eDiscovery Daily Blog

eDiscovery Trends: Sedona Conference Provides Guidance for Judges


Last month, The Sedona Conference® made a public comments version of the Cooperation Proclamation: Resources for the Judiciary available on the Sedona Conference website. The Sedona Conference Cooperation Proclamation has set a non-trivial goal- to teach the profession to collaborate during the discovery process instead of the traditional gladiatorial style of litigation. The Resources for the Judiciary document aims to provide judges with a foundation for creating a collaborative and non-adversarial approach to managing eDiscovery.

The Cooperation Proclamation was published in 2008 and is a short document that argues that if lawyers work together during the discovery phase, the merits of the underlying dispute are more likely to get a fair hearing. Specifically, it calls on lawyers to "work more collaboratively during the discovery phase so that greater time and attention (and money) can be spent on litigating the merits of the underlying dispute." 

The Resources for the Judiciary distinguishes between “active case management” and “discovery management.” The former can be characterized as a proactive and the latter as a reactive judicial approach to managing discovery. While offering guidance for both approaches, the proclamation urges judges to take an active case management model approach. That is not to say that judges should make decisions for parties, but to provide “a clear set of expectations designed to move the evidence-gathering phase of the litigation forward in a speedy and inexpensive way, without the cost, delay, and gamesmanship associated with unmanaged discovery.”

The Resources for the Judiciary is a detailed and practical document, providing a practical “toolkit” to train and support judges in techniques of discovery cooperation, collaboration, and transparency. It is organized by common stages of discovery disputes from a judge’s perspective. Eighteen issue areas are listed, beginning with preservation and continuing through topics like choosing search methodology and ending with everyone’s least favorite issue, sanctions. Each topic area lists the Federal Rule that applies to any given topic, an explanation of the issue, and practical guidance for achieving successful resolution of disputes. Each section includes detailed guidance in the form of current case law and examples of orders from the bench.  

The Resources make the following recommendations:

  • Judges should adopt a “hands-on” approach to case management early in each action;
  • Judges should establish deadlines and keep parties to those guidelines (or make reasonable adjustments) with periodic status reports or conferences;
  • Judges should encourage the parties to meet before discovery commences to develop a realistic discovery plan;
  • Judges should encourage proportionality in preservation demands and expectations and in discovery requests and responses;
  • Judges should exercise their discretion to limit or condition disproportionate discovery and shift disproportionate costs;
  • If necessary, judges should exercise their authority to issue sanctions under the relevant statutes, rules, or the exercise of inherent authority on counsel or parties who create unnecessary costs or delay, or who otherwise frustrate the goals of discovery by “gaming the system”.

The Sedona Conference has acknowledged that cooperation is contrary to the adversarial instincts lawyers have been taught, and that it will require a generational shift for the nature of litigation to change. But there is perhaps no better way to encourage lawyers to cooperate than to create and active and informed judiciary on eDiscovery issues.

To submit a public comment, you can download a public comment form here, complete it and fax (yes, fax) it to The Sedona Conference® at 928-284-4240.  You can also email a general comment to them at tsc@sedona.net.

So, what do you think?  Can guidance like this help prevent intractable discovery disputes? Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.