Rule 34. Producing Documents, Electronically Stored Information, and Tangible Things, or Entering onto Land, for Inspection and Other Purposes
(a) In General. A party may serve on on any other party a request within the scope of Rule 26(b):
(1) to produce and permit the requesting party or its representative to inspect, copy, test, or sample the following items in the responding party's possession, custody, or control:
(A) any designated documents or electronically stored information -- including writings, drawings, graphs, charts, photographs, sound recordings, images, and other data or data compilations -- stored in any medium from which information can be obtained either directly or, if necessary, after translation by the responding party into a reasonably usable form; or
(B) any designated tangible things; or
(2) to permit entry onto designated land or other property possessed or controlled by the responding party so that the requesting party may inspect, measure, survey, photograph, test, or sample the property or any designated object or operation on it.
(1) Contents of the Request. The request:
(A) must describe with reasonable particularity each item or category of items to be inspected;
(B) must specify a reasonable time, place, and manner for the inspection and for performing the related acts; and
(C) may specify the form or forms in which electronically stored information is to be produced.
(2) Responses and Objections.
(A) Time to Respond. The party to whom the request is directed must respond in writing within 30 days after being served or -- if the request was delivered under Rule 26(d)(2) -- within 30 days after the parties' first Rule 26(f) conference. A shorter or longer time may be stipulated to under Rule 29 or be ordered by the court.
(B) Responding to Each Item. For each item or category, the response must either state that inspection and related activities will be permitted as requested or state with specificity the grounds for objecting to the request, including the reasons. The responding party may state that it will produce copies of documents or of electronically stored information instead of permitting inspection. The production must then be completed no later than the time for inspection specified in the request or another reasonable time specified in the response.
(C) Objections. An objection must state wither any responsive materials are being withheld on the basis of that objection. An objection part of a request must specify the part and permit inspection of the rest.
(D) Responding to a Request for Production of Electronically Stored Information. The response may state an objection to a requested form for producing electronically stored information. If the responding party objects to a requested form -- or if no form was specified in the request -- the party must state the form or forms it intends to use.
(E) Producing the Documents or Electronically Stored Information. Unless otherwise stipulated or ordered by the court, these procedures apply to producing documents or electronically stored information:
(i) A party must produce documents as they are kept in the usual course of business or must organize and label them to correspond to the categories in the request;
(ii) If a request does not specify a form for producing electronically stored information, a party must produce it in a form or forms in which it is ordinarily maintained or in a reasonably usable form or forms; and
(iii) A party need not produce the same electronically stored information in more than one form.
(c) Nonparties. As provided in Rule 45, a non party may be compelled to produce documents and tangible things or to permit an inspection.
Rule 34 Summary
Electronically stored information (ESI) must be produced in forms that are reasonably usable. Requests for production may specify desired data formats for production. If no specification is made, parties must produce the ESI in the format in which it is ordinarily maintained, or in a reasonably usable form (i.e., if ordinarily kept in a proprietary format.) Parties do not have to produce ESI in more than one format.
Rule 34 Checklist
Review your client's ordinary file formats in order to determine whether ESI may need conversion in order to be "reasonably usable."
Determine the optimal form of production: eg, native file formats, PDF files, TIFF files, etc.
Ensure that the wording of production requests covers all forms of electronic data.