The pitfalls of discovery procedure are one of the barriers to access for the self-represented. So it is particularly good to see the Montana Supreme Court taking a commonsense approach to the technicalities.
In Arlington v. Miller’s Trucking, the Court was faced with a situation in which a lower court had affirmed a state administrative agency’s decision against a wages and hours claimant although the claimant had sought additional evidence by requesting the agency to issue a subpoena (which the agency did not do), but failed to follow up by motion to compel.
The key language, reversing the lower court and the administrative agency:
Given that Arlington made concerted efforts within the discovery rules to secure the documents to support his case, we conclude that refusing him relief because he failed to file a motion to compel constitutes an overly rigid application of the rules of discovery. (at para #25)
The opinion can obviously be broadly cited for the proposition that overly technical requirements can not be allowed to get in the way of the fat finder having the evidence that is needed to determine the case.
While the current Montana Supreme Court deserves great credit for this unanimous, sensible and indeed groundbreaking decision, this is also a good moment to acknowledge the role that former Chief Judge Karla Gray has played in sensitizing her state’s legal system — and indeed national judicial leadership, on this issue.