many parties are able to come to a mutually-agreeable solution to the problem without the necessity of a empaneling a jury to resolve their dispute.

In Texas, several methods may be used to obtain discovery, including: depositions, interrogatories, requests for disclosures, requests for admissions, requests for production, requests for entry upon land, requests for medical examinations and subpoenas. 

Bonnie Sudderth, Judge of the 352nd District Court of Tarrant County, Texas


[1] There is some limited discovery permissible in criminal cases, but discovery in that context will not be addressed here.

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