Can Judge Allow Limited Pre-Hearing Discovery During Post-Conviction Proceedings ?
In State v. Lewis, 656 So. 2d 1248, 1249 (Fla. 1994), the Court held that it is within the trial judge's inherent authority to allow limited prehearing discovery during postconviction proceedings.
The Court set forth the following parameters for such discovery: the motion seeking discovery must set forth good reason; the court may grant limited discovery into matters which are relevant and material; the court may set limits on the sources and scope of such discovery; and on review of orders limiting or denying discovery, the moving party has the burden of showing an abuse of discretion. Id. at 1250 (quoting Davis v. State, 624 So. 2d 282 (Fla. 3d DCA 1993), and adopting procedures established therein).
In deciding whether to allow this limited form of discovery, the trial judge must consider "the issues presented, the elapsed time between the conviction and the postconviction hearing, any burdens placed on the opposing party and witnesses, alternative means of securing the evidence, and any other relevant facts." Id. Our opinion did not expand the discovery procedures established in Florida Rule of Criminal Procedure 3.220, which governs discovery, nor was the opinion to be interpreted as automatically allowing discovery in postconviction proceedings.
The Court further cautioned that a trial judge's inherent authority to permit postconviction discovery "should be used only upon a showing of good cause." Id.
While a party may be allowed to take postconviction depositions of the trial judge, this should only occur when the testimony of the judge is "absolutely necessary to establish factual circumstances not in the record," provided that the procedures set forth in the opinion are followed and the judge's thought process is not violated. Id.
"The need to have a trial judge testify is very limited in scope and particularly applies only to factual matters that are outside the record." Id. at 1250 n.3.