eDiscovery Daily Blog

“Da Silva Moore Revisited” Will Be Visited by a Newly Appointed Special Master: eDiscovery Case Law

In Rio Tinto Plc v. Vale S.A., 14 Civ. 3042 (RMB)(AJP) (S.D.N.Y. Jul. 15, 2015), New York Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck, at the request of the defendant, entered an Order appointing Maura Grossman as a special master in this case to assist with issues concerning Technology-Assisted Review (TAR).

Back in March (as covered here on this blog), Judge Peck approved the proposed protocol for technology assisted review (TAR) presented by the parties, titling his opinion “Predictive Coding a.k.a. Computer Assisted Review a.k.a. Technology Assisted Review (TAR) — Da Silva Moore Revisited”.  Alas, as some unresolved issues remained regarding the parties’ TAR-based productions, Judge Peck decided to prepare the order appointing Grossman as special master for the case.  Grossman, of course, is a recognized TAR expert, who (along with Gordon Cormack) wrote Technology-Assisted Review in E-Discovery can be More Effective and More Efficient that Exhaustive Manual Review and also the Grossman-Cormack Glossary of Technology Assisted Review (covered on our blog here).

While noting that it has “no objection to Ms. Grossman’s qualifications”, the plaintiff issued several objections to the appointment, including:

  • The defendant should have agreed much earlier to appointment of a special master: Judge Peck’s response was that “The Court certainly agrees, but as the saying goes, better late than never. There still are issues regarding the parties’ TAR-based productions (including an unresolved issue raised at the most recent conference) about which Ms. Grossman’s expertise will be helpful to the parties and to the Court.”
  • The plaintiff stated a “fear that [Ms. Grossman’s] appointment today will only cause the parties to revisit, rehash, and reargue settled issues”: Judge Peck stated that “the Court will not allow that to happen. As I have stated before, the standard for TAR is not perfection (nor of using the best practices that Ms. Grossman might use in her own firm’s work), but rather what is reasonable and proportional under the circumstances. The same standard will be applied by the special master.”
  • One of the defendant’s lawyers had three conversations with Ms. Grossman about TAR issues: Judge Peck noted that one contact in connection with The Sedona Conference “should or does prevent Ms. Grossman from serving as special master”, and noted that, in the other two, the plaintiff “does not suggest that Ms. Grossman did anything improper in responding to counsel’s question, and Ms. Grossman has made clear that she sees no reason why she cannot serve as a neutral special master”, agreeing with that statement.

Judge Peck did agree with the plaintiff on allocation of the special master’s fees, stating that the defendant’s “propsal [sic] is inconsistent with this Court’s stated requirement in this case that whoever agreed to appointment of a special master would have to agree to pay, subject to the Court reallocating costs if warranted”.

So, what do you think?  Was the appointment of a special master (albeit an eminently qualified one) appropriate at this stage of the case?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

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.