Obtaining electronic discovery from a city or municipality in civil litigation can be a slow process. But, in DMAC LLC and Fourmen Construction, Inc. v. City of Peekskill, plaintiffs’ task was made impossible because of the City of Peekskill’s failure to implement a “formal e-mail retention policy,” leaving it up to the “sole discretion” of City staff and elected officials whether to retain or delete their e mails. When the City and other defendants were sued in 2009 for stopping a real estate development project that began back in 2007, allegedly for political reasons, that lack of any e-mail retention policy came back to haunt the defendants.
Author: Jeffrey L. Nagel
Show Some Respect: International Privacy and Comity Concerns May Become More Important in Foreign E-Discovery Disputes
Twenty-five years ago in Aerospatiale v. District Court of Iowa the United States Supreme Court admonished lower courts that international comity compels them to “take care to demonstrate due respect for any special problem confronted by the foreign litigant on account of its nationality or the location of its operations, and for any sovereign interest expressed by a foreign state.” And for the last twenty-five years, courts generally have not heeded that advice, giving short-shrift to the idea that foreign privacy or data protection laws must be enforced if the result is to limit discovery of relevant information. At the urging of lawyers and several influential organizations, that could finally be changing.
On October 3, 2011, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit determined that the Electronic Communications Privacy Act of 1986 (“ECPA”), 18 U.S.C. §§ 2510 2522, applies to foreign citizens, giving them the same privacy protections Congress afforded U.S. citizens in connection with the disclosure of electronic data by third-parties service providers.
Following the lead of other state courts, Delaware’s Court of Chancery — known for handling of some of the nation’s most complex corporate matters — has adopted guidelines for the preservation of electronically stored information (“ESI”). The guidelines reference counsel’s “common law duty to their clients and the Court” to preserve ESI, noting that a “party to litigation must take reasonable steps to preserve information, including ESI, that is potentially relevant to the litigation and that is within the party’s possession, custody or control.” At a minimum, this means that “parties and their counsel must develop and oversee a preservation process,” including the dissemination of a litigation hold notice.
Analyzing “Care, Custody or Control” for Preservation and Production of Electronically Stored Information
A party has an obligation under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure to produce materials — including electronically stored information (“ESI”) — within their “care, custody or control.” Rule 34 of the Federal Rules construes this to mean either “the legal right” or “the actual ability” to obtain the materials; and New York courts have broadly interpreted this obligation to extend to documents and materials that a party has the “right, authority, or practical ability to obtain.” See In re NTL, Inc. Securities Litigation, 244 F.R.D. 179, 195 (S.D.N.Y. 2007).
Earlier this month, the NY Supreme and County courts addressed the topic of electronic discovery at the preliminary conference. The Court issued a Notice amending Section 202.12(b) of the Uniform Rules as well as Rule 1(b) of section 202.70(g) and requiring that in any case “reasonably likely to include electronic discovery” counsel must come to court “sufficiently versed in matters relating to their clients’ technological systems to discuss competently all issues relating to electronic discovery” and may bring a client representative or outside expert to assist in such discussion.