eDiscovery Daily Blog

It’s 2019, So it Must Be Time for Another Redaction Flub: eDiscovery Best Practices

I should probably put in a disclaimer that this is not a political post – I would write about this regarding which political party this involved.  It just so happens that the latest high-profile redaction flub happens to be tied to the Russia investigation and Paul Manafort.  Regardless, it leaves me asking the question: when will they ever learn?

As covered on Sharon Nelson’s terrific Ride the Lightning blog (here and here), defense lawyers for Paul Manafort used court papers that were made public last week to say that prosecutors were overblowing a text message exchange cited as proof that Manafort tried to mislead investigators probing Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.  Unfortunately for them, that portion of the filing that had been submitted under seal was improperly redacted in the public version, allowing the text to be lifted from the document with a few keystrokes.


Surely, you can’t be serious! (I am serious and don’t call me Shirley!)

Yep, it’s the dreaded redaction flub.  As Sharon pointed out in her blog (and as we’ve pointed out before), all you have to do is to highlight the portion that is redacted, copy it to the clipboard and then paste it to a blank document anywhere.  Voila!  There’s your redacted text.

It doesn’t take a technical genius (much less a rocket scientist) to figure it out.  As Sharon points out, Adobe provides instructions on how to remove sensitive content from PDF files here.  That’s one of many ways to address the problem – there are others, especially if the document is contained within a litigation review platform where you can leverage the review tool to ensure a proper redaction of the file (i.e., any export burns the redaction into the resulting image, eliminating the ability to copy the redacted text).

Regardless, it seems like we see a high-profile redaction flub every 12 to 18 months. If Manafort’s lawyers want to feel a little better, the last redaction flub we covered was committed by the Department of Justice.  So it seems to happen to lawyers all over the place.  Maybe someday, we will have a redaction flub that is SO high-profile, that every lawyer will be familiar with it and know what to do to avoid it.  Or maybe law schools will start teaching how to avoid it.  One may happen – someday.

If you’re curious, Sharon’s blog post does provide a link to the document with the faulty redactions.  You can check it out for yourself.

Speaking of Sharon, she and her husband John Simek have a wonderful podcast called Digital Detectives.  I’m excited to say that I will be a guest on their podcast for the second time!  Sharon and John will be interviewing me next week and the podcast is targeted to be posted on January 28!  I’ll publish a link when it’s available!

So, what do you think?  Will we have redaction flub stories to cover until the end of time?  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.