The process of discovery could undergo significant reforms if a report tabled in Parliament today (27 May) by Federal Attorney-General Robert McClelland has any impact.
The Australian Law Reform Commission's (ALRC) report, Managing Discovery: Discovery of Documents in Federal Courts, looks into discovery laws and practice in federal court proceedings and recommends reforms to the process to render it more efficient and cost effective, and provide better support for judges.
"This report has highlighted the need to ensure the costs and methods of resolution are proportionate to the issues in dispute," McClelland said in a statement released today.
"Discovery of documents allows parties to proceed on an equal footing and is a critical part of Australia's legal system. The report notes the high and sometimes disproportionate cost of discovery can impede access to justice for some litigants."
The ALRC's inquiry found that discovery can, in many cases, be routine and straightforward but, in other instances, it can be complex and involve large volumes of documents. In such cases, discovery costs can be disproportionate to the usefulness of the documents.
Discovery has become more common in the modern era, with new technologies enabling the creation, retention and collection of large amounts of electronically-stored information.
The report is the result of a ten-month inquiry initiated by McClelland in May 2010.