Rule 29 – Stipulations About Discovery Procedure

Unless the court orders otherwise, the parties may stipulate that:

(a) a deposition may be taken before any person, at any time or place, on any notice, and in the manner specified—in which event it may be used in the same way as any other deposition; and

(b) other procedures governing or limiting discovery be modified—but a stipulation extending the time for any form of discovery must have court approval if it would interfere with the time set for completing discovery, for hearing a motion, or for trial.

Summary and Explanation

Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 29 addresses stipulations about discovery procedures, allowing parties involved in a civil litigation to modify the procedures of discovery by mutual agreement, within certain limits. This rule reflects the Federal Rules’ general preference for allowing parties to manage many aspects of their litigation to promote efficiency and reduce the need for court intervention.

Key Aspects of Rule 29:

  1. Stipulations Regarding Discovery Methods: Parties can stipulate to the terms of conducting discovery, including depositions, document requests, interrogatories, and physical or mental examinations. This could involve agreements on the timing, format, or scope of discovery beyond what is typically allowed under the Federal Rules.
  2. Written Agreement Requirement: Any such stipulation must be made in writing or stated on the record if it is made during a court proceeding. This requirement ensures that there is clear evidence of the parties’ agreement, which can be referred to in case of any disputes.
  3. Limitations: While Rule 29 provides flexibility, it does not allow parties to stipulate away court oversight entirely. For example, stipulations that would significantly prejudice third-party rights or impact the court’s jurisdiction and schedule may not be permissible. Additionally, certain aspects of discovery, such as privileges and protections against disclosing sensitive information, cannot be waived purely by stipulation if they implicate broader legal principles or rights.
  4. Court Orders: Despite any stipulation between the parties, the court retains the authority to order a different method of discovery if it deems necessary to ensure fairness, efficiency, or to protect parties or non-parties from undue burden or expense.

Rule 29 empowers parties to tailor the discovery process to the specific needs of their case, encouraging cooperation and potentially reducing conflicts and the need for judicial intervention. However, this flexibility is balanced by the need to protect the legal rights of all involved and to ensure that the discovery process remains consistent with the objectives of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.


(As amended Mar. 30, 1970, eff. July 1, 1970; Apr. 22, 1993, eff. Dec. 1, 1993; Apr. 30, 2007, eff. Dec. 1, 2007.)

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1970 Amendment

There is no provision for stipulations varying the procedures by which methods of discovery other than depositions are governed. It is common practice for parties to agree on such variations, and the amendment recognizes such agreements and provides a formal mechanism in the rules for giving them effect. Any stipulation varying the procedures may be superseded by court order, and stipulations extending the time for response to discovery under Rules 33, 34, and 36 require court approval.

Notes of Advisory Committee on Rules—1993 Amendment

This rule is revised to give greater opportunity for litigants to agree upon modifications to the procedures governing discovery or to limitations upon discovery. Counsel are encouraged to agree on less expensive and time-consuming methods to obtain information, as through voluntary exchange of documents, use of interviews in lieu of depositions, etc. Likewise, when more depositions or interrogatories are needed than allowed under these rules or when more time is needed to complete a deposition than allowed under a local rule, they can, by agreeing to the additional discovery, eliminate the need for a special motion addressed to the court.

Under the revised rule, the litigants ordinarily are not required to obtain the court’s approval of these stipulations. By order or local rule, the court can, however, direct that its approval be obtained for particular types of stipulations; and, in any event, approval must be obtained if a stipulation to extend the 30-day period for responding to interrogatories, requests for production, or requests for admissions would interfere with dates set by the court for completing discovery, for hearing of a motion, or for trial.

Committee Notes on Rules—2007 Amendment

The language of Rule 29 has been amended as part of the general restyling of the Civil Rules to make them more easily understood and to make style and terminology consistent throughout the rules. These changes are intended to be stylistic only.

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