On May 11, 2017, the Commercial and Federal Litigation Section of the New York State Bar Association issued its third iteration of Social Media Ethics Guidelines. As the authors of the Guidelines aptly recognize: “As use of social media by lawyers and clients continues to grow and as social media networks proliferate and become more sophisticated, so too do the ethics issues facing lawyers.” This recent update adds principles regarding professional competence and attorney use of social media, and addresses ethical considerations regarding maintaining client confidences, handling potential conflicts of interests related to social media, following clients’ social media, and communicating with judges via social media. Issued in 2014 and updated in June 2015, the Guidelines aim to provide “guiding principles” as opposed to “best practices” for the modern lawyer’s evolving use of social media. The authors acknowledge the guidelines’ inherent inability to define universal principles in the face of varying ethics codes, which “may differ due to different social mores, the priorities of different demographic populations, and the historical approaches to ethics rules and opinions in different localities.” The Guidelines are based upon the New York Rules of Professional Conduct and New York bar associates’ interpretation of those rules....
E-Discovery Law Alert Blog
The Metadata Minefield – New Jersey’s Amended Rules of Professional Conduct Provide Ethical Guidance
Every electronic document contains metadata – hidden, electronically stored information (ESI) which reveals details surrounding its creation, typically including the document’s creator and the date and time the document was created and edited, among other things. Much of this metadata may be innocuous, but some – for example, the identity of every individual who opened or edited a document, or even tracked changes – may reveal privileged and confidential attorney client communications or work product that was not meant to be visible to or seen by the other side. This, in turn, generates issues of concern for lawyers entrusted with preventing disclosure of such confidential information and for those who receive it. Following the recommendations of its Commission on Ethics 20/20, the American Bar Association (ABA) recently amended the Model Rules of Professional Conduct (MRPC) to address these issues and provide guidance to lawyers in both situations. In the wake of the ABA amendments, the New Jersey Supreme Court examined these issues, soliciting input from, among others, the Special Committee on Attorney Ethics and Admissions (Special Ethics Committee) and the Working Group on Ethical Issues Involving Metadata in Electronic Documents (Working Group), and rendering Administrative Determinations on the Reports and...
Recently, the American Bar Association released its annual technology survey, a comprehensive report that explores how attorneys are using technology. It revealed some troubling trends. The finding of most concern is that nearly half of the respondents indicated their belief that they were not ethically required to stay apprised of legal technology developments, or that they were unclear regarding their ethical duties. In fact, the ABA formally approved a change to Rule 1.1 of the Model Rules of Professional Conduct in 2012 that clarified that a lawyer’s ethical duty of competence requires knowledge of technology related to their practice. Since that time, approximately half of the states have adopted the revised rule, which provides: “Maintaining Competence To maintain the requisite knowledge and skill, a lawyer should keep abreast of changes in the law and its practice, including the benefits and risks associated with relevant technology, engage in continuing study and education and comply with all continuing legal education requirements to which the lawyer is subject.” Indeed, an attorney’s lack of familiarity with relevant technology may subject him/her to sanctions and ethical violations, even in a state that has not adopted the revised ABA Rule. For example, California’s Professional Responsibility Committee opined...
In the last 10 years, robotic surgical systems have revolutionized the way doctors approach minimally invasive surgery, especially laparoscopic and arthroscopic procedures. AI-enabled systems can also provide doctors with suggestions based on symptoms, learning from medical diagnoses and the outcomes of the symptoms. As with medicine, the field of law will be revolutionized in the coming years by the application of AI-enabled systems and networks to the practice of law.
Regulations Proposed by NY Department of Financial Services are a Significant Development for Regulated Entities … and Everyone Else
On September 13, 2016, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced new first-in-the-nation proposed regulations to protect against the ever growing threat of cyber-attacks in the financial services industry. The proposed regulations, to be enforced by the New York State Department of Financial Services, would apply only to an entity regulated by the NY Department of Financial Services – from a multi-national bank to a “mom-and-pop” operation. However, the regulations are important for all companies to review and consider, regardless of their location or scope of operations, because the proposal represents an important step in the ongoing national dialogue about reasonable and necessary cybersecurity standards for all businesses.
Court Compels Arbitration of Lawsuit Filed by Employees Discharged After Discovery of Personal Text Messages About a Coworker on a Company-Issued iPad
A recent decision from the District of New Jersey granting a motion to compel arbitration not only reinforces the strong federal policy in favor of arbitration, but also highlights issues pertaining to company-issued devices and employees’ personal use of these devices. While employed by Anheuser-Busch, Victor Nascimento received a company-issued iPad. Nascimento and other employees exchanged text messages about a coworker over their personal cell phones outside of the work day, but the messages were received on Nascimento’s company-issued iPad because the iTunes account on his iPad was linked to his personal cell phone.
Second Circuit Reverses Lower Court Microsoft Decision and Holds That Email Evidence Stored Abroad Cannot Be Gathered Pursuant to Criminal Warrant Issued Under Stored Communications Act
In a prior post, we reported that Southern District of New York Magistrate Judge Francis determined that Microsoft must comply with a U.S. Government’s warrant seeking a user’s email content, even though the emails are stored in Microsoft’s datacenter in Dublin, Ireland. After the lower court declined to quash the subpoena and held Microsoft in contempt for failing to turn over customer content stored abroad, Microsoft appealed to the Second Circuit. On July 14, 2016 the appeals court issued an extensive opinion reversing the lower court’s ruling.
As previously noted, in response to the European Court of Justice ruling in Schrems v. Data Protection Commissioner (Case C-362/14) striking down as inadequate the so-called “safe harbor” agreement that existed for more than a decade, the EU Commission and U.S. Department of Justice announced the framework of a deal to allow transatlantic data transfers between the EU and U.S. without running afoul of Europe’s strict data protection directives. Described as the EU-U.S. “Privacy Shield” agreement, that framework has now been vetted by EU Member States, modified in certain respects, and formally adopted on July 12, 2016 by the European Commission.
Anyone reading recent headlines knows that Apple, Inc. is engaged in a legal, and ultimately political, struggle with the U.S. Government over access to the cell phone of Syed Rizwan Farook, one of the shooters in the December 2, 2015 terror attack at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California. The core issue in that California proceeding is whether Apple should be forced to “create and load Apple-signed software onto the subject iPhone device to circumvent the security and anti-tampering features of the device in order to enable the government to hack the passcode to obtain access to the protected data contained therein.”
Signs of Life? – Judge Francis Opines that “Inherent Authority” to Sanction Spoliation Related Conduct Survives Amended Rule 37(e)
In perhaps the first published decision since the amended Federal Rules took effect on December 6, 2015, United States Magistrate Judge James C. Francis IV, a preeminent judicial e-discovery authority, relied upon amended Rule 37(e) and, somewhat controversially, his inherent authority, to sanction a litigant for evidence tampering and spoliation. The opinion is significant, not solely because it invokes the newly-minted rule, but because it interprets amended Rule 37(e) as not foreclosing the court’s inherent authority as a viable alternative to sanction spoliation-related conduct that may not strictly satisfy the new Rule’s elements.