All posts tagged proportionality

Looking Back, Peering Forward: The Top Ediscovery Cases of 2016

The 2015 FRCP amendments are now one year old and there are a full twelve months of case law to guide practitioners through the contours of the new rules. The last year in case law has seen stark developments on how courts interpret the proportionality, levy sanctions, utilize new technologies and reconsider costs to make ediscovery “just, speedy and inexpensive.”

Our webinar, The Top Ediscovery Cases of 2016, updates practitioners on the ediscovery highlights of the past year and features three ediscovery experts, offering the perspective of both counsel and judges:

  • Patrick Oot, Shook, Hardy & Bacon
  • Magistrate Judge Hildy Bowbeer, District of Minnesota
  • Magistrate Judge David J. Waxse, District of Kansas

Rule 26(b)(1): Proportionality Today

The webinar first discusses that the most drastic change of Rule 26(b)(1) is the essential change of mindset. The case Gilead Scis. v. Merck is used as an example to illustrate the place of proportionality in ediscovery. Gilead reveals the required sound reasoning both a party requesting discovery and a party objecting to discovery need to employ. In other words, “now the scope of discovery is neither broad nor liberal…it is proportional.” Attorneys that ignore proportionality do so at their own risk: the case Fulton v. Livingston Fin. is also used to show how the court imposed sanctions on a litigant who made arguments based on the old rule.

Rule 37(e): Sanctions Illustrated

The webinar then discusses the scope of Rule 37(e) and addresses the need to utilize “reasonable steps” to prevent sanctions, as this rule was formed with the intent of curtailing excessive ESI storage. The webinar uses the case Marten Transp. v. Plattform Adver. to show that the scope of a preservation duty is focused: courts expect “reasonable steps,” not perfection. The case Living Color is also used to highlight the fact that parties cannot simply make conclusory statements about prejudice resulting from ESI spoliation without any evidence and expect the court to levy sanctions.

One reason for excessive ediscovery costs is a cultural one and the webinar highlights that Rule 37(e) fits with Rule 1, which was amended for this reason. Cooperation between litigants is a key component of successful preservation, and a panelist observed, “Lawyers too often ignore their obligation to cooperate.”

Predictive Coding: New Frontiers

There are two myths underlying document review discussed in the webinar. The first is the myth that a response to discovery needs to be perfect when in fact the rules call only for “reasonable inquiry.” The second myth is that human review is the best way to ensure responsive documents are not missed when manual review has been shown to be imperfect. In this webinar, the discussion of these two myths sets the stage for asserting that predictive coding technology can be utilized to make ediscovery a more efficient practice.

2017: The Year of Ediscovery

In 2017, one common wish is that attorneys become better educated in ediscovery and the new technologies available. Courts will continue to dissect what constitutes reasonable steps for ESI preservation and also provide additional guidance for when discovery is proportional. Even though counsel may not be proficient in proportionality, the webinar concludes by stating that judges “recognize proportionality when they see it.”

With new opinions continuing to emerge, we expect the ediscovery landscape in 2017 to continue to evolve. Watch this webinar, The Top Ediscovery Cases of 2016, to learn more about the impact of the 2015 FRCP amendments and predictions for the upcoming year.

2017: The Year of Proportionality

Editor’s note: this article originally appeared in Legaltech News.

Of the many changes that emerged from the 2015 FRCP amendments, none has spurred uncertainty within the legal community as much as Rule 26(b)(1) and its emphasis on proportionality. Judges and counsel alike have wrestled to apply the new rule, leaving 2016 case law rife with complex, fact-based interpretations. Even the Sedona Conference issued a publication addressing this issue in their recent publication, Commentary on Proportionality in Electronic Discovery (with public comments due Jan. 31, 2017). As we head into 2017, one conclusion is certain: Proportionality is here to stay.

What Is Proportionality?

Rule 26(b)(1) provides a list of factors, requiring parties to take into account “the amount in controversy,” “the parties’ resources” and “the importance of the issues at stake in the action,” among other factors. At its core, proportionality is about balance, ensuring that parties receive the information they need to plead their claims and argue their defenses, while curtailing expensive and time-consuming waste. While the concept of proportionality seems simple enough, applying it can be difficult for parties.

One mistake counsel make is to look at the factors involving monetary expenditures and stop their analysis there. However, as the Sedona Conference Publication indicates, this is just the beginning of the analysis. Courts care about the claims at issue, and they still have the same commitment to ensuring that parties will have the relevant information that they need. Relevance still matters, but it no longer stands alone. Courts are now more likely to say “no” to requests that are designed to burden parties and have relatively little value.

Another mistake that counsel make is to tell a judge that a discovery request is not proportional but then offer no suggestion as to how a request can be altered to make it so. If a discovery request is too broad, offer a suggestion as to how it can be narrowed, and be prepared to show the court documentation for costs involved. Where scope of discovery is in dispute, show the court a willingness to cooperate and be in contact with the opposing party when issues arise, rather than filing a motion to compel at the first sign of conflict. In 2017, more Rule 26(b)(1) opinions will have judges admonishing parties for failing to attempt to cooperate with each other. In fact, in the latter part of 2016, judges were increasingly reminding parties that the court is a last resort—not the first—when it comes to managing scope of discovery.

What We Have Learned in 2016

A blanket rule cannot be crafted to determine whether a request is proportional. In many of the Rule 26(b)(1) opinions in 2016, the courts took each specific discovery request and applied proportionality to the facts at hand. While judges might not be able to define proportionality, they recognize it when it is presented to them. When the proportionality analysis is so fact-specific, the job of counsel is to demonstrate to a judge how proportionality can work in the case. In a world buried in data, to be successful in gaining access to the most critical information, counsel must see proportionality as a tool and not a constraint.

In 2017, the expectation will be even higher for counsel to have adopted and be proficient with the new rules. Judges will have less and less patience for those who still apply the old “reasonably-calculated” language of Rule 26(b)(1). While in 2016, some courts themselves were still applying the old standard, in 2017, courts will expect parties to have fully acclimated themselves to the new rule. Courts are getting tired of paring down broad discovery requests and instead are sending the dispute back to the parties with orders to attempt to resolve the issue themselves.

Before the 2015 amendments took effect, the legal community was unsure whether the new emphasis on proportionality meant a material change in ediscovery. The opinions of 2016 have shown that judges have more than wrestled with proportionality; they have embraced it. Gone are the days in which parties can ask for everything and, frankly, strategic litigators know they do not want to be overwhelmed with all that useless data. 2017 will be the year of proportionality, and it is up to counsel to keep pace.

 

6 Months of Case Law Under the New FRCP

Six months have passed since the December 1, 2015 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) took effect. What has been the impact of the new rules on civil litigation and discovery?

In particular, Rule 26(b)(1) and Rule 37(e) have attracted a sizeable amount of jurisprudence, as both courts and parties grapple with the applications of these new rules. To aid today’s practitioner, Kroll Ontrack analyzed the most significant judicial opinions of the last six months relating to Rule 26(b)(1) and Rule 37(e).

How have the amendments impacted discovery? Download the FRCP case law digest.

Proportionality Reigns Supreme

In the first six months since the 2015 amendment to Rule 26(b)(1), courts have struggled with the removal of the “reasonably calculated” language, and the additional emphasis on proportionality. Pioneering lawsuits have fleshed out the most pressing questions such as what factors matter the most when arguing proportionality? In what way should a party object to discovery under the new rules? Looking at the totality of the case law, one new theme has emerged—there is no substitute for specificity. Both parties are required to state with specificity why they are requesting or objecting to discovery.

Safe Harbors for “Reasonable Steps”

In the past, organizations have been pressured to preserve massive amounts of ESI at tremendous expense. The 2015 amendments have attempted to require only “reasonable steps” be taken to preserve the information. But is it actually advancing adequate data preservation causes? What constitutes “reasonable steps” under the new FRCP amendments? If evidence was preserved and then lost, what level of intent is needed before a court will impose sanctions?

Each of these questions are addressed in Kroll Ontrack’s case summary digest, with the most relevant case law opinions highlighting the expectations from the courts in the first six months since the 2015 FRCP amendments. Download a copy of the FRCP case law digest by Kroll Ontrack, which not only summarizes key findings but also contains a circuit-by-circuit list of judicial opinions referencing FRCP amendments to Rule 26(b)(1) and Rule 37(e).

Still catching up on the 2015 amendments? Download a copy of Kroll Ontrack’s 2015 FRCP Amendments guidebook, which contains each of the December 1, 2015 amendments and full text of the Advisory Committee notes.

Pennsylvania Proposes Amendments to Civil Procedure Rules

Proposed Recommendation No. 249: Proposed Amendment of Rules 4009.1, 4009.11, 4009.12, 4009.21, 4009.23, and 4011 Governing Discovery of Electronically Stored Information with Explanatory Comment

According to this proposed recommendation, the “core of the proposal is an explanatory comment, which provides that the discovery of electronically stored information will be governed by the same considerations that govern other discovery.” In addition, the stated purpose of this recommendation is to provide the trial judge and counsel with guidance to resolve ESI disputes according to the general principles of Rule 4011 and not pursuant to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and federal case law.

Proposed Changes – Rule 4009.1. Production of Documents and Things. General Provisions.

Amend 4009.1(a) to include: “electronically created data, and other compilations of data from which information can be obtained, translated, if necessary, by the respondent party or person upon whom the request or subpoena is served through detection or recovery devices into reasonably usable form)] and electronically stored information, or to inspect, copy, test or sample any tangible things or electronically stored information” in the definition of discoverable information.

Amend 4009.1(b): A party requesting electronically stored information may specify the format in which it is to be produced and a responding party or person not a party may object. If no format is specified by the requesting party, electronically stored information may be produced in the form in which it is ordinarily maintained or in a reasonably usable form.

Proposed Changes – Rule 4009.11. Request Upon a Party for Production of Documents and Things.

Amend to include the following note: A request seeking electronically stored information should be as specific as possible. Limitations as to time and scope are favored, as are agreements between the parties on production formats and other issues. See also Rule 4009.1 generally regarding electronically stored information.

Proposed Changes – Rule 4009.12. Answer to Request Upon a Party for Production of Documents and Things; Rule 4009.21. Subpoena Upon a Person Not a Party for Production of Documents and Things. Prior Notice. Objections; Rule 4009.23. Certificate of Compliance by a Person Not a Party. Notice of

Documents or Things Received 

Amend rules to include the following note: See Rule 4009.1 regarding electronically stored information.

Proposed Changes – Rule 4011. Limitation of Scope of Discovery [and Deposition]

Amend Rule 4011: Include discovery of the ESI in the scope limitations of discovery

Explanatory Comment – Electronically Stored Information

A. No Importation of Federal Law

Though the term “electronically stored information” is used in these rules, there is no intent to incorporate the federal jurisprudence surrounding the discovery of electronically stored information. The treatment of such issues is to be determined by traditional principles of proportionality under Pennsylvania law as discussed in further detail below. (Emphasis added).

B. Proportionality Standard

As with all other discovery, electronically stored information is governed by a proportionality standard in order that discovery obligations are consistent with the just, speedy and inexpensive determination and resolution of litigation disputes. (Emphasis added). The proportionality standard requires the court, within the framework of the purpose of discovery of giving each party the opportunity to prepare its case, to consider: (i) the nature and scope of the litigation, including the importance and complexity of the issues and the amounts at stake; (ii) the relevance of electronically stored information and its importance to the court’s adjudication in the given case; (iii) the cost, burden, and delay that may be imposed on the parties to deal with electronically stored information; (iv) the ease of producing electronically stored information and whether substantially similar information is available with less burden; and (v) any other factors relevant under the circumstances.

C. Tools for Addressing Electronically Stored Information

Parties and courts may consider tools such as electronic searching, sampling, cost sharing, and non-waiver agreements to fairly allocate discovery burdens and costs. (Emphasis added). When utilizing non-waiver agreements, parties may wish to incorporate those agreements into court orders to maximize protection vis-à-vis third parties. See, e.g., Fed. R. Evid. 502(c)

D. Eliminating References to “Depositions”

The elimination of specific references to “depositions” in Rule 4011 is not intended to exclude depositions from the scope of this rule. The reference was eliminated because there was no reason to call out this one form of traditional discovery among many.

To stay up-to-date on Pennsylvania’s Civil Procedure Rules along with the rest of the 49 states, visit Rules & Statutes.

Cooperation & Proportionality – Essential Pieces to the Ediscovery Puzzle

Cooperation & Proportionality – Essential Pieces to the Ediscovery Puzzle

Like an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object, the rapid pace of technology and the staunchly conservative nature of the law could hardly be in greater conflict.

As the two forces continue to clash, the fallout can be seen in attorneys – doing what they believe is best – battling relentlessly while costs continue to soar. Caught in the middle of it all are the clients and courts, desperately searching for a resolution to the madness. In the midst of this chaos, two familiar concepts have emerged in an attempt to restore order – cooperation and proportionality.

Love it or hate it, electronic discovery is here to stay and parties must work together to curb the exorbitant (and increasing) costs involved in locating, reviewing and producing data in a lawsuit or regulatory matter. U.S. courts’ strong appetite for liberal discovery is tempered by the concept of proportionality, which recognizes that at some point ongoing discovery results in diminishing returns. Aside from its common law roots, proportionality is embodied in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 1, stating that the rules should be “construed and administered to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding,” as well as Rule 26, which permits courts to limit discovery if they determine the burden outweighs the benefit. As for proportionality’s counterpart, cooperation, its spirit can be found throughout legal opinions, scholarly commentary and model codes such as the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct – particularly in Rules 3.2 and 3.4.1

With both of these concepts’ illustrious presence and history in litigation, one would think their application in ediscovery should be fairly straightforward. Yet court-ordered sanctions and costs related to ediscovery continue to rise at a startling pace.2 It is evident that although the basic framework to support proportionality and cooperation is in place, we still need to fill in the gaps. Thankfully, commentators and scholars from both the bench and bar, along with industry experts, have provided the missing pieces – we just need to put them together.3

Fear of the Unknown

In the ediscovery context, knowledge is power and ignorance is disabling. Unfortunately, the latter is far more common. No matter your professional background, the e-discovery process can be complex and daunting. Litigators who do not fully understand the process and intricacies are far more likely to make mistakes that can significantly prolong litigation and increase costs. Fear of the unknown and resulting defensiveness can be as (or more) problematic than being uneducated in this space. All attorneys naturally fear the fatal mistake of disclosing the proverbial “smoking gun” that sinks their client’s case.4 However, when discovery involves millions of pages of documents – as e-discovery commonly does – it is no wonder why costly production and spoliation disputes dominate e-discovery jurisprudence.

Thankfully, the solution is relatively simple and something attorneys are no stranger to – education. In the past few years, many organizations have been formed to encourage and help attorneys, clients and the judiciary to work together and better understand the nuts and bolts of ediscovery. For example, the Seventh Circuit’s Electronic Discovery Pilot Program’s Principles Relating to the Discovery of Electronically Stored Information has recognized the need for cooperation, proportionality and education “to reduce the rising burden and cost of discovery . . . brought on primarily by the use of electronically stored information (ESI) in today’s electronic world.”5 Important concepts from this effort include Principle 1.02, which states “[a]n attorney’s zealous representation of a client is not [emphasis added] compromised by conducting discovery in a cooperative matter” and also acknowledges that the “failure of counsel . . . to cooperate in facilitating and reasonably limiting discovery requests and responses raises litigation costs.” In addition, Principle 1.03 instructs that the application of the proportionality standard in discovery will be furthered by crafting discovery requests and responses that are “reasonably targeted, clear, and as specific as practicable.” Further, Principle 3.01 stresses the pressing need for education by calling for judges, attorneys and parties to “become familiar with the fundamentals of discovery of ESI,” and Principle 3.02 establishes a duty to pursue continuing education in this regard. According to the Phase One report from May 2010, “92 percent of the judges agreed that the Principles [set forth in the program] had a positive effect on counsels’ ability to resolve discovery disputes before requesting court involvement.” Also according to this report, Principle 1.02 was often viewed as incredibly useful and allowed counsel to cooperate with each other while fulfilling their obligation to zealously advocate on behalf of their clients.6

It is no secret that a lack of knowledge is at the root of many ediscovery failures and is a necessary precondition to effective cooperation, yet the calls for increased education have focused on short-term solutions. Familiarity with rules and best practices is not enough to solve a systemic problem. A long-term solution in the form of more in-depth, formalized education is necessary. Law schools must educate future attorneys on ediscovery principles, and knowledgeable practitioners must share their ediscovery expertise with their colleagues through continuing legal education (CLE) courses.

Building a Solid Foundation

While education may help foster cooperation, it is only one piece of the puzzle. In the meantime, courts still need practical tools to address the current lack of cooperation and skyrocketing discovery costs.

One of the more novel approaches has been the use of phased discovery. In a recent discovery order from the Northern District of Illinois, Magistrate Judge Nan R. Nolan (chair of the Seventh Circuit Pilot Program, discussed earlier) ordered the parties to engage in a “phased discovery schedule.”7 After familiarizing themselves with ediscovery principles including cooperation, the parties were ordered to engage in “cooperative discussions to facilitate a logical discovery flow.” Consistent with principles of proportionality and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, this flow was to begin with completing Rule 26(a) initial disclosures, followed by a narrowing of the discovery scope to “claims most likely to go forward” and, finally, prioritizing discovery efforts according to sources that are least “expensive and burdensome.”8 Last, and arguably most important, Judge Nolan dictated that “nothing in this Order shall prejudice the parties from conducting all forms of discovery” if necessary in the future, making clear that phased discovery does not mean limited discovery.

The concept of proportionality in the context of document production is well-suited to address many of the cost problems. Although relatively few courts have expressly ordered it, there is little conflict over its value. In the production context, proportionality is logical, cost-effective and in harmony with the underlying principle of liberal discovery.9 Unfortunately, production is only one part of the ediscovery process.

Preservation is no less important to the ediscovery process than production; however, its relationship with proportionality may be slightly more dubious. In Orbit One Communications v. Numerex Corp., the Southern District of New York rejected the standard of “reasonableness and proportionality” advocated in Victor Stanley II and Rimkus Consulting Group as “too amorphous to provide much comfort to a party deciding” what information to retain. Instead, the court favored the Zubulake IV standard of retaining “all relevant documents . . . in existence at the time the duty to preserve attaches.”10 Courts are understandably reluctant to grant too much leeway to parties to determine what information is worth saving on the reasonableness and proportionality criteria dictated throughout case law and the rules. Proportionality and “phasing” have become critical because litigants have been unable to effectively manage their growing masses of ESI. Data proliferation has shown no sign of slowing down, so there is little reason to believe that proportionality and phased approaches to ediscovery can be a viable long-term solution when neither addresses the underlying issue – proper ESI management.

Technology is designed to make difficult tasks easier. Many corporations are in a quandary, however, because they have adopted technology to create information more efficiently without also implementing technology to manage it more efficiently. In regard to ESI preservation, enterprise archiving technology that can manage vast stores of data with remarkable efficiency is readily available. In addition, hosted discovery repositories provide a cost-effective and secure location to preserve, filter and search large volumes of ESI that are, or may likely become, relevant to litigation and investigations. On the other end of the ediscovery process, technology-aided document review tools are poised to revolutionize this part of the process, which is typically the most expensive and time-consuming. Historically, there simply may not have been a strong enough countervailing incentive to manage the growing stores of information, but it is a safe bet that the interests of justice will soon fill that void and litigants will be expected to responsibly manage their information throughout its life cycle.

Conclusion

No doubt cooperation is imperative to managing an effective ediscovery process, but court orders and sanctions only go so far. Fostering cooperation in the long term will require a paradigm shift in the way litigators approach the ediscovery process. A key piece of this lies in ensuring that jurists and litigants understand this complicated process. As for proportionality, novel approaches such as phased discovery may be sufficient to stave off the tradition of liberal discovery for now, but there is a demonstrated need to revolutionize the process in terms of technology and efforts used to manage data more cost-effectively and efficiently. While the best answer may be unclear, what is perfectly evident is that we already have all the pieces to solve the puzzle – we just need to put them all together.

1 See American Bar Association Model Rules of Professional Conduct, Rules 1.1, 3.2 and 3.4, available at: www.americanbar.org/groups/professional_responsibility/publications/model_rules_of_professional_conduct/model_rules_of_professional_conduct_table_of_contents.html.

2 See Kroll Ontrack, Fourth Annual ESI Trends Report (2010) (Finding 13: On average, companies spend $1.25 million per year on discovery); also The Kroll Ontrack Year in Review 2010, available at: www.krollontrack.com/company/news-releases/?getPressRelease=61500.

3 The Sedona Conference® has provided numerous commentaries on proportionality and cooperation that practitioners should read. See The Sedona Conference® Cooperation Proclamation; also The Sedona Conference® Commentary on Proportionality in Electronic Discovery, available at: www.thesedonaconference.org.

4 See Mt. Hawley Ins. Co. v. Felman Prod., Inc., 2010 WL 1990555 (S.D.W.Va. May 18, 2010) (Plaintiff’s failure to perform critical quality-control sampling and other discovery failures resulted in the inadvertent production of an alleged “smoking gun” e-mail).

5 Available at: www.ilcd.uscourts.gov/Statement%20-%20Phase%20One.pdf.

6 Seventh Circuit Electronic Discovery Pilot Program Phase One Report available at www.7thcircuitbar.org/associations/1507/files/05-2010%20Phase%20One%20Report%20and%20Appendix%20with%20Bookmarks.pdf.

7 Tamburo v. Dworkin, 2010 WL 4867346 (N.D. Ill. Nov. 17, 2010).

8 Id. at 3.

9 Fed.R.Civ.P. 26(b)(1) (“Parties may obtain discovery regarding any nonprivileged matter that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense”).

10 2010 WL 4615547 (S.D.N.Y. Oct. 26, 2010).

Note: The above post appeared in the May 2011 issue of the free, monthly e-newsletter, Case Law Update & Trends published by Kroll Ontrack. This newsletter is designed to help busy legal professionals keep pace with case law and information pertaining to electronic evidence. Subscribe and gain valuable and timely information on new ESI court decisions, as well as informative articles and tips for both the corporate and law firm audience.

Practice Direction 31B – New Guidance on Edisclosure

On October 1, 2010, a new Practice Direction – 31B – that addresses the disclosure of electronic documents took effect after a long period of deliberation and revisions by the Civil Procedure Rules Committee. This Practice Direction presents several implications for legal practice in the UK.

First, the language contained in Practice Direction 31B is mandatory and will likely result in parties taking a more cautious approach to ediscovery in order to avoid orders from the court that require more action to be taken in regard to disclosure practices. In addition, parties may take a more conservative approach now to avoid various penalties for undertaking unreasonable actions, such as the results that occurred in Digicel (St Lucia) Limited v. Cable & Wireless PLC and Earles v. Barclays Bank PLC.

Second, Practice Direction 31B emphasizes the need for early and ongoing communication between parties in order to reach agreement on a sensible approach to edisclosure. This Practice Direction establishes an agenda for parties to discuss prior to the first case management conference. These discussions should include the following:

  • Information parties have in their control, where and how it is stored
  • The extent of the search for relevant documents
  • Software tools and techniques to reduce the burden and cost associated with edisclosure
  • Preservation
  • Formats for exchanging documents

Next, the Practice Direction introduces an Electronic Documents Questionnaire, which serves as a means of obtaining and exchanging the required information in a structured format. Parties must provide detailed information about electronic documents and storage systems, and indicate which sources they propose searching in addition to any technology they wish to use.

The bottom line: Practice Direction 31B is designed to encourage opposing parties to reach an agreement on what measures are appropriate and reasonable in order to acquire the key electronic information needed in a proportionate manner. The Practice Direction and Questionnaire facilitate this process by providing parties with a comprehensive and uniform agenda of discussion topics. In addition, the Practice Direction establishes general principles regarding the use of technology in order to move towards an edisclosure system based on proportionality and cooperation.

Unsure where to begin in the edisclosure process? Turn to a trusted expert to help you prepare for the disclosure of ESI before the time-critical events of litigation arise efficiently, while assisting with identifying, collecting, preserving, reviewing and producing electronically stored information.

 
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