Motion for Protective Order United States District Court–At A Glance


Use this “At A Glance Guide” to learn the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure applicable to bringing a Motion for Protective Order in the United States District Court.  For a more detailed treatment, including local rules, please see the United States District Court SmartRules Guides Motion for Protective Order, Opposition to Motion for Protective Order and Reply in Support of Motion for Protective Order.   Please note that in some jurisdictions, such as the California Central District, there is a completely different procedure for bringing discovery motions governed entirely by local rules. 


There is no deadline imposed by the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure for moving for a protective order pursuant to Rule 26.  The court must set a motion cut-off date or deadline for discovery and motions.  FRCP 16(b)(3).

Protections Available

The court may, for good cause, issue an order to protect a party or person from annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, or undue burden or expense, including one or more of the following:

(A) forbidding the disclosure or discovery;

(B) specifying terms, including time and place, for the disclosure or discovery;

(C) prescribing a discovery method other than the one selected by the party seeking discovery;

(D) forbidding inquiry into certain matters, or limiting the scope of disclosure or discovery to certain matters;

(E) designating the persons who may be present while the discovery is conducted;

(F) requiring that a deposition be sealed and opened only on court order;

(G) requiring that a trade secret or other confidential research, development, or commercial information not be revealed or be revealed only in a specified way; and

(H) requiring that the parties simultaneously file specified documents or information in sealed envelopes, to be opened as the court directs.  FRCP 26(c)(1)(A) – (H). 

Legal Standard

On motion or on its own, the court must limit the frequency or extent of discovery otherwise allowed by these rules or by local rule if it determines that:

(i) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or can be obtained from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive;

(ii) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity to obtain the information by discovery in the action; or

(iii) the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, considering the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties’ resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the action, and the importance of the discovery in resolving the issues.  FRCP 26(b)(2)(C). 

Other Motion for Protective Order Rules

The motion must include a certification that the movant has in good faith conferred or attempted to confer with other affected parties in an effort to resolve the dispute without court action.  FRCP 26(c)(1). 

A party or any person from whom discovery is sought may move for a protective order in the court where the action is pending — or as an alternative on matters relating to a deposition, in the court for the district where the deposition will be taken.  FRCP 26(c)(1).

Rule 37(a)(5) applies to the award of expenses.  FRCP 26(c)(3).

If a motion for a protective order is wholly or partly denied, the court may, on just terms, order that any party or person provide or permit discovery.  FRCP 26(c)(2).

The authorities cited in this At A Glance Guide are current as of the publication date. For authorities updated in real time, please see the SmartRules Guide for the litigation document you are drafting.