Even after a particular case has concluded, the risk of sanctions arising from e-discovery violations persists. Green v. Blitz U.S.A. was one of many products liability suits alleging injuries resulting from the defendant’s failure to equip its gas can with a “flame arrester.” Over a year after the conclusion of the trial and entry of final judgment in Green, the court entered monetary and non-monetary sanctions against the defendant for its failure to adequately preserve and identify potentially relevant documents. Because the matter had closed, many of the non-monetary sanctions under Rule 37(b)(2) were not available. Accordingly, the court fashioned a creative non-monetary sanction requiring the defendant (1) to provide the sanctions opinion to all plaintiffs in any litigation against the defendant for the prior 2 years; and (2) to file the opinion with any court in any new lawsuit in which the defendant is a party for 5 years following entry of the opinion.
Author: Jennifer A. Hradil
On June 17, 2011, United States District Court Judge Scheindlin issued a brief opinion and order withdrawing her February 7, 2011 opinion, which had held that certain metadata should be considered an “integral part” of an electronic record and must be produced by the government in responding to a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request. Our prior posting on this opinion can be found here. The Court withdrew its June 2011 opinion because “subsequent admissions” have revealed that the Court’s decision “was not based on a full and developed record.”
Third Circuit Considers Privacy Interests in Electronically Collected Information and Whether Such Information is Voluntarily Publicized By User of Electronic Communication Devices
In September 2010, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals became the first federal appeals court to rule on the question of whether the government is required to establish probable cause to obtain cell site location information (“CSLI”) from a cell phone provider. See In the Matter of the Application of the U.S. for an Order Directing a Provider of Electronic Communication Service to Disclose Records to the Government, 620 F.3d 304 (3d Cir. 2010). CSLI includes historical information that is collected by cell towers during cell phone calls, which can later be used to render some opinions as to the location of the cell phone during those calls.
Judge Scheindlin Rules That Metadata is Integral Part of ESI, Admonishes Counsel for Failing to Meet & Confer Concerning Form of ESI Production
In her most recent e-discovery opinion, United States District Court Judge Scheindlin held that certain metadata should be considered an “integral part” of an electronic record and must be produced by the government in responding to a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request. National Day Laborer Org. Network v. United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 11655, at *7 (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 7, 2011). Judge Scheindlin also expressly admonished practitioners for failing to meet and confer concerning the form of ESI productions and reminded counsel that such cooperation and communication is required “to comply with the expectations that courts now demand of counsel with respect to expensive and time-consuming document production.” Had counsel in the case before her done so, the costly motion practice attendant to this FOIA production could have been avoided.
The Sedona Conference’s Proportionality Guidelines Encourage Reasonable Limits on Scope of E-Discovery
The Sedona Conference’s most recent publication, Commentary on Proportionality in Electronic Discovery, sets forth six guidelines for assessing whether a discovery request or obligation should be limited because it is disproportionate to the likely benefit. The Sedona Conference noted that courts have often failed to apply the proportionality doctrine when warranted and that it is increasingly important for courts to do so given the volume and expense associated with discovery of ESI. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide ample authority for, and in some instances mandate, the application of a proportionality analysis. See Rule 26(c), Rule 26(b)(2)(C), and Rule 26(g). The New Jersey Court Rules are closely modeled after the Federal Rules in this respect. See R. 4:10-2(g), 4:10-3.