Forensic Update

Reflections on information management within the legal and regulatory arena

Posts Tagged ‘digital discovery’

Must Transactional Attorneys Preserve Evidence?

Posted by Johnny Lee on June 5, 2012

Shred-DocumentIt is almost axiomatic in American jurisprudence that the duty to preserve arises for a party when that party “knows or reasonably should know” that litigation is foreseeable.  That said, a recent matter out of the federal courts in New York has raised a very interesting question about evidence preservation duties, as well as when and how they extend to certain parties — including their counsel.

Corporate and litigation counsel alike recognize their (somewhat nebulous) triggering event as the “reasonable anticipation” of a dispute arising, and they respond by issuing data preservation instructions to custodians to ensure that all potentially relevant information is retained for possible review and use in such a matter.  However, federal magistrate judge Joan Azrack has indicated that counsel for a party that destroys evidence might be sanctioned for failing to preserve — independent of a litigation hold — certain documents (including emails) that relate to “the lawyer’s negotiation and documentation of a loan agreement.”

What’s novel in this matter is not that this duty arises for counsel, but when and why.  The case (FDIC v. Malik) involves a suit brought by the FDIC, in its role as the receiver for a mortgage company, against the mortgage company’s attorneys (et alia) relating to a series of loan transactions.

It is important to note that this case is still in process, so its implications (both for litigation- and for records-management) will be watched closely.  Of particular note here is the implication that document retention regulations (in this case, arising out of the attorney’s professional responsibility rules) can establish evidence-preservation obligations where the affected party is “a member of the general class of persons that the regulatory agency sought to protect in promulgating the rule.”  If we were to extrapolate this to organizations across the legal spectrum, this could represent a precedent of staggering influence to corporate America and the way it manages information.

 

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Federal Circuit’s Model Order adopted to curtail the expense of eDiscovery…Paradigm Shift of Wishful Thinking?

Posted by Johnny Lee on January 30, 2012

eDiscovery-LassoIn a move designed to stem the escalating costs of electronic discovery, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit recently adopted a Model Order that sets out requirements designed to limit the scope and impact of eDiscovery in patent cases.  In a September 2011 presentation, Chief Judge Randall Rader of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit unveiled a Model Order Regarding E-Discovery in Patent Cases (“Model Order”).

Judge Rader stated last September (at the joint conference of the Federal Circuit and Eastern District of Texas) that the Model Order will serve as an aid to district courts to enforce “responsible, targeted use of eDiscovery.”  According to Chief Judge Rader, the Model Order was drafted by special committee of the Advisory Council for the Federal Circuit and was designed to achieve the efficiencies achieved via Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (“FRCP”) Rule 30 (which limits the number of depositions that may be taken by each party).

The Model Order contains discrete provisions orchestrated to minimize expensive, overbroad, and time-consuming eDiscovery requests by establishing a process by which parties should exchange information, including electronically stored information (“ESI”).  Under the Model Order, parties are required to exchange “core documentation” prior to any request or production of electronic mail.  This core documentation includes related to the underlying patent and it prior art as well as the allegedly infringing product.

One of the most impactful provisions of the Model Order is its distinct and very detailed — treatment of electronic mail.  The Model Order actually presumes that general production requests shall not include email.  This addresses one of the most significant aspects of discovery in patent litigation, as a good deal of what is typically reviewed in such matters begins (and often ends) with a review of email.

Should this presumption be surmounted in a given matter, the Model Order also seeks to limit the number of custodians from whom email shall be produced.  “Each requesting party shall limit its email production requests to a total of five custodians per producing party for all such requests.”  This too can have a tremendous impact on the scope, expense, and timeliness of document reviews within patent litigation.

These changes alone are substantial, but the Model Order goes on to limit the nature and scope of eDiscovery in several other notable ways:

  • Email production requests should be limited to a total of five search terms, per custodian, per party;
  • Absent a showing of good cause, parties should be exempted from producing metadata;
  • Costs will be shifted for disproportionate production requests (consistent with FRCP Rule 26); and
  • Inadvertent productions are deemed a non-waiver within the pending case or any other state/federal proceeding (consistent with Federal Rule of Evidence 502).

These changes codify a material shift in thinking that speaks directly to the root causes of overblown eDiscovery efforts in patent cases.  Moreover, these changes should begin to bear fruit immediately in the form of reduced “digital haystacks” that parties are required to sift through in search of the proverbial needle(s) they seek.

Indeed, in a recent patent case in the Northern District of California, a U.S. Magistrate Judge granted a defense motion to govern discovery using an order quite similar to the Model Order (q.v., DCG v. Checkpoint Technologies).  Interestingly, in that case, the plaintiff asserted that the Model Order should not be applied, as it was designed to limit discovery abuses by so-called “patent trolls” (as opposed to disputes between actual competitors in the marketplace).  The Magistrate Judge disagreed with this assertion, stating that the Model Order neither deals exclusively with patent trolls nor exempts parties from discovery scope-limitations simply because they are market competitors.

Posted in Computer Forensics, Data Governance, eDiscovery, Litigation Hold, Records Retention | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Federal Circuit’s Model Order adopted to curtail the expense of eDiscovery…Paradigm Shift of Wishful Thinking?

General Counsel Toolworks Forum: Data Governance & eDiscovery

Posted by Johnny Lee on December 1, 2011

Sponsored by Grant Thornton LLP’s Forensic & Litigation professionals, the Forum offers educational events and resources for today’s in-house counsel and corporate senior management. We collaborate with trial and transaction lawyers from some the nation’s leading law firms to bring you periodic complimentary webcasts addressing important financial, operational and legal issues that can impact your organization.

Each event will be supported by a customized Toolbox — documents and other resources offering guidance on the topics covered by the webcast.  The next Toolworks Forum will focus upon the state of the e-discovery marketplace; the importance of intelligent, proactive information and litigation management; and practical steps companies can take to reduce expenses and risks associated with civil litigation and government investigations.

This webinar event will be held on Thursday, January 19, 2012, and it will begin at 1:00pm Eastern time and continue for 90 minutes.  CLE credit has been applied for, and full details can be found here.  Johnny Lee, Director in Grant Thornton’s Forensic & Litigation practice, and Dante Stella, eDiscovery practice leader at Dykema Gossett, will present.

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