Mobile Devices

No New Trial for Defendant After Carpenter Ruling Because of “Good-Faith” Exception: eDiscovery Case Law

In U.S. v. Leyva, No. 16-cr-20723 (E.D. Mich. Nov. 26, 2018), Michigan District Judge Mark A. Goldsmith, while acknowledging that the ruling in Carpenter v. United States (which held that the government must obtain a warrant before acquiring cell site location information (“CSLI”)) “applies retroactively” to the defendant’s case, ruled that “the question of whether a constitutional right is retroactive is distinct from the question of whether an individual is entitled to a remedy from any constitutional violation”.  Citing the “good-faith” exception, where law enforcement acts in good faith in obtaining evidence that is ultimately found to have been obtained in violation of an individual’s constitutional rights, Judge Goldsmith denied the defendant’s motion for a new trial on the basis of Carpenter.

Case Background

The defendant was charged with conspiracy to possess, and attempted possession of, heroin. At her trial, the Government introduced, among other evidence, location information from three cell phones.  The CSLI evidence showed that two of the phones traveled between Detroit and Columbus in late October 2016, and that the other phone traveled between Michigan and Texas in spring 2016. The Government used this evidence in an attempt to show that Leyva was participating in a drug-trafficking conspiracy and the jury returned its verdict on June 7, 2018, finding the defendant guilty on both counts.

After the Supreme Court ruling in Carpenter on June 22, 2018, the defendant then filed an instant motion pursuant to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 33(a), arguing that the CSLI evidence introduced at her trial was inadmissible and, therefore, a new trial was required.

Judge’s Ruling

Judge Goldsmith noted that “The parties do not dispute that the warrantless search of Leyva’s cell phone records violated her Fourth Amendment rights. Evidence obtained in violation of an individual’s Fourth Amendment rights may be subject to exclusion at trial. However, because “`exclusion exacts a heavy toll on both the judicial system and society at large,’ not all violations of the Fourth Amendment result in the exclusion of evidence.” United States v. Fisher.”

Judge Goldsmith continued: “One exception to the exclusionary rule is the “good-faith” exception, where law enforcement acts in good faith in obtaining evidence that is ultimately found to have been obtained in violation of an individual’s constitutional rights. The Supreme Court has ‘said time and again that the sole purpose of the exclusionary rule is to deter misconduct by law enforcement.’”

Judge Goldsmith stated that “Leyva argues that Carpenter should be applied retroactively to her case, citing Linkletter v. Walker, 381 U.S. 618 (1965) and Griffith v. Kentucky, 479 U.S. 314 (1987). The Court agrees that Carpenter applies retroactively to her case. But the question of whether a constitutional right is retroactive is distinct from the question of whether an individual is entitled to a remedy from any constitutional violation.”  Noting that “the Government argues that it relied on the then-valid SCA, as well as the Sixth Circuit’s decision in United States v. Carpenter, 819 F.3d 880 (6th Cir. 2016), in obtaining the CSLI for the three cell phones. It contends that the good-faith exception should apply to permit the introduction of this evidence at Leyva’s trial”, Judge Goldsmith stated “The Court agrees” and denied the defendant’s motion for a new trial.

So, what do you think?  Should the “good-faith” exception enable CSLI evidence acquired before the SCOTUS Carpenter ruling to remain admissible?  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.

Court Sanctions Defendants in Jimi Hendrix Copyright Infringement Case: eDiscovery Case Law

In Experience Hendrix, L.L.C. et al. v. Pitsicalis et al., No. 17 Civ. 1927 (PAE) (S.D.N.Y. Nov. 28, 2018), New York District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer granted the plaintiffs’ motion for an adverse inference instruction against selected defendants associated with Purple Haze Properties (referred to as the “PHP defendants”) and he directed the PHP defendants to pay the reasonable fees and costs incurred by plaintiffs in bringing the motion.  He denied (at least at this time) the plaintiffs’ request for terminating sanctions and a preliminary injunction against the PHP defendants.

Case Background

In this copyright infringement case related to products that depict Jimi Hendrix and bear his name, the court indicated that it had “been called on repeatedly to issue orders aimed at assuring the PHP defendants’ compliance with elementary discovery obligations.”  The plaintiffs’ latest allegations of PHP defendants’ discovery abuses included the following:

  • The PHP Defendants’ Failure to Produce Forensic Images as Ordered: The PHP defendants initially requested additional time to comply with a July 10 order, explained that they had had difficulty hiring an expert technician who could image the hard drives and also claimed that images with privileged information were mixed with non-privileged images. The Court granted the additional time, but also imposed a fine of $100 per weekday after July 23 that the PHP defendants failed to produce the hard-drive images.  When they did eventually produce some, but not all of the forensic images, they were not “forensic” images, but rather only the data visibly resident on those devices.  The PHP defendants were given another chance and produced images on August 17 (six business days after another extended deadline), but those images didn’t show any previously deleted files.  For various discovery deficiencies, the Court issued an order directing the PHP defendants to “issue to plaintiffs a check in the amount of $12,787.50 by September 21 and followed up with another order to “pay $100 in sanctions to the Registry of the Court for each weekday after the deadline that payment remained outstanding” (to go with $4,600 in previous sanctions issued).
  • The PHP Defendants’ Use of Anti-Forensic Software: The plaintiffs’ forensic expert, John T. Myers (whose testimony the Court deemed credible and persuasive), found that each of the three computers he reviewed contained anti-forensic software (Advanced Mac Cleaner and CleanMyMac). While Myers noted that Advanced Mac Cleaner may be able to eliminate files without specifically alerting the user in advance, he (and the PHP defendants’ expert) testified that CleanMyMac allows users to help free up space on their hard drives by running scans and identifying files that the user may choose to delete.
  • The PHP Defendants’ Failure to Ensure Preservation of Documents on a Seventh Computing Device: This device, which was shown in a picture of the office of Andrew Pitsicalis (president of PHP) on PHP’s Facebook page was never produced and was claimed to be owned by an individual who had taken it with him to Florida.
  • Andrew Pitsicalis’ Deletion of Relevant Text Messages: Myers testified that a forensic examination showed that more than 500 text messages had been deleted from the iPhone during the pendency of this lawsuit. Of these, Myers found nine that explicitly use the term “Jimi.” Pitsicalis had exchanged these text messages between July 12, the day after the Court’s July 11 order directing the PHP defendants to produce responsive documents to plaintiffs, and August 13.

Judge’s Ruling

With regard to the PHP defendants’ duty to preserve evidence, Judge Engelmayer found that “and the evidence to this effect is overwhelming—that the PHP defendants repeatedly breached this duty. The breaches fall in three categories: (1) the use of cleaning software on covered computing devices, (2) the failure to disclose the existence of a seventh computing device containing potentially relevant documents, and (3) the deletion of relevant text messages.”  Judge Engelmayer also found that much of the spoliation was intentional (the use of Advanced Mac Cleaner could not be verified as intended spoliation, but the use of CleanMyMac was found to have been intentional).

As a result, Judge Engelmayer, indicating that “the Court has been called upon dismayingly often to act when presented with evidence of the PHP defendants’ persistent non-compliance with basic discovery obligations”, granted the plaintiffs’ motion for an adverse inference instruction against the PHP defendants, and he directed the PHP defendants to pay the reasonable fees and costs incurred by plaintiffs in bringing the motion.  With regard to the plaintiffs’ request for terminating sanctions, Judge Engelmayer stated: “At the present time, the Court’s judgment is that such extreme sanctions are not warranted, although further acts of spoliation and/or other discovery abuses could produce a different result.”

So, what do you think?  Should terminating sanctions have been awarded?  Please let us know if any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

For more on this case (including references to Jimi Hendrix’s legendary, but short, career), check out Ralph Losey’s e-Discovery Team® blog here.

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.

Judge Says “Alexa, Please Testify in a Double Murder Case”: eDiscovery Trends

The occurrence of Internet of Things (IoT) devices in criminal cases is becoming more and more frequent.  Just last month, we covered a case where data from a Fitbit led to the arrest of a murder suspect (we covered another case like it last year as well).  Now, an Amazon Echo may have key evidence in a double murder committed last year.

According to Time (Judge Says Amazon Must Hand Over Echo Recordings in Stabbing Case, written by George Steer), a judge in New Hampshire has requested that Amazon hand over audio recordings from an Echo device present in a house where two women were found dead.

Timothy Verrill is accused of murdering 48-year-old Christine Sullivan and 32-year-old Jenna Pellegrini at a Farmington home in January 2017. Their bodies were found underneath a porch on the property with multiple stab wounds. Mr. Verrill pleaded not guilty the following month.

But prosecutors believe that there could be corroborating evidence recorded by an Amazon Echo device which was inside the house.

A ruling was handed down by Justice Steven M. Houran on Friday.

“The court directs Amazon.com to produce forthwith to the court any recordings made by an Echo smart speaker with Alexa voice command capability … as well as any information identifying cellular devices that were paired to that smart speaker during that time period,” the statement read.

A spokesperson for Amazon told the Associated Press Friday that the company would not be handing over any data “without a valid and binding legal demand served on us”.

In a similar case in March 2017 (which we covered here), Amazon agreed to hand over data from an Echo device that may have been privy to another murder — but only after the defendant consented to handing over the recordings (the charges were eventually dropped in that case).

Amazon’s lawyers had previously sought to quash the request on the grounds that it violated customer privacy.  That’s the battle these days, apparently — privacy vs. information.  They continue to be on a collision course which will lead to many more disputes, I suspect.

So, what do you think?  Will IoT devices be the “witnesses” of the future?  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.

Here’s a Terrific Scorecard for Mobile Evidence Discovery: eDiscovery Best Practices

As we’ve noted before, eDiscovery isn’t just about discovery of emails and office documents anymore.  There are so many sources of data these days that legal professionals have to account for and millions more being transmitted over the internet every minute, much of which is being transmitted and managed via mobile devices.  Now, here’s a terrific new Mobile Evidence Burden and Relevance Scorecard, courtesy of Craig Ball!

Craig has had a lot to say in the past about mobile device preservation and collection, even going as far as to say that failure to advise clients to preserve relevant and unique mobile data when under a preservation duty is committing malpractice.  To help lawyers avoid that fate, Craig has described a simple, scalable approach for custodian-directed preservation of iPhone data.

Craig’s latest post (Mobile to the Mainstream, PDF article here) “looks at simple, low-cost approaches to getting relevant and responsive mobile data into a standard e-discovery review workflow” as only Craig can.  But, Craig also “offers a Mobile Evidence Scorecard designed to start a dialogue leading to a consensus about what forms of mobile content should be routinely collected and reviewed in e-discovery, without the need for digital forensic examination.”

It’s that scorecard – and Craig’s discussion of it – that is really cool.  Craig breaks down various types of mobile data (e.g., Files, Photos, Messages, Phone Call History, Browser History, etc.) in terms of Ease of Collection and Ease of Review (Easy, Moderate or Difficult), Potential Relevance (Frequent, Case Specific or Rare) and whether or not you would Routinely Collect (Yes, No or Maybe).  Believe it or not, Craig states that you would routinely collect almost half (7 out of 16 marked as “Yes”, 2 more marked as “Maybe”) of the file types.  While the examples are specific to the iPhone (which I think is used most by legal professionals), the concepts apply to Android and other mobile devices as well.

I won’t steal Craig’s thunder here; instead, I’ll direct you to his post here so that you can check it out yourself.  This scorecard can serve as a handy guide for what lawyers should expect for mobile device collection in their cases.  Obviously, it depends on the lawyer and the type of case in which they’re involved, but it’s still a good general reference guide.

So, what do you think?  Do you routinely collect data from mobile devices for your cases?  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.

Despite Carpenter, This Defendant’s Cell Site Location Information is Ruled Admissible: eDiscovery Case Law

In United States v. Pleasant, Criminal Action No. 17-62 (E.D. Pa. Sept. 5, 2018), Pennsylvania District Judge Gerald Austin McHugh ruled that the defendant’s motion to suppress historical cell-site location information associated with his cellular telephone lacked merit, despite the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Carpenter v. United States, because the agents proceeded “by means of a court order issued under a federal statute that had repeatedly withstood Fourth Amendment scrutiny…in good faith under then existing law”.

Case Background

In this prosecution for multiple bank robberies, the defendant moved to suppress historical cell-site location information (CSLI) associated with his cellular telephone, citing the recent Supreme Court ruling in Carpenter v. United States. The Government obtained the CSLI, without a warrant, through an order issued pursuant to 18 U.S.C. § 2703(c), a provision of the Stored Communications Act, based on a showing that the records were “relevant and material” to an ongoing criminal investigation.

Judge’s Ruling

Judge McHugh observed that “Defendant correctly argues that under the Supreme Court’s recent decision in Carpenter v. United States, ___ U.S. ___, 138 S. Ct. 2206 (2018), the CSLI was obtained by the Government in violation of the Fourth Amendment. Defendant is also correct that Carpenter retroactively applies to this case. That does not end the inquiry, because the Government is equally correct that there is a good faith exception to application of the exclusionary rule. Having considered the parties’ submissions, I am persuaded that the government agents who accessed this information did so in good faith reliance on a federal statute and circuit court precedent that was controlling at the time.”

While noting that “In Carpenter, the Supreme Court addressed the constitutionality of this provision under the Fourth Amendment and concluded that, in accessing CSLI from wireless carriers, the Government had ‘invaded’ the defendant’s ‘reasonable expectation of privacy in the whole of his physical movements’”, Judge McHugh ruled:

“Despite Carpenter, Defendant’s Motion lacks merit. Under the exclusionary rule, as a general matter, the government may not introduce evidence in a criminal trial that was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment. The exclusionary rule, however, is rooted in policy considerations: it serves to enforce the Fourth Amendment by discouraging police misconduct. As the Supreme Court has recognized, the Fourth Amendment protects ‘[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures,’ but it has no provision ‘expressly precluding the use of evidence obtained in violation of its commands.’…Consequently, the exclusionary rule ‘is not an individual right and applies only where it `result[s] in appreciable deterrence.’’…Stated differently, it is a judicially imposed sanction applied when necessary to enforce the Constitution.”

As a result, Judge McHugh ruled: “Because application of the exclusionary rule here would not serve the purpose of deterring unlawful conduct by law enforcement, Defendant’s Motion to Suppress will be denied.”

So, what do you think?  Was the court right to have ruled the CSLI admissible despite the recent Carpenter ruling?  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.

Also, if you’re going to be in Houston on Thursday, September 27, just a reminder that I will be speaking at the second annual Legal Technology Showcase & Conference, hosted by the Women in eDiscovery (WiE), Houston Chapter, South Texas College of Law and the Association of Certified E-Discovery Specialists (ACEDS).  I’ll be part of the panel discussion AI and TAR for Legal: Use Cases for Discovery and Beyond at 3:00pm and CloudNine is also a Premier Platinum Sponsor for the event (as well as an Exhibitor, so you can come learn about us too).  Click here to register!

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 Compels Non-Party Insurance Agents to Produce Text Messages in TCPA Case: eDiscovery Case Law

In Gould v. Farmers Insurance Exchange, No. 4:17 CV 2305 RWS (E.D. Mo. Aug. 30, 2018), Missouri District Judge Rodney W. Sippel granted the plaintiff’s motion to compel two non-party Farmers Insurance agents to comply with subpoenas and produce documents pertaining to text messages that they allegedly sent to potential customers, rejecting the agents’ argument that compliance with the subpoenas would violate their Fifth Amendment right against compelled, self-incriminating testimony.

Case Background

In this Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) case, the plaintiff alleged that, at the direction of the defendant insurance companies, non-party Farmers Insurance agents James Lohse and Joe Ridgway sent text messages to her without her consent, in violation of the TCPA. The plaintiff sought to represent similarly situated plaintiffs who received messages without their consent marketing certain Farmers Insurance products.

To obtain information on potential plaintiffs and the alleged TCPA violations generally, the plaintiff served subpoenas on the non-party agents, which requested that the agents produce phone numbers of potential customers to which text messages were sent; the content of those text messages; any contracts, correspondence, invoices, and payment records the agents have with other entities that facilitated the alleged spam texts or provided the potential customers’ numbers; documents concerning any purchase of an insurance policy by the recipients of these texts; and any documents reflecting that the recipients of these texts consented to receive those messages.

The non-party agents objected and refused to produce documents responsive to these requests, initially arguing that such discovery was inappropriate until the parties’ resolved an initial question of consent. After the defendants’ declined to file a motion summary judgment on the issue of consent, the agents changed their objections, stating that compelling their production of the requested records would violate their Fifth Amendment Right against self-incrimination, and that the plaintiff’s requests were overly broad and burdensome. The plaintiff moved to compel the production, and the non-party agents moved for a confidentiality order.  The non-party agents argued that their answers to the plaintiff’s production requests would tend to incriminate them because the call logs in question could show a violation of 47 U.SC. § 227(b)(1).

Judge’s Ruling

Noting that the Fifth Amendment “privilege applies specifically to testimony, and not the production of documents, per se”, Judge Sippel stated that “where the documents themselves are incriminating, but their possession, control, and authenticity does not incriminate, the privilege would not apply.”  Continuing, he said:

“In this circumstance, the Agents’ mere possession, production, or authentication of call logs and other documents is not the act that would tend to incriminate them. The Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination accordingly does not protect against disclosure of the requested documents because of the ‘settled proposition that a person may be required to produce specific documents even though they contain incriminating assertions of fact or belief because the creation of those documents was not ‘compelled’ within the meaning of the privilege.’…The Agents also argue that Gould’s production request is overbroad and burdensome. I disagree. The documents that Gould requests all pertain to whether the Agents texted potential consumers without their consent, and if so, how they did that.”

As a result, Judge Sippel granted the plaintiff’s motion to compel and denied the non-party agents’ motion for a confidentiality order.

So, what do you think?  Should production of potentially incriminating documents be protected under the Fifth Amendment?  Please let us know if 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.

SCOTUS Says Warrantless Access of Cell Phone Locations Violates Fourth Amendment: eDiscovery Case Week

eDiscovery Case Week continues!  We’re catching up on cases leading up to our webcast tomorrow where Tom O’Connor and I will be talking about key eDiscovery case law for the first half of 2018.  With that in mind, this is a key case decision that happened when I was on a family vacation last month.  Did you miss it?  In case you did, here it is.

In Carpenter v. U.S., No. 16–402 (U.S. June 22, 2018), The United States Supreme Court (SCOTUS) held, in a 5–4 decision authored by Chief Justice Roberts, that the government violates the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution by accessing historical records containing the physical locations of cellphones without a search warrant.

In 2011, Timothy Carpenter was arrested on suspicion of participating in a string of armed robberies at RadioShack and T-Mobile stores in Michigan and Ohio. In the course of the investigation, FBI agents acquired transactional records from Carpenter’s cell phone carrier. The government sought this data pursuant to the Stored Communications Act of 1986, which allows law enforcement to obtain communications records by demonstrating “specific and articulable facts” that the records are relevant to an ongoing investigation, rather than probable cause that a crime has been committed. The trial court denied Carpenter’s motion to suppress the records, and a jury convicted him of firearms violations and violations of the Hobbs Act. On appeal, Carpenter maintained that the acquisition of his cellular data without a warrant violated his Fourth Amendment rights, but the Sixth Circuit held that such a seizure did not constitute a “search” under the Fourth Amendment.  Carpenter petitioned to have the case heard by SCOTUS, which heard arguments in November 2017.

The Court issued its decision on June 22, 2018, with the court split 5–4 to reverse and remand the decision by the lower courts. In a very lengthy ruling, Chief Justice Roberts wrote the majority opinion, with associate Justices Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan joining Roberts’ opinion. The majority determined that the third-party doctrine applied to telephone communications in Smith v. Maryland could not be applied to cellphone technology and ruled that the government must obtain a warrant in order to access historical cellphone records. Roberts argued that technology “has afforded law enforcement a powerful new tool to carry out its important responsibilities. At the same time, this tool risks Government encroachment of the sort the Framers [of the US Constitution], after consulting the lessons of history, drafted the Fourth Amendment to prevent.”

Roberts also considered that “detailed, encyclopedic and effortlessly” tracking a person by cell towers was similar to that of using a Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking device as determined by United States v. Jones. Roberts stressed that the decision is a very narrow ruling; it does not affect other parts of the third-party doctrine, such as banking records, nor does it prevent collection of cell tower data without a warrant in emergencies or for national security issues.

Justices Kennedy, Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch each wrote dissenting opinions.  Justice Alito wrote in his dissent:

“I share the Court’s concern about the effect of new technology on personal privacy, but I fear that today’s decision will do far more harm than good. The Court’s reasoning fractures two fundamental pillars of Fourth Amendment law, and in doing so, it guarantees a blizzard of litigation while threatening many legitimate and valuable investigative practices upon which law enforcement has rightfully come to rely.”

So, what do you think?  Does this ruling appropriately limit law enforcement use of private cell phone location data without a warrant or does it hamstring the ability for law enforcement to adequately investigate suspects?  Please let us know if 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.

Tinder Date Murder Case Highlights the Increasing Complexity of eDiscovery in Criminal Investigations: eDiscovery Trends

With things like social media, electronic purchases, GPS tracking, and the Internet of Things, a normal day in anyone’s life creates an in-depth data trail. So, it’s no surprise that more and more, electronic evidence plays a key component in criminal investigations. While eDiscovery technology is mostly used in the civil courts, namely because corporate and government organizations have more resources than municipal, county, and even state law enforcement agencies to conduct reviews of large data-sets, it’s still worthwhile to look at the varied ways electronically stored information (ESI) is used to help detectives piece together a chain of events in order to solve a crime.

In an article published in The Daily Beast this week, we find the seemingly mismatched couple, 51-year-old Aubrey Trail and 24-year-old Bailey Boswell, charged with the murder of a 24-year-old Nebraska woman, Sydney Loofe. The story echoes the Starkweather / Fugate crime spree throughout the same region 60 years ago, only this time digital evidence led investigators to the perpetrators.

Trail and Boswell were arrested as part of a gold coin theft racket in November, but after further investigation, are now charged with Loofe’s murder, who was last seen November 15th before going on a Tinder date with Boswell. Police found the remains of Loofe’s body in a field a few weeks later, and in the months that followed, used a wide variety of ESI, along with traditional forensics, to link Trail and Boswell to the murder. The list of evidence pieced together is remarkable from an eDiscovery point of view:

  • Tinder Profiles: 140 messages between Loofe and Boswell in the days before November 15th were pulled from their online dating profiles. The last was on Nov. 15 at 6:54 p.m., when Boswell said she’d arrived at Loofe’s apartment. Police also found that Boswell went by “Audrey” on her online-dating profile.
  • Snapchat Photo: Loofe sent a selfie to a friend via Snapchat on November 15th with the caption, “Ready for my date.”
  • Facebook Videos: Trail and Boswell both posted Facebook videos claiming innocence while police were looking for them. In one, Boswell said she was “Audrey on Tinder and a few other names because I have warrants.”
  • iPhone Reset: After her arrest, Boswell gave investigators permission to search her iPhone 7, which they found had been reset to factory default settings on November 17.
  • Cellphone Pings/GPS Locations: Loofe’s phone last pinged a cell tower near Wilber, where Boswell and Trail lived in a basement apartment. When detectives searched that residence, the landlord, who lived upstairs, “reported a strong odor of bleach coming from the basement.” Data from Boswell’s phone showed its location was “in close proximity to the area where the remains were discovered Dec. 16th.”
  • Security Video Footage: Security footage from a local Home Depot showed Trail and Boswell on Nov. 15 around 10:35 a.m., shopping for tools and supplies that could be used to cover up the crime.
  • Phone Calls from Jail: In two different phone calls, one to the Lincoln Journal Star and the other to the Omaha World-Herald, Trail gave different accounts, claiming he unintentionally killed Loofe in a sex game gone wrong.

All of this led to a confession from Trail, stating that he had killed Loofe, and then he and Boswell covered up the crime scene and disposed of the body.

Using electronic evidence to solve crimes is nothing new, but now more than ever, the digital footprint that individuals and organizations leave is staggering in its depth and variance. At the same time, it’s amazing how skilled investigators are using the raw data left behind in order to put together cases in both the criminal and civil courts. The common denominator with both then becomes the ability to preserve, collect, and review this data in a timely and affordable fashion, in order to get the facts as quickly and efficiently as possible.

So, what do you think?  How do you see the influx of new data sources affecting your eDiscovery practices and policies in the future?  Please let us know if 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.

Plaintiff is Able to Get Some Subpoenas for Personal Data Quashed, But Not All: eDiscovery Case Law

In Delgado v. Tarabochia, et al., No. C17-1822RSL (W.D. Wash. May 4, 2018), Washington District Judge Robert S. Lasnik granted in part and denied in part the plaintiff’s motion to quash subpoenas for personal phone records and bank records, finding that phone records before the plaintiff’s hand injury on the defendant’s fishing boat were “of vital importance to defendants’ theory of the case”, but that the need for pre-incident bank records was not proportional to the needs of the case and that, with regard to subpoenas of post-incident data, defendants were “fishing”.

I’ll pause a moment to let you enjoy the irony of that statement… :o)

Case Background

Anyway, the plaintiff injured his hand while on board the F/V JOYCE MARIE and sued the vessel and vessel owner(s) for Jones Act negligence and unseaworthiness, alleging that he lost his balance and his hand went through a plate glass window on the wheelhouse, causing severe injuries with continuing disabilities.  However, another crew member on board at the time of the incident claimed that the plaintiff was using heroin in the days leading up to the incident and was in the midst of a heated argument with his girlfriend when he punched through the window.  After the plaintiff left the vessel, defendants located a computer file supposedly created by the plaintiff, containing text messages, emails, and photographs dated October 2013 to July 2014 that seemed to reflect drug transactions and a volatile relationship, but the plaintiff (in his deposition) denied fighting with his girlfriend and denied punching through the wheelhouse window.  Reporting that he had no feeling in three of his fingers and his thumb and was in constant, severe pain, the plaintiff claimed he was entitled to damages of $3 million, but the defendant had surveillance video that seemed to contradict the plaintiff’s testimony regarding the extent and severity of his injuries.

The defendants issued three subpoenas for phone records from January 2014 to the present, including all account information, call and text message logs, and roaming data. They also issued two subpoenas for bank records for the same period, seeking detailed summaries of credit and debit card transactions, withdrawals, and deposits. The plaintiff seeks to quash all five subpoenas as irrelevant and an unwarranted burden on his privacy interests.

Judge’s Ruling

With regards to the pre-incident phone records, Judge Lasnik indicated that “defendants have identified a specific need to confirm events and authenticate communications that are directly relevant to a determination of whether defendants’ negligence and/or the vessel’s unseaworthiness caused plaintiff’s injuries. To the extent these records mirror the electronic files found on the vessel’s computer and corroborate the other crewman’s statements, they are of vital importance to defendants’ theory of the case. While much will be disclosed that has nothing to do with this case, plaintiff’s privacy interests do not outweigh the need to obtain relevant information regarding the cause of plaintiff’s injuries in this case where plaintiff says he is entitled to damages of $3,000,000.”

With regards to the pre-incident bank records, Judge Lasnik stated that “defendants offer no reason to suspect that these records will authenticate or corroborate the electronic files plaintiff left behind. Production of plaintiff’s pre-incident finances, including every purchase and every deposit, is unlikely to result in admissible evidence (there is no reason to suspect that plaintiff used a credit card to purchase heroin or that defendants would be able to identify such transactions from a list of charges or withdrawals). Because of its minimal relevance and the outsized burdens it would impose on plaintiff’s privacy interests, discovery of the pre-incident bank records is not proportional to the needs of the case.”

As for the post-incident phone and bank records, Judge Lasnik stated that “defendants are fishing” and granted the plaintiff’s motion to quash the subpoena for these records because the “balance of the benefits and burdens of these post-incident discovery requests are not in defendants’ favor: they are not prompted by any specific need for information and are likely to drive discovery and generate disputes that are wholly collateral to the primary issues in this case.”

So, what do you think?  Did the judge assess the relevancy and proportionality in this case correctly and were the defendants “fishing” for the post-incident records?  Tee-hee!  Please share 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.

Freedom of Information? Not Necessarily for Text Messages: eDiscovery Trends

What percentage of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests actually result in receiving all of the information requested?  75 percent?  50 percent?  You might be surprised.  Apparently, according to a recent survey, one part of the problem could be the lack of capturing text messages within government organizations.

According to the 2018 Public Sector Text & Mobile Communications Survey from Smarsh, 70 percent of federal, state, county and city government organizations surveyed report allowing SMS/text for official business communication.  But, almost half of those (46 percent) are not formally capturing and retaining these messages.  There were 236 total respondents in the survey.

Here are some other interesting findings from the report:

  • The vast majority of agencies allow organizational email (97 percent) on mobile devices, but right behind it is SMS/text messaging, with 70 percent allowing it for official government business. Social channels Facebook and Twitter are the next most frequently cited, with 58 percent and 44 percent, respectively.
  • Two-thirds of surveyed organizations allow employees to use their own BYOD devices for official business, for those devices, only 35 percent of respondents are retaining SMS/text messages (as opposed to 62 percent for Corporate Owned Personally Enabled (COPE) devices).
  • The top four reasons SMS/Text records are NOT captured are: 1) Don’t currently have budget this year, 2) SMS/text isn’t required to be retained by law, 3) Waiting for Capstone/FOIA guidance, 4) Existing capture technologies are too complicated.
  • The majority of respondents, 62 percent or nearly 2/3, lacked confidence that they could provide specifically requested mobile text messages promptly if responding to a public records or litigation request.
  • Agencies with no retention solution in place have very little confidence in their ability to fulfill requests. 23 percent reported that if requested, it was unlikely they could produce SMS/text messages from their organizational leader at all.

When you hear these stats, you might be surprised the numbers aren’t higher.  Last year, Federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) litigation jumped 26 percent over the previous year. In 2018, that number is on track to increase again. While an average of 2.08 lawsuits were filed each day in 2017, 2018 has seen the average increase to 2.72 lawsuits per day.  Last year, there were 823,222 Federal FOIA requests – 78 percent of those requests yielded censored files or no records at all.  In other words, only 22 percent of FOIA requestors got everything they asked for.  22 percent!  And, the Federal government spent $40.6 million in legal fees defending its withholding of files in 2017.  Freedom of information isn’t free, apparently.

I guess it isn’t surprising that government agencies are struggling with the same challenges of collecting and keeping mobile device data that other organizations are.  Maybe we should conduct a webinar on the topic?  Does two weeks from today work for you?  :o)

So, what do you think?  Is your organization able to produce text messages from your employees if needed?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

P.S. — Happy Birthday, Carter!

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.