Interrogatories in the United States

A form of pretrial discovery. Interrogatories are a series of written questions sent to an opposing party in a civil action. Interrogatories may also be directed toward witnesses for the opposing party or anyone else having relevant information. Interrogatories require a written response. The person responding to the question typically must sign a statement swearing to the truthfulness of the answers. As a result, responses can be considered to be provided under oath. (1)

Analysis and Relevance

Interrogatories are an efficient method of obtaining information from the opposing side in a civil case. Interrogatories differ from depositions, where questions and answers are asked and answered orally. Unlike depositions, interrogatories do not permit cross-examination. While interrogatories are not as flexible as depositions and do not produce as extensive a body of information, they are less difficult and expensive to use. The information generated through interrogatories better allows attorneys to prepare for trial or negotiate settlements. (2)

Interrogatories Definition

Pretrial inquiry whereby written questions are proposed by one party to the other party. Answers must be written and verified under oath. (Revised by Ann De Vries)

For other meanings of it, read Interrogatories in the Legal Dictionary here.

“Material and pertinent questions, in writing, to necessary points, not confessed, exhibited for the examination of witnesses or persons -in accordance with the definition of Interrogatories based on The Cyclopedic Law Dictionary– who are to give testimony in the cause. Interrogatories are exhibited in various proceedings, as in a bill of equity by way of discovery, on a statutory discovery, on the taking of a deposition. Interrogatories to a witness are either original and direct on the part of him who produces the witnesses, or cross and counter, on behalf of the adverse party, to examine witnesses produced on the other side. Either party, plaintiff or defendant, may exhibit original or cross interrogatories.”

In Plain-English Law

Interrogatories as defined by Nolo’s Encyclopedia of Everyday Law (p. 437-455): Written questions that one party to a lawsuit asks an opposing party. Interrogatories are designed to discover key facts about an opponent’s case and are a common part of pretrial case investigation (discovery).

Legal Materials

A very good source for sample interrogatories is volumes 1 through 10 of Bender’s Forms of Discovery: Interrogatories, which is available in print and on Lexis (2NDARY;BFDISC). There are special volumes for Automobiles-Collisions (2NDARY;BFDAUT), medical malpractice (2NDARY;BFDMED) and products liability (2NDARY;BFDPRD). Volumes 11 through 16 comprise a legal treatise on interrogatories.

Another good source for interrogatories is the Pattern Discovery series. These books are available in print and on Westlaw. The database identifiers are:

  • PDPREML – Pattern Discovery: Premises Liability
  • PDMV – Pattern Discovery: Motor Vehicles
  • PDTORT – Pattern Discovery: Tort Actions
  • PDPRODL – Pattern Discovery: Products Liability
  • PDED – Pattern Discovery: Employment Discrimination

One last useful book is Model Interrogatories (James Publishing) by Kevin R. Culhane. To my knowledge this one is not available online but, for a law book, it is not expensive to buy.

Court Filings: Westlaw has databases with interrogatories gathered from court filings: INTERROG-FED for Federal filings; INTERROG-STATE for state filings; and INTERROG-ALL to search Federal and state filings at the same time. If you work in a law firm, you might want to search your Document Management System first to see if you can find free in-house examples.

Executive Order 13491

Executive order about Ensuring Lawful Interrogations (January 22, 2009):

“By the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, in order to improve the effectiveness of human intelligence-gathering, to promote the safe, lawful, and humane treatment of individuals in United States custody and of United States personnel who are detained in armed conflicts, to ensure compliance with the treaty obligations of the United States, including the Geneva Conventions, and to take care that the laws of the United States are faithfully executed, I hereby order as follows:

Section 1. Revocation. Executive Order 13440 of July 20, 2007, is revoked. All executive directives, orders, and regulations inconsistent with this order, including but not limited to those issued to or by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) from September 11, 2001, to January 20, 2009, concerning detention or the interrogation of detained individuals, are revoked to the extent of their inconsistency with this order. Heads of departments and agencies shall take all necessary steps to ensure that all directives, orders, and regulations of their respective departments or agencies are consistent with this order. Upon request, the Attorney General shall provide guidance about which directives, orders, and regulations are inconsistent with this order.

Sec. 2. Definitions. As used in this order:

(a) “Army Field Manual 2-22.3” means FM 2-22.3, Human Intelligence Collector Operations, issued by the Department of the Army on September 6, 2006.

(b) “Army Field Manual 34-52” means FM 34-52, Intelligence Interrogation, issued by the Department of the Army on May 8, 1987.

(c) “Common Article 3” means Article 3 of each of the Geneva Conventions.

(d) “Convention Against Torture” means the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, December 10, 1984, 1465 U.N.T.S. 85, S. Treaty Doc. No. 100-20 (1988).

(e) “Geneva Conventions” means:

(i) the Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of the Wounded and Sick in Armed Forces in the Field, August 12, 1949 (6 UST 3114);

(ii) the Convention for the Amelioration of the Condition of Wounded, Sick and Shipwrecked Members of Armed Forces at Sea, August 12, 1949 (6 UST 3217);

(iii) the Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War, August 12, 1949 (6 UST 3316); and

(iv) the Convention Relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, August 12, 1949 (6 UST 3516).

(f) “Treated humanely,” “violence to life and person,” “murder of all kinds,” “mutilation,” “cruel treatment,” “torture,” “outrages upon personal dignity,” and “humiliating and degrading treatment” refer to, and have the same meaning as, those same terms in Common Article 3.

(g) The terms “detention facilities” and “detention facility” in section 4(a) of this order do not refer to facilities used only to hold people on a short-term, transitory basis.

Sec. 3. Standards and Practices for Interrogation of Individuals in the Custody or Control of the United States in Armed Conflicts.

(a) Common Article 3 Standards as a Minimum Baseline. Consistent with the requirements of the Federal torture statute, 18 U.S.C. 2340-2340A, section 1003 of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, 42 U.S.C. 2000dd, the Convention Against Torture, Common Article 3, and other laws regulating the treatment and interrogation of individuals detained in any armed conflict, such persons shall in all circumstances be treated humanely and shall not be subjected to violence to life and person (including murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment, and torture), nor to outrages upon personal dignity (including humiliating and degrading treatment), whenever such individuals are in the custody or under the effective control of an officer, employee, or other agent of the United States Government or detained within a facility owned, operated, or controlled by a department or agency of the United States.

(b) Interrogation Techniques and Interrogation-Related Treatment. Effective immediately, an individual in the custody or under the effective control of an officer, employee, or other agent of the United States Government, or detained within a facility owned, operated, or controlled by a department or agency of the United States, in any armed conflict, shall not be subjected to any interrogation technique or approach, or any treatment related to interrogation, that is not authorized by and listed in Army Field Manual 2-22.3 (Manual). Interrogation techniques, approaches, and treatments described in the Manual shall be implemented strictly in accord with the principles, processes, conditions, and limitations the Manual prescribes. Where processes required by the Manual, such as a requirement of approval by specified Department of Defense officials, are inapposite to a department or an agency other than the Department of Defense, such a department or agency shall use processes that are substantially equivalent to the processes the Manual prescribes for the Department of Defense. Nothing in this section shall preclude the Federal Bureau of Investigation, or other Federal law enforcement agencies, from continuing to use authorized, non-coercive techniques of interrogation that are designed to elicit voluntary statements and do not involve the use of force, threats, or promises.

(c) Interpretations of Common Article 3 and the Army Field Manual. From this day forward, unless the Attorney General with appropriate consultation provides further guidance, officers, employees, and other agents of the United States Government may, in conducting interrogations, act in reliance upon Army Field Manual 2-22.3, but may not, in conducting interrogations, rely upon any interpretation of the law governing interrogation — including interpretations of Federal criminal laws, the Convention Against Torture, Common Article 3, Army Field Manual 2-22.3, and its predecessor document, Army Field Manual 34-52 — issued by the Department of Justice between September 11, 2001, and January 20, 2009.

Sec. 4. Prohibition of Certain Detention Facilities, and Red Cross Access to Detained Individuals.

(a) CIA Detention. The CIA shall close as expeditiously as possible any detention facilities that it currently operates and shall not operate any such detention facility in the future.

(b) International Committee of the Red Cross Access to Detained Individuals. All departments and agencies of the Federal Government shall provide the International Committee of the Red Cross with notification of, and timely access to, any individual detained in any armed conflict in the custody or under the effective control of an officer, employee, or other agent of the United States Government or detained within a facility owned, operated, or controlled by a department or agency of the United States Government, consistent with Department of Defense regulations and policies.

Sec. 5. Special Interagency Task Force on Interrogation and Transfer Policies.

(a) Establishment of Special Interagency Task Force. There shall be established a Special Task Force on Interrogation and Transfer Policies (Special Task Force) to review interrogation and transfer policies.

(b) Membership. The Special Task Force shall consist of the following members, or their designees:

(i) the Attorney General, who shall serve as Chair;

(ii) the Director of National Intelligence, who shall serve as Co-Vice-Chair;

(iii) the Secretary of Defense, who shall serve as Co-Vice-Chair;

(iv) the Secretary of State;

(v) the Secretary of Homeland Security;

(vi) the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency;

(vii) the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and

(viii) other officers or full-time or permanent part-time employees of the United States, as determined by the Chair, with the concurrence of the head of the department or agency concerned.

(c) Staff. The Chair may designate officers and employees within the Department of Justice to serve as staff to support the Special Task Force. At the request of the Chair, officers and employees from other departments or agencies may serve on the Special Task Force with the concurrence of the head of the department or agency that employ such individuals. Such staff must be officers or full-time or permanent part-time employees of the United States. The Chair shall designate an officer or employee of the Department of Justice to serve as the Executive Secretary of the Special Task Force.

(d) Operation. The Chair shall convene meetings of the Special Task Force, determine its agenda, and direct its work. The Chair may establish and direct subgroups of the Special Task Force, consisting exclusively of members of the Special Task Force, to deal with particular subjects.

(e) Mission. The mission of the Special Task Force shall be:
(i) to study and evaluate whether the interrogation practices and techniques in Army Field Manual 2-22.3, when employed by departments or agencies outside the military, provide an appropriate means of acquiring the intelligence necessary to protect the Nation, and, if warranted, to recommend any additional or different guidance for other departments or agencies; and

(ii) to study and evaluate the practices of transferring individuals to other nations in order to ensure that such practices comply with the domestic laws, international obligations, and policies of the United States and do not result in the transfer of individuals to other nations to face torture or otherwise for the purpose, or with the effect, of undermining or circumventing the commitments or obligations of the United States to ensure the humane treatment of individuals in its custody or control.

(f) Administration. The Special Task Force shall be established for administrative purposes within the Department of Justice and the Department of Justice shall, to the extent permitted by law and subject to the availability of appropriations, provide administrative support and funding for the Special Task Force.

(g) Recommendations. The Special Task Force shall provide a report to the President, through the Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs and the Counsel to the President, on the matters set forth in subsection (d) within 180 days of the date of this order, unless the Chair determines that an extension is necessary.

(h) Termination. The Chair shall terminate the Special Task Force upon the completion of its duties.

Sec. 6. Construction with Other Laws. Nothing in this order shall be construed to affect the obligations of officers, employees, and other agents of the United States Government to comply with all pertinent laws and treaties of the United States governing detention and interrogation, including but not limited to: the Fifth and Eighth Amendments to the United States Constitution; the Federal torture statute, 18 U.S.C. 2340-2340A; the War Crimes Act, 18 U.S.C. 2441; the Federal assault statute, 18 U.S.C. 113; the Federal maiming statute, 18 U.S.C. 114; the Federal “stalking” statute, 18 U.S.C. 2261A; articles 93, 124, 128, and 134 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice, 10 U.S.C. 893, 924, 928, and 934; section 1003 of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, 42 U.S.C. 2000dd; section 6(c) of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, Public Law 109-366; the Geneva Conventions; and the Convention Against Torture. Nothing in this order shall be construed to diminish any rights that any individual may have under these or other laws and treaties.”

Meaning of Interrogatories

In plain or simple terms, Interrogatories means: In the discovery phase of civil litigation these written questions are submitted by one party to another party and must be answered in writing under oath.

Concept of Interrogatories in Judicial Assistance

In this context, a definition of Interrogatories may be as follows: Questions posed to a person or entity. Normally, in connection with litigation, the term means written questions given to one party to an action by another party that require response in writing under oath. Cross-interrogatories are questions posed by the opposing party or the attorney of the opposing party.

Interrogatories (Methods)

This section introduces, discusses and describes the basics of interrogatories. Then, cross references and a brief overview about Methods is provided. Finally, the subject of Discovery in relation with interrogatories is examined. Note that a list of cross references, bibliography and other resources appears at the end of this entry.


See Also

Notes and References

  1. Definition of Interrogatories from the American Law Dictionary, 1991, California
  2. Id.

Further Reading

Interrogatories Definition in the context of the Federal Court System

Written questions sent by one party in a lawsuit to an opposing party as part of pretrial discovery in civil cases. The party receiving the interrogatories is required to answer them in writing under oath.

Interrogatories: Open and Free Legal Research of US Law

Federal Primary Materials

The U.S. federal government system consists of executive, legislative, and judicial branches, each of which creates information that can be the subject of legal research about Interrogatories. This part provides references, in relation to Interrogatories, to the legislative process, the federal judiciary, and the primary sources of federal law (cases, statutes, and regulations).

Federal primary materials about Interrogatories by content types:

Laws and Regulations

US Constitution
Federal Statutory Codes and Legislation

Federal Case Law and Court Materials

U.S. Courts of Appeals
United States courts of appeals, inclouding bankruptcy courts and bankcruptcy appellate panels:

Federal Administrative Materials and Resources

Presidential Materials

Materials that emanate from the President’s lawmaking function include executive orders for officers in departments and agencies and proclamations for announcing ceremonial or commemorative policies. Presidential materials available include:

Executive Materials

Federal Legislative History Materials

Legislative history traces the legislative process of a particular bill (about Interrogatories and other subjects) for the main purpose of determining the legislators’ intent behind the enactment of a law to explain or clarify ambiguities in the language or the perceived meaning of that law (about Interrogatories or other topics), or locating the current status of a bill and monitoring its progress.

State Administrative Materials and Resources

State regulations are rules and procedures promulgated by state agencies (which may apply to Interrogatories and other topics); they are a binding source of law. In addition to promulgating regulations, state administrative boards and agencies often have judicial or quasi-judicial authority and may issue administrative decisions affecting Interrogatories. Finding these decisions can be challenging. In many cases, researchers about Interrogatories should check state agency web sites for their regulations, decisions, forms, and other information of interest.

State rules and regulations are found in codes of regulations and administrative codes (official compilation of all rules and regulations, organized by subject matter). Search here:

State opinions of the Attorney General (official written advisory opinions on issues of state law related to Interrogatories when formerly requested by a designated government officer):

Tools and Forms

Law in Other Regions

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