Electronic Discovery

Court Denies Plaintiff’s Sanctions Request, Points Out Her Own “Misconduct”: eDiscovery Case Law

In Vaks v. Quinlan, et al., No. 18-12571-LTS (D. Mass. Feb. 24, 2020), Massachusetts District Judge Leo T. Sorokin denied the plaintiff’s Motion to Compel and for Sanctions, calling her accusations “without basis” and pointing out her own “pattern of misconduct and disregard of the governing rules”.

Case Background

In this case involving claims of age discrimination by the plaintiff against the defendants, the plaintiff, in filing the motion, accused the defendants and their attorneys of: (1) “obstructing” a deposition; (2) “relentless refusal to produce documents”; and (3) “defiantly [and] in bad faith violat[ing] every Federal Rule of Civil Procedure related to discovery[.]”

Judge’s Ruling

Judge Sorokin, in responding to the plaintiff’s accusations, stated: “These are serious accusations made in writing. They are without basis.”  Judge Sorokin also referenced a previous observation from his court where he “note[d] that there is no basis to infer improper discovery practices by defendant or anything other than reasonable forthright practices by [defense] counsel.”  Continuing, he noted:

“Indeed, to date, Plaintiff—rather than Defendants—has not conformed to the governing rules. She filed late discovery requests…which the Court ultimately found were almost entirely overbroad, unreasonable, and not proportional to the case…She induced the Court to issue an order by making a material misrepresentation: in writing, she represented that defense counsel had assented to an extension of the governing schedule which, the Court later learned, defense counsel had not.”

Judge Sorokin also outlined the plaintiff’s submission of documents produced by the defendants in a pending motion as “plainly designated as confidential” and “in direct violation of the protective order” that defendants had requested which was approved by the court, even though the plaintiff had “never challenged any confidentiality designations”.  Judge Sorokin indicated that filing “establishes a pattern of misconduct and disregard of the governing rules.”

As for the merits of the plaintiff’s motion to compel, Judge Sorokin addressed her five claims, as follows:

  • Format of the documents produced electronically by defendants: Judge Sorokin stated: “This challenge is without merit. Defendants produced the metadata both for documents and emails. As to emails, they searched their servers, and produced the relevant emails with attachments and metadata…This is a permissible practice.”
  • Defendants advanced improper general objections: Judge Sorokin stated: “Not so. Defendants augmented their ‘general’ objections with specific objections.”
  • Defendants withheld responsive non-privileged documents: Judge Sorokin stated that “nothing before the Court, contrary to Vaks’ arguments, suggests” that took place, noting that “Defendants produced multiple privilege logs” and indicated that the plaintiff “simply misunderstands” a reference from the defendants to imply there were suppressed documents.
  • Certain documents withheld by Defendants pursuant to the work product privilege doctrine were not privileged: Judge Sorokin stated: “This argument similarly fails”, noting that documents in contention were prepared at the direction of the defendant’s general counsel, “so that she could provide legal advice. In these circumstances, such documents are properly withheld.”
  • Reopen the now-completed Rule 30(b)(6) deposition: Judge Sorokin noted that there was “no basis” to do so, stating: “Indeed, Vaks has not demonstrated in any way that Mr. LeBlanc did not adequately answer questions during his deposition. Moreover, she did not, in any of the parties’ communications after Mr. LeBlanc’s deposition, claim that the deposition was deficient.”

In denying the motion, Judge Sorokin also stated: “One more issue bears comment. Vaks requests sanctions. None are merited here. Whatever the merits of Vaks’ claims—a matter upon which the Court has no view—defense counsel has discharged her discovery obligations well. She has made reasonable accommodations for a pro se party, as she must, while pressing her client’s positions firmly—all while under repeated attack. There is no basis whatsoever for the imposition of sanctions, nor even an arguable basis to request sanctions.”

So, what do you think?  Does the ruling open the door for the defendants to file their own motion for sanctions?  Please let us know if any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Case opinion link courtesy of eDiscovery Assistant.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Here’s a Webcast on How to Win the Battle on Discovery Form of Production: eDiscovery Webcasts

Yesterday, I said that (despite the current COVID-19 crisis) CloudNine is continuing to provide the full range of services and high-quality support you have come to expect, including this blog.  And, webcasts too!  We’re back and better than ever with our next webcast – in just three weeks!

Let’s face it, one of the most common disputes in discovery today has to do with the form or forms of production for the electronically stored information (ESI) in the case. There are quite a few misconceptions regarding the different production forms as well as the pros and cons of each. So, what do you need to know to request the most appropriate form of production to maximize the information available to you, at a cost you can afford and a format that supports presentation activities such as depositions and trial exhibits?

Wednesday, April 8th at noon CST (1:00pm EST, 10:00am PST), CloudNine will conduct the webcast Winning the Battle on Discovery Form of Production. In this one-hour webcast that’s CLE-approved in selected states, we will cover current rules regarding form of production, options available to you, the pros and cons of each and relevant case law regarding recent form of production disputes. Topics include:

  • History Lesson: How We Got Here
  • Federal Rules Addressing Forms of Production
  • Options for Forms of Production
  • Objections to Native File Production and Counter-Arguments
  • Considerations for ESI Protocols
  • Key Recent Case Law Opinions Regarding Form of Production
  • Recommendations and Resources for More Information

As always, I’ll be presenting the webcast, along with Tom O’Connor.  To register for it, click here.  Even if you can’t make it, go ahead and register to get a link to the slides and to the recording of the webcast (if you want to check it out later).  If you want to learn how to win the battle on form of production disputes, this webcast is for you!

So, what do you think?  Do you feel like you understand how to select the form of production that is the most informative and most cost-effective for your cases?  If not, please join us!  And, as always, please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Yes, It’s Another Story About Coronavirus: eDiscovery and World Trends

If you’re not sick from COVID-19 (aka, the Coronavirus), you’re probably sick of hearing about COVID-19.  Hopefully, the latter group will indefinitely continue to be much larger than the former group.  Regardless, I won’t bore you with what you already know about COVID-19 and how it has disrupted (and will continue to disrupt) our way of life (well, I won’t bore you much anyway).  But, since this is an eDiscovery blog, let’s talk about how it is already starting to impact our industry.  And, we’ll also talk about what CloudNine is doing about it.

With social distancing taking hold, schools closing, theme parks closing, college and professional sports leagues closing, Broadway going dark and so much more as part of the CDC warning against events of more than 50 people, life is definitely different around the world in the wake of COVID-19, with circumstances evolving continually.  Even Forrest Gump has it.  Many companies in our space have moved much of their workers to work at home status (including CloudNine, more on that below).  Here are just a few impacts in the eDiscovery and legal technology world:

  • The University of Florida E-Discovery Conference that was scheduled for this Thursday, March 19 in Gainesville, FL (and via Livestream) has been postponed. Bill Hamilton, who is a University of Florida Levin College of Law Skills Professor and has organized the conference since its inception, made the announcement “with great disappointment” and U-Fla opted to postpone the conference instead of holding it entirely online.  Those of us who attend in person every year and enjoy the collaboration and interaction with other professionals in our industry can appreciate that decision and, hopefully, the conference can be re-scheduled later this year.
  • The EDRM Summit/Workshop for June has been converted to a “innovative, inter-active virtual conference this June 25-26 instead of the live-in person at the Duke University campus”. As announced by Mary Mack and Kaylee Walstad last week, doing so “will allow everyone, regardless of geography or health status, to participate, and will save participants travel time and money- it can truly be a global experience, for attendees, speakers and sponsors.”
  • And, yesterday, ILTA decided to postpone all in-person events through April 30. As they stated in an announcement yesterday, “ILTA will continue monitoring the global COVID-19 situation and evaluate our decision in the coming weeks.”  So, no change to the annual ILTACON conference in August – yet.

So, that leaves many of us to exercise our Business Continuity plans and perform our duties remotely.  And conduct our meetings via one of several teleconference services out there.  One of the more popular services out there is Zoom (which also happens to be the underlying service for RingCentral, which we use).  Leave it to Craig Ball, who has “taught classes with Zoom for years” to provide a Zoom “cheat sheet” for those who will be using it extensively over the next few weeks.  :o)

Speaking of Business Continuity plans, CloudNine has exercised ours and (as we announced to our customers and partners yesterday) most of our employees are working from home during this challenging time to do our part to minimize the spread of the virus (including me).  This isn’t the first time we’ve had to exercise our Business Continuity plan – we also did so when Hurricane Harvey hit the Houston area in 2017.  Back then, even though our Houston headquarters weren’t flooded, many roads leading to them were, so we instructed our employees to work from home for a week after Houston was hit by the storm.  Despite that, it was business as usual and we were able to continue to provide services and support to our customers and continue to host customer data without interruption in our data center.  So, we fully expect to be able to continue to provide the full range of services and high-quality support you have come to expect, just like we did back then (including this blog).  We’re here for you.

Stay healthy out there!

So, what do you think?  How has COVID-19 impacted you and your way of life?  As always, please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

P.S. — We haven’t forgotten that it’s St. Patrick’s Day today.  Hope you have as much fun as this guy (despite the circumstances)…

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

The Ongoing Battle Over How ESI is Produced: eDiscovery Trends, Part Four

Editor’s Note: Tom O’Connor is a nationally known consultant, speaker, and writer in the field of computerized litigation support systems.  He has also been a great addition to our webinar program, participating with me on several recent webinars.  Tom has also written several terrific informational overview series for CloudNine, including his most recent one, Mobile Collection: It’s Not Just for iPhones Anymore.  Now, Tom has written another terrific overview regarding mobile device collection titled The Ongoing Battle Over How ESI is Produced that we’re happy to share on the eDiscovery Daily blog.  Enjoy! – Doug

Tom’s overview is split into four parts, so we’ll cover each part separately.  The first part was last Tuesday, the second part was last Wednesday and the third part was last Friday, here’s the fourth and final part.

Conclusions

So, is all this controversy over ESI format legitimate? Or is it, in the words of Bob Eisenberg,

“ … a cocktail of the dubious, bogus and unfounded.  A stew of junk or half-baked technical science and disingenuous advocacy, seeking to rationalize the unreasonable, while tilting that proverbial playing field as far as possible in support of the defense …”.

You make the call.

Regardless, we’re certainly seeing more cases where form of production is figuring prominently in court rulings.  Here are some cases covered by eDiscovery Daily in just the past couple of years regarding form of production disputes, some which granted requests for native files and metadata, others which did not:

Finally, there is one terrific resource regarding form of production that everyone should read and it’s (once again) from renowned eDiscovery expert Craig Ball.  Craig’s Lawyer’s Guide to Forms of Production discusses all of the format options available to attorneys, the pros and cons of each, how to address considerations such as Bates numbers and redactions, and it even includes a sample Request for Production to help guide attorneys on requesting ESI.  Check it out!

So, what do you think?  Do you prefer image-based productions or native file productions?  As always, please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

The Ongoing Battle Over How ESI is Produced: eDiscovery Trends, Part Three

Editor’s Note: Tom O’Connor is a nationally known consultant, speaker, and writer in the field of computerized litigation support systems.  He has also been a great addition to our webinar program, participating with me on several recent webinars.  Tom has also written several terrific informational overview series for CloudNine, including his most recent one, Mobile Collection: It’s Not Just for iPhones Anymore.  Now, Tom has written another terrific overview regarding mobile device collection titled The Ongoing Battle Over How ESI is Produced that we’re happy to share on the eDiscovery Daily blog.  Enjoy! – Doug

Tom’s overview is split into four parts, so we’ll cover each part separately.  The first part was Tuesday and the second part was Wednesday, here’s the third part.

Objections to Native File Production and Counter-Arguments

So, what are the objections most commonly raised by producing parties? I’ll discuss the standard objections below and after that I’ll mention some counter arguments to those objections, including several that have been raised recently by renowned eDiscovery expert Craig Ball.

The objections to native file production we see most often are the following:

  1. The Defense has already created a database containing all documents to be produced (often in related litigation) and retrieval of native files would place an added cost on the producing party.
  2. Redaction is unduly costly and even impossible with some native files
  3. It is unduly burdensome and costly to require an entirely new review of relevant documents necessary to produce native files
  4. Native files cannot be Bates numbered, making them less useful for presentation activities like depositions and trial.
  5. Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 34 does not specifically call for production in native format
  6. Image-based productions have been accepted in many courts
  7. Static images are equally useful for analysis purposes as native files

The response to most of these objections is first that they are not “specific” as required by Rule 34 and second that they are generally untrue. TIFF files are not as useful as native files in that they are not searchable, contain no metadata from the original files and are not at all conducive to the use of TAR or analytics software for searching.

And more specifically, the notes to the FRCP point out that:

[T]he option to produce in a reasonably usable form does not mean that a responding party is free to convert electronically stored information from the form in which it is ordinarily maintained to a different form that makes it more difficult or burdensome for the requesting party to use the information efficiently in the litigation. If the responding party ordinarily maintains the information it is producing in a way that makes it searchable by electronic means, the information should not be produced in a form that removes or significantly degrades this feature.

FRCP Rule 34, Committee Notes on Rules – 2006 Amendment

The latter objection was covered thoroughly by Craig Ball in a blog post of his entitled Degradation: How TIFF+ Disrupts Search. In brief, Craig notes that TIFF load file inaccuracies can reduce accurate searchability (and I routinely see problems in 2/3 of the load files I am asked to investigate, even from large experienced vendors) and further that the suppression of comments or their merger into other portions of text can also severely inhibit accurate searching.

Even more interesting is an analysis Craig performed on the difference in file sizes between TIFF and some standard native files which result in increased costs to requesting parties who will be hosting the documents in a web-based service. In a blog post entitled Don’t Let Plaintiffs’ Lawyers Read This!!, Craig noted that since TIFF images of native files are much larger than the native files and most most eDiscovery service providers are “In the Cloud” and charge by data volume, then a production format that increases data size 15, 20 or 25 times is a violation of the proportionality principle.

Seem far-fetched? Well as Craig notes in his post “let’s do the math” and the math is clear. So clear that one judge in one recent case agreed with him and ordered native file production despite the defendants raising a number of the objections above and disputing Craig’s testimony about file size.

With regard to the objection above raised by producing parties that native files cannot be Bates numbered, making them less useful for depositions, trial and other events where evidence is presented, there is an easy solution to that issue.  Most parties that produce native files generate a file level number for each document that is used to track productions at the document level (essentially a document-level Bates number).  When it comes time to use some of those documents in evidence, they can be converted to image form and the page numbers can be added as a prefix (e.g., PROD00000123-0001, PROD00000123-0002, etc., where “PROD00000123” references the document-level Bates number that was used to track the documents produced.  Keep in mind that only a fraction of the documents produced (often a very small fraction) are used in evidence presentation.  Native file productions don’t eliminate the ability to refer to specific pages within documents when presenting evidence.

We’ll publish Part 4 – Conclusions – next Monday.

So, what do you think?  Do you prefer image-based productions or native file productions? As always, please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Court Denies Southwest Airlines’ Motion for Rule 11 Sanctions Against Plaintiff: eDiscovery Case Law

In Houston v. Southwest Airlines, No. 3:17-cv-02610-N-BT (N.D. Tex. Feb. 18, 2020), Texas Magistrate Judge Rebecca Rutherford “decline[d] to impose sanctions under either Rule 11 or its inherent powers” against the plaintiff for statements she made regarding her response to the defendant’s interrogatories and requests for admission in her summary judgment response.

Case Background

The defendant served interrogatories and requests for admission on the plaintiff, and claimed that she did not respond. In her summary judgment response, however, the plaintiff asserted that she responded to the defendant’s interrogatories and requests for admission via email on April 20, 2019, and even followed up with counsel on May 1, 2019, to confirm defendant’s receipt of her answers.  The defendant objected that the plaintiff’s statements were “materially false” and contended that she made them for the improper purpose of avoiding summary judgment. As a result, the defendant sought sanctions under Fed. R. Civ. P. 11 and the Court’s inherent power in the form of an order: (1) striking the plaintiff’s summary judgment response without leave to amend; (2) granting the defendant’s Motion for Summary Judgment; and (3) requiring that the plaintiff pay the defendant $1,015.00 in attorney’s fees.  The plaintiff did not respond to the defendant’s Motion for Sanctions.

Judge’s Ruling

Judge Rutherford began her analysis by noting that “Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 11 authorizes a court to impose sanctions on a party or an attorney who files a pleading for an improper purpose, such as to harass the opposing party, delay the proceedings, or increase the cost of litigation.”  She also noted that “[c]ourts also have inherent authority to impose sanctions on attorneys when they find that an attorney has ‘acted in bad faith, vexatiously, wantonly, or for oppressive reasons’”, while also noting that “[c]ourts ‘exercise caution’ in invoking their inherent power and should ‘ordinarily’ rely on a rule or statute rather than their inherent power.”

In this case, Judge Rutherford stated: “Here, the Court declines to impose sanctions under either Rule 11 or its inherent powers. The record in this case does not clearly establish that Houston’s assertions that she responded to Southwest’s discovery requests were made for an improper purpose. Indeed, there is no evidence in the record regarding Houston’s intent. She may have honestly, but mistakenly, believed she properly answered Southwest’s discovery requests. Sanctions under the Court’s inherent authority are inappropriate for the same reason. Accordingly, Southwest’s Motion for Sanctions is DENIED.”

So, what do you think?  Should the court have expected some documentation from the plaintiff to support her claim that she responded via email to avoid Rule 11 sanctions?  Please let us know if any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Case opinion link courtesy of eDiscovery Assistant.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

The Ongoing Battle Over How ESI is Produced: eDiscovery Trends, Part Two

Editor’s Note: Tom O’Connor is a nationally known consultant, speaker, and writer in the field of computerized litigation support systems.  He has also been a great addition to our webinar program, participating with me on several recent webinars.  Tom has also written several terrific informational overview series for CloudNine, including his most recent one, Mobile Collection: It’s Not Just for iPhones Anymore.  Now, Tom has written another terrific overview regarding mobile device collection titled The Ongoing Battle Over How ESI is Produced that we’re happy to share on the eDiscovery Daily blog.  Enjoy! – Doug

Tom’s overview is split into four parts, so we’ll cover each part separately.  The first part was yesterday, here’s the second part.

Rule 34(b) and Form of Production

As I’ve said before, “read the rule book shankapotomous.”  So, let’s look at exactly what the rules say about this issue.  Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) Rule 34, section (b) reads as follows:

(b) Procedure.

…..(1) Contents of the Request. The request:

……….(A) must describe with reasonable particularity each item or category of items to be inspected;

……….(B) must specify a reasonable time, place, and manner for the inspection and for performing the related acts; and

……….(C) may specify the form or forms in which electronically stored information is to be produced.

…..(2) Responses and Objections.

……….(A) Time to Respond. The party to whom the request is directed must respond in writing within 30 days after being served or — if the request was delivered under Rule 26(d)(2) — within 30 days after the parties’ first Rule 26(f) conference. A shorter or longer time may be stipulated to under Rule 29 or be ordered by the court.

……….(B) Responding to Each Item. For each item or category, the response must either state that inspection and related activities will be permitted as requested or state with specificity the grounds for objecting to the request, including the reasons. The responding party may state that it will produce copies of documents or of electronically stored information instead of permitting inspection. The production must then be completed no later than the time for inspection specified in the request or another reasonable time specified in the response.

……….(C) Objections. An objection must state whether any responsive materials are being withheld on the basis of that objection. An objection to part of a request must specify the part and permit inspection of the rest.

……….(D) Responding to a Request for Production of Electronically Stored Information. The response may state an objection to a requested form for producing electronically stored information. If the responding party objects to a requested form—or if no form was specified in the request—the party must state the form or forms it intends to use.

……….(E) Producing the Documents or Electronically Stored Information. Unless otherwise stipulated or ordered by the court, these procedures apply to producing documents or electronically stored information:

……………(i) A party must produce documents as they are kept in the usual course of business or must organize and label them to correspond to the categories in the request;

……………(ii) If a request does not specify a form for producing electronically stored information, a party must produce it in a form or forms in which it is ordinarily maintained or in a reasonably usable form or forms; and

……………(iii) A party need not produce the same electronically stored information in more than one form.

The Rule above seems to make clear three salient points:

  1. The requesting party gets to specify the form of the production
  2. The responding party gets to object and offer a different format IF they can offer a specific set of objections with the reasons why they need to use an alternate format
  3. If neither side specifies a format, the default format is native files.

We’ll publish Part 3 – Objections to Native File Production and Counter-Arguments – on Friday.

So, what do you think?  Do you prefer image-based productions or native file productions?  As always, please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

The Ongoing Battle Over How ESI is Produced: eDiscovery Trends

Editor’s Note: Tom O’Connor is a nationally known consultant, speaker, and writer in the field of computerized litigation support systems.  He has also been a great addition to our webinar program, participating with me on several recent webinars.  Tom has also written several terrific informational overview series for CloudNine, including his most recent one, Mobile Collection: It’s Not Just for iPhones Anymore.  Now, Tom has written another terrific overview regarding mobile device collection titled The Ongoing Battle Over How ESI is Produced that we’re happy to share on the eDiscovery Daily blog.  Enjoy! – Doug

Tom’s overview is split into four parts, so we’ll cover each part separately.  Here’s the first part.

Introduction

Legal disputes in the civil arena typically succeed or fail these days as a result of the practice of eDiscovery.  FRCP Rule 26(f), which provides for a conference of the parties and planning for discovery. This conference was designed to speed up the discovery process but more and more it has become bogged down with disputes over one particular section in that rule, (3)(C), which states that the plan shall contain “any issues about disclosure, discovery, or preservation of electronically stored information, including the form or forms in which it should be produced;”.

One plaintiffs side commentator, Atty Robert Eisenberg, has been particularly strident in his criticism of the arguments on the forms of production.  Bob is well known in the eDiscovery community as a consultant and educator having been instrumental in forming the both the Georgetown Advanced Ediscovery Institute and the  Ediscovery Training Academy as well as currently being the Program Director at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law’s (CMLaw) eDiscovery Professional Certificate Program.

Bob stated in an article from last year on my TechnoGumbo blog that defense firms

“ … in virtually every litigation (no matter how varied the types of ESI; no matter how limiting to plaintiffs) [strive] to assure that records produced in discovery are delivered by defendants to plaintiffs in an imaged-based format (Tiff or PDF) with load files for searchable text and metadata; and, practically never provided (except for a tiny proportion that are considered worthless as evidence in image format) as files produced in the manner in which they have been created and stored; that is, in their ultimately most utilizable incarnation; in native form.”

Why do so many producing parties offer load files with static images and text instead of native files?  Often it has to do with perceived, or at least argued, shortcomings of native files.  And defense firms commonly argue that image-based productions are actually cheaper than native file productions because they save plaintiffs the cost of processing and are comparable in utility to native files.

In this paper, we will take a look at the battle over how ESI is produced, including:

  1. Rule 34(b) and Form of Production
  2. Objections to Native File Production and Counter-Arguments
  3. Conclusions

We’ll publish Part 2 – Rule 34(b) and Form of Production – tomorrow.

So, what do you think?  Do you prefer image-based productions or native file productions?  As always, please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

Court Grants Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel Discovery in Loan Dispute: eDiscovery Case Law

In Grande v. U.S. Bank Nat’l Ass’n, No. C19-333 MJP (W.D. Wash. Feb. 20, 2020), Washington District Judge Marsha J. Pechman granted the plaintiffs’ motion to compel discovery, finding the policies requested were “relevant under the broad civil discovery standard” and that the defendants “ha[d] not demonstrated that the policies are confidential, proprietary, or trade secrets”.  Judge Pechman also granted the plaintiffs’ request for attorney’s fees in bringing the motion.

Case Background

In this case involving the plaintiffs’ allegations that the defendants breached a loan agreement (and violated several laws), the plaintiffs served written discovery on the defendants in July 2019 – to which the defendants responded in September 2019 with a production that the plaintiffs described as “completely deficient.”  The Parties held a discovery conference in October and the defendants served amended responses several weeks later, which the plaintiffs indexed and determined that large numbers were duplicative and the defendants’ production remained deficient.  After the plaintiffs drafted a Request for a Joint Submission to the Court pursuant to Local Rule 37, seeking assistance in resolving the discovery disputes, the defendants’ attorney declined to use the joint submission but claimed that the document provided him with “additional information” that clarified the alleged discovery deficiencies and asked for plaintiffs’ counsel to “work with him” to resolve the discovery dispute.

The plaintiffs held another discovery conference in November 2019 and the defendants agreed to supplement production with additional documents totaling 1,000 pages, voice recordings of four phone calls made by the Plaintiffs to Nationstar, a full life of loan history, and communications that had not been previously produced, all before November 28.  The defendants produced the 1,000 pages but none of the other material, with no explanation.  On January 11, 2020 the plaintiffs filed a Motion to Compel, seeking complete responses to a dozen Interrogatories and Requests for Production, as well as attorney’s fees.  Several weeks later, the defendants produced additional documents, a privilege log, and supplemental discovery responses, but still did not produce documents responsive to Request for Production No. 17.  The defendants argued that the loan modification guidelines requested in that request were not relevant and confidential, proprietary, and trade secrets.

Judge’s Ruling

With regard to the plaintiffs’ motion to compel and the defendants arguments, Judge Pechman stated: “First, the requested documents are relevant under the broad civil discovery standard, which allows litigants to ‘obtain discovery regarding any matter, not privileged, that is relevant to the claim or defense of any party.’…Here, Plaintiffs contend that documents responsive to this request provide ‘information about the policies, processes, and procedures Defendants used to make various decisions regarding the Grandes’ loan modification application.’…Where Plaintiffs allege that Defendants’ evasive, shifting explanations for denying their loan modification were bad faith attempts to avoid their obligations, comparing Defendants’ policies to their behavior is relevant to Plaintiffs’ claims.”

Continuing, Judge Pechman stated: “Second, Defendants have not demonstrated that the policies are confidential, proprietary, or trade secrets… Here, Defendants have not moved for a protective order or listed the documents on a privilege log…Nor have they explained how these policies are trade secrets that give them a competitive advantage over competitors… Further, the only two cases cited by Defendants concern a third-party subpoena where the movant failed to demonstrate relevance and a case concerning a motion for a protective order, neither of which support Defendants’ position… Because the Defendants here have not described any harm that would result from producing the guidelines and have not sought a protective order, the Court declines to find the documents so confidential that they cannot be produced. Defendants must therefore produce all documents responsive to Plaintiffs’ Request for Production No. 17 within seven days of the date of this Order.”

Judge Pechman also granted the plaintiffs’ request for attorney’s fees in bringing the motion, stating: “Here, Plaintiffs brought this Motion after several good faith attempts to obtain the requested discovery…and nothing before the Court suggests that Defendants’ delay was justified or that an award of expenses would be unjust. To the contrary, Defendants’ substantial delay in responding to the discovery requests has delayed the trial in this matter…and necessitated the present Motion”.

So, what do you think?  Was the court justified in granting the request for attorney’s fees or should it have been more patient since the defendants continued to supplement their production?  Please let us know if any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

By the way, there was some confusion about the list of EDRM Global Advisory Council members that I initially posted on Friday.  I had thought that was the entire list, but it was only a supplemental list to the list of Global Advisory Council members announced earlier this year.  I have updated my post to reflect the entire list of members — click here to view the post with the entire list this time.

Case opinion link courtesy of eDiscovery Assistant, which now is directly to the eDA site, enabling you to search within the case and see related cases (with eDA subscription).

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data..

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.

EDRM Announces New Global Advisory Council: eDiscovery Trends

After announcing five new projects last week (which we covered here), EDRM is back with another announcement this week, announcing its complete 2020 Global Advisory Council!  And, it’s an impressive list of experts and thought leaders!  And, I get to be on it too!  ;o)

Robert Keeling, partner at Sidley Austin LLP, chairs the council and those holding special advisory positions are David Greetham, e-discovery business unit leader, Ricoh USA and executive advisor to EDRM and George Socha, managing director at BDO, and Tom Gelbmann, consultant, as founder advisors. Craig Ball, president of Craig D. Ball, P.C., serves as general counsel, and David Cohen, partner, Reed Smith, LLP, serves as chair of the project trustees.

“The EDRM leadership team has put together a truly global, diverse and multidisciplinary group of experts to assist in managing EDRM’s continued industry leadership,” said Greetham in EDRM’s announcement here. “I look forward to collaborating with this team of global leaders and addressing the challenges of the next frontier.”

Here’s a list of the members of the 2020 Global Advisory Council for EDRM:

  • Judge Xavier Rodriguez, US district judge, WD-TX, US
  • Judge Gary Jones, federal magistrate, US ND FL (ret.), US
  • Ron Hedges, senior counsel, Dentons, federal magistrate, US NJ (ret.), US
  • Farrah Pepper, chief legal innovation counsel, Marsh & McLennan Companies, US
  • Eric Lieber, former director of legal operations and litigation support, Toyota Motors NA, US
  • Melinda Vaughn, associate director and marketing manager, Bolch Judicial Institute of Duke Law School, US
  • Richard Spenner, SVP, head of legal and compliance operations, head of enterprise litigation at Lincoln Financial Group, US
  • Jennifer Coleman, shareholder, Hopkins & Carley, US
  • Avi Benayoun, shareholder, Greenberg Traurig, US
  • Brad Harris, VP of product, Hanzo, US
  • Tim Opsitnick, EVP and general counsel, TCDI, US
  • Michael Hamilton, director of marketing, Exterro, US
  • Vikram Masson, VP of strategic accounts, UnitedLex, US
  • Ben Barnett, partner, Dechert, US
  • Constantine Pappas, senior manager, Relativity, US
  • Johannes Scholtes, chief strategy officer, ZyLAB, the Netherlands
  • Maura Grossman, research professor, director of Women in Computer Science, University of Waterloo and e-discovery lawyer, Canada
  • Andrew Haslam, eDisclosure project manager, Squire Patton Boggs, UK
  • Tara Emory, director of consulting, Driven, Inc., US
  • Debbie Reynolds, CEO and chief data privacy officer, Debbie Reynolds Consulting, US
  • Sheila Grela, litigation paralegal, Procopio, Cory, Hargreaves & Savitch, LLC, US
  • Caroline Sweeney, director of knowledge management and innovation, Dorsey & Whitney, US
  • Ilse Grobler, general counsel and chief administrative officer, Lextrado and Cyanre, South Africa
  • Bill Hamilton, executive director, UF Law E-Discovery Project and ICAIR, US
  • Suzanne Clark, discovery counsel, eDiscovery CoCounsel, pllc, US
  • Robin Stewart, partner and chair of e-discovery practice group, Kutak Rock, US
  • John Tredennick, founder, Merlin Legal Open Source Foundation, US
  • Scott Petz, member, Dickinson Wright PLLC, US
  • Ian Campbell, president/CEO, iCONECT, Canada
  • Shannon Bales, litigation support, Munger Tolles & Olsen, US
  • Amie Taal, consultant, Stratagem Tech Solutions Ltd., UK
  • Lilith Bat-Leah, director of data science, Fronteo USA
  • Eric Mandel, consultant, Driven, Inc., US
  • TracyAnn Eggen, managing e-discovery solutions for enterprise-wide litigation and investigation, Dignity Health, US
  • Jessica Robinson, CEO, PurePoint International, US
  • Inés Rubio Alcalá-Galiano, head of information management and incident response, British Standards Institute, Ireland
  • Beth Patterson, founder/consultant, ESPConnect, Australia
  • Chris Dale, founder, eDisclosure Information Project, UK
  • Crystal O’Donnell, CEO, Heuristica Discovery Counsel, Canada
  • Judge James Francis IV, mediator, arbitrator, JAMS, US
  • Judge J. Michelle Childs, US District SC
  • Judge Andrew Peck (ret.), senior counsel, DLA Piper US
  • John Pappas, consultant, OpenText, US
  • Cash Butler, founder, ClariLegal, US
  • Jonathan Hiroshi Rossi, founder, The CJK Group and Saya University, US & Japan
  • Amy Juers, MBA, CEO, Edge Legal Marketing, US
  • Ralph Losey, partner, Jackson Lewis, US
  • Bill Speros, principal, William Speros, US
  • Eric Sedwick, head of eDiscovery/Info Gov, TIAA Bank, US
  • Bob Lorum, CMO, Xact Data Discovery, US
  • Pavan Kotha, eDiscovery lead, Clayton Utz, Australia
  • Martin Nikel, eDiscovery & Investigations, Switzerland
  • Eloy Rizzo Neto, partner, Demarest Advogados, Brazil & Latin America
  • Aliya Fathima, senior forensics, KPMG, India
  • Judy Selby, partner, Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, US
  • Tiana Van Dyk, director of client solutions, EPIQ, Canada
  • Phil Verdelho, senior IT, eDiscovery, operations & services director, UBS, US
  • Shahaf Rozanski, head of private sector unit, Cellebrite, Israel
  • Deborah Spellen, VP eDiscovery, Info Gov, JPMorgan Chase & Co., US
  • Jason Velasco, consultant, US
  • Doug Austin, VP of professional services, CloudNine, US
  • Doug Kaminski, chief revenue officer, Cobra Legal Solutions, US
  • Will O’Brien, director cybersecurity & forensics, PwC, Ireland
  • Antonio Pooe, partner, LexTrado & Cyanre, South Africa
  • Paula Fearon, head of project services, McCann FitzGerald, Ireland
  • Cat Casey, chief innovation officer, DISCO, US
  • Marnie Carter, head of eDiscovery, Starwood Property Trust, US
  • David Yerich, director of eDiscovery, UnitedHealth Group, US
  • Dennis Kennedy, president & general counsel, Dennis Kennedy Advisory Services, LLC, US
  • Jay Yelton, partner, Warner Norcross + Judd, LLP, US
  • Martin Tully, partner & co-founder, Actuate Law LLC, US

Needless to say, I’m honored to be included in such an impressive group of legal and technology professionals and very excited to participate in EDRM this year!  As noted earlier this week, the EDRM Summit/Workshop 2020 will be held at Duke University School of Law, June 24-26.  Here’s a link to more information about that event.

With two announcements from EDRM and an additional announcement from The Sedona Conference this week, these two organizations are making my life easier by giving me topics to cover!  More announcements please! ;o)

So, what do you think?  Are you interested in participating in EDRM?  As always, please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Sponsor: This blog is sponsored by CloudNine, which is a data and legal discovery technology company with proven expertise in simplifying and automating the discovery of data for audits, investigations, and litigation. Used by legal and business customers worldwide including more than 50 of the top 250 Am Law firms and many of the world’s leading corporations, CloudNine’s eDiscovery automation software and services help customers gain insight and intelligence on electronic data.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine. eDiscovery Daily is made available by CloudNine solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscovery Daily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.