Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Privilege Waived: Insufficient Privilege Log Entries Doom Defendant’s Privilege Claims

Occasionally I run into clients or an opposing party who will attempt to use a metadata privilege log. And although this approach may save money (but even that point is debatable), I always advise against using them largely because, any such log will invariably be overbroad, inaccurate, incomplete, and potentially cause your opponent and the court to lose trust that you are being honest and straight forward with them. Most importantly, as the recent case ePlus, Inc. v. Lawson Software, Inc., No. 3:09cv620 (E.D. Va) makes clear, you risk waiving privilege.

Metadata privilege logs are created and populated using the metadata available within them, sometimes with little or no human input or modification. The results vary from case to case and even document to document. In some instances, a document may not contain data for some or all fields, or it may contain inaccurate or even non-intelligible information. As a result, the deliverable privilege log may have blank fields or incorrect data.

In ePlus, the Court analyzed several privilege log entries to determine if the defendant had waived privilege as a result of the entry itself. Basing its argument in part on Federal Rules of Civil Procedure Rule 26(b)(5) that a party asserting privilege must “’describe the nature of [privileged] documents, communications, or tangible things . . . and do so in a manner that, without revealing information itself privileged or protected, will enable other parties to assess the claim[]’” the Court held as follows:

1. As to log entries that do not contain author and recipient information, privilege was waived.
2. As to communications received by ten or more non-attorneys, the entries did not demonstrate that the non-attorneys had a “need to know” the information, and privilege was waived.
3. As to communications by non-attorneys that reflect legal advice, these documents are not privileged, since defendant did not “establish that these are communications from or to an attorney or that they are communications made at the direction of an attorney.”
4. As to entries missing date information or failing to assert privilege type, those are mere “minor deficienc[ies]” that do not prevent the opponent from attacking the privilege claim, so privilege was not waived.
5. The court also held that knowingly producing documents and later deciding they are privileged does not constitute “inadvertent” disclosure, and therefore, those documents cannot be clawed back; privilege has been waived for those documents.

The ePlus case should serve as a warning to those who think they can cut corners when creating privilege logs. While minimizing human involvement in privilege log creation and leaving fields blank may save you time and perhaps money, those same actions may waive privilege and make the whole privilege log exercise (even when shortened) superfluous. Defendants Lawson Software learned this the hard way. I hope that others will learn from their mistake; at the end of the day, the dollars saved by using a metadata log, or skimping on quality control of a human created log, simply are not worth the risk of waiving privilege and perhaps exposing the very core of your case.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Update – Plaintiffs Attack Judge Peck’s Da Silva Moore Predictive Coding Order Again

Perhaps no discovery order has been so widely covered (including by this blog) or deeply analyzed as Judge Peck’s order endorsing predictive coding in the Da Silva Moore case. In the latest turn, plaintiffs have filed a Reply in support of the objection to Judge Peck’s predictive coding ruling.

From the outset, there was a noticeable undertone of animosity towards Judge Peck running throughout the Reply. Plaintiffs took the opportunity to play up the connection between Judge Peck and defense counsel Ralph Losey (who is also regarded as a thought leader in the eDiscovery industry and is the author of a widely disseminated blog among other things), and to a lesser extent Recommind, the software vendor whose computer assisted review platform will potentially be used in this matter. Plaintiffs dedicate the first two pages (out of 14 total, and only 11 of which address the predictive coding dispute) to the recent professional relationship between Judge Peck and Mr. Losey, which has focused on the endorsement and discussion of predictive coding at various industry events around the country.

Asking “that the court reject MSL’s use of predictive coding and require the parties come up with a new ESI Protocol,” plaintiffs warn that “Judge Peck sets a dangerous precedent that is likely to deter future litigants from even considering predictive coding, lest they be bound by a protocol that contains no measure of reliability.” Obviously, counsel is trying to persuade the court here (which I can certainly appreciate), but I strongly disagree with this point. As I recently discussed in a blog titled: You Cannot Unring a Bell – Judge Peck’s Da Silva Moore Opinion Will Continue to Be Influential Despite Objection (http://ediscoverynewssource.blogspot.com/2012/03/you-cannot-unring-bell-judge-pecks-da.html), regardless of the outcome of this particular objection, predictive coding will continue to be a hot topic, and litigants will use it to the extent it makes fiscal sense and produces reasonable results.

Interestingly, plaintiffs cite Kleen Prods., LLC v. Packaging Corp. of Am., No. 10 C 5711 (N.D. Ill) in support of their arguments. Kleen is the case where plaintiffs have asked Magistrate Judge Nan R. Nolan to order defendants to use predictive coding. Plaintiffs in the Da Silva Moore matter hold Judge Nolan’s decision to require full briefing, expert reports, and evidentiary hearing on the use of predictive coding in high regard when contrasted with Judge Peck’s relatively quick process and decision. Arguing “in his rush to be the first in line to approve predictive coding, Judge Peck did not elicit expert testimony or give the parties an opportunity to question or cross-examine the experts.”

The outcome of the Da Silva Moore predictive coding dispute is now squarely in the hands of Judge Andrew Carter, and this blog will do its best to provide further updates as they arise.

As an aside, plaintiff also made the same argument, that this blog raised in its inaugural post: Peck and Choose (http://ediscoverynewssource.blogspot.com/2012/03/peck-and-choose.html), regarding Judge Peck’s deference to French Privacy Law, stating that “Judge Peck failed to engage in the required comity analysis, under which the vast majority of U.S. precedents have found that French law does not preempt discovery.” It will be interesting to see what the outcome of this issue is as the matter proceeds.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Delta Lawyers Learn a Difficult Lesson: Court Levies Sanctions After Counsel's Reliance on IT Department

With discovery seemingly complete and in the books, the situation takes an unexpected turn when Defendant located new data in In re Delta/AirTran Baggage Fee Antitrust Litigation. The court sanctioned defendant, Delta Air Lines, for locating and producing 60,000 pages of responsive material after the close of discovery. Defendant discovered that they had inadvertently failed to search several hard drives and failed to locate several backup tapes prior to the close of discovery despite claiming nearly 20 times that they had produced all responsive material. Defendant’s counsel asserted they relied on assurances given by their IT department, and although the court did not find defendant’s omission to be intentional, it nevertheless found that defendant “did not conduct a reasonable inquiry” and levied monetary sanctions against defendant. However, given that defendant did cooperate once the error was reported, the court refrained from precluding defendant’s use of the material.

Judge Timothy C. Batten identified several key errors in how defendant dispatched its discovery obligations, including:

• Defendant’s counsel did not confirm with IT that each hard drive that was supposed to be loaded for searching actually had been; counsel did e-mail IT with a list of custodian hard drives that should have been loaded, but IT “did not respond with confirmation that each listed person’s drive was on the system[.]”
• Despite intense questioning and discussion of backup tapes with the court, counsel did not personally search the location the backup tapes were ultimately discovered; instead, counsel relied on IT’s statements regarding the contents of the location, and the absence of backup tapes in that location.
• Prior to discovering the misplaced data, defendant repeatedly (approximately 20 times) stated to the court and plaintiffs that they had produced everything.
• Defendant did not promptly inform the court of its misrepresentations; defendant waited nearly two weeks and until after the court ruled on a spoliation issue to inform the court of the newly discovered data.

To defendant’s credit, once the court and the plaintiffs were aware of the issue, defendant was very cooperative in working to produce the responsive data. Some other measures that Defendant, as a corporation that is confronted with numerous disputes and investigations over the course of a year, could have implemented to avoid such issues altogether, include the following:

• Create and follow a standardized process(es) for use in every matter. These processes should include the tracking of collections, processing, searching, review, and production of all data for a given matter.
• Implement and utilize a team dedicated to e-discovery who can work across matters serving as a single point of contact for the various players involved.
• Counsel cannot merely rely on the assertions made by their client; they must be actively involved and make reasonable efforts to verify statements are accurate and complete.

The Delta decision is a good example of how a party can fall victim to an ad hoc e-discovery approach rather than a well defined plan that is repeatable across matters. The most important takeaway for practitioners, is the need to be involved in all aspects of a matter and not simply rely on assertions made by your client; taking statements at face value without reasonable inquiry into their veracity, leaves one open to sanctions.

Friday, March 16, 2012

You Cannot Unring a Bell - Judge Peck's Da Silva Moore Opinion Will Continue to Be Influential Despite Objection

News recently broke noting that Magistrate Judge Andrew Peck's recent opinion addressing predictive coding is in jeopardy of becoming obsolete less than a month after causing shockwaves within the eDiscovery community.

It seems the plaintiffs in the Da Silva Moore matter took exception to the procedural and temporal irregularities surrounding the seminal opinion; Judge Peck issued the opinion after plaintiffs filed their objections, thereby depriving them of the opportunity to object to the opinion itself. Consequently, plaintiffs objected and sought the opportunity to respond to the opinion itself to which Judge Andrew Carter obliged.

While this new twist may be significant in some respects, it does not mean Judge Peck's opinion is now meaningless, and it most certainly does not signal the end of the predictive coding movement and trend; if anything, this will only serve to draw more attention to predictive coding, the de jour subject in eDiscovery at the moment. Indeed, plaintiffs’ objections focused more on procedural and process issues, rather than the efficacy or validity of predictive coding in general or as a whole.

Judge Peck is clearly an advocate of predictive coding, and in issuing his seminal opinion endorsing, or at least agreeing to the use of, predictive coding, he was perhaps a little eager to make his point. However, that fact does not greatly diminish the power of what he said, and does not close the predictive coding door that Judge Peck opened (the opinion made a large splash for a reason). Despite this minor setback, the push for predictive coding will continue to move forward and the industry will continue to look to the Peck Da Silva Moore decision as a watershed moment regardless of the outcome of this new twist - you cannot unring the bell.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Not So eDiscovery e-Discovery Rules

Good Morning All,

As of late, I have been taking a keen interest in the development and nascent proliferation of eDiscovery "pilot programs" and other similar efforts, usually by courts, to standardize eDiscovery. So, when I saw an article put out by Thomson Reuters entitled "New York Implements new mandatory e-discovery rules" I was quite intrigued. However, upon reading the article I was quite disappointed and even shocked.

It turns out the article is all about New York state courts mandating that documents and pleadings in certain cases be filed with the court electronically. While I certainly applaud the courts of New York for their effort to go paperless, and Thomson Reuters for covering the topic, this is not an article about eDiscovery, regardless of what the title says.

Thomson Reuters' confusion did drive home a point for me. In this age of eDiscovery certifications, judges endorsing computer-assisted coding, and social media, a large part of the legal community, and an even greater portion of the community at large, have no idea what eDiscovery is, let alone utilize it.

While Judge Peck and others like him press forward at the forefront of the field, many practitioners have never used an electronic document review platform, still insist on reviewing documents in hard copy, or cling to any number of other antiquated discovery methods. The fact that Thomson Reuters, a respected news agency, could so easily misuse the term simply emphasizes this point; while the field of eDiscovery is making great strides and pushing forward, there are still many who do not know the basics and need to be educated. If we can somehow educate the majority of legal practitioners about eDiscovery, that, in my mind, may be a far greater and broader reaching achievement than computer-assisted coding currently is.

How will this be achieved? My answer is through those of us in the eDiscovery industry working to educate and initiate others. It will take time, but I am confident it can be done. So, I encourage all of you to take on that task, and the next time one of your colleagues asks for all the documents to be printed and put in a bankers box, take a moment to let them in on the secret that is eDiscovery.

If you would like to read the entire Thomson Reuters article please use this link: http://newsandinsight.thomsonreuters.com/New_York/News/2012/02_-_February/New_York_implements_new_mandatory_e-discovery_rules/

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Peck and Choose

Hello Everyone and welcome to my new blog. My name is Brandon and I work for an eDiscovery service provider, i.e. a vendor. This blog is something that I will be contributing to outside of my role of employee and will reflect my personal opinions on various eDiscovery issues. So, I hope that this post and others in the future will, at a minimum, give you something to think about. Enjoy.

For my first post, I am writing about Magistrate Judge Peck's recent decision in the Moniqe Da Silva Moore v. Publicis Groupe case. This is the decision now made famous for Judge Peck's comments about predictive coding, and while those comments are important, and even groundbreaking, I am writing about the opinion for another reason or reasons: the numerous other eDiscovery issues that Judge Peck mentioned, but failed to discuss, and the potential consequences of those issues.

In the opinion, Judge Peck glosses over three other major eDiscovery issues that I feel deserve to be fleshed out, including:

1. Discovery and Data Collection in the EU is Not Guaranteed - Plaintiffs sought data that resided in France and Judge Peck, without discussion, ruled that data would not be included in the first phases of discovery because the data "likely would be covered by the French privacy blocking laws[.]" What is interesting is that the quote suggests Judge Peck may abstain from requiring this data be included in Discovery because of the French laws. Most Federal courts in most cases will "ignore" foreign privacy laws, essentially telling litigants that they are under the jurisdiction of the US Courts and US discovery rules will apply, so the litigants will have to figure out how to obtain the data or face the consequences of failing to do so. Although he did not definitively rule on the matter for future phases of discovery, this raises the question: Will this start a new trend, where Judge Peck (and potentially other Judges in the future) defer to foreign privacy laws and their impact on discoverable data?

2.FRCP Rule 26(g)(1)(A) Does Not Apply to Discovery Responses - Rule 26(g)(1)(A) of course states that a party must sign every disclosure, stating that it is "complete and correct as of the time it is made." Judge Peck states that this clause does not apply to discovery responses, but rather to initial disclosures. Judge Peck instructs that Rule 26(g)(1)(B) applies to discovery responses, and it enunciates proportionality principle rather than a completeness standard. Despite the fact that it is impossible to ensure completeness in discovery responses, litigants have traditionally asserted and required the "complete and correct as of time it is made" "guarantee" in conjunction with productions. Will Judge Peck's analysis start to erode the use and mandate of this "guarantee?"

3. The Decision to Embrace Computer-Assisted Review in This Case Was Easy - The parties in Da Silva Moore agreed to use computer-assisted review and Judge Peck simply agreed to allow them to do so. Judge Peck points out that the tougher question is that raised by Klein Prods. LLC v. Packaging Corp. of Am., where plaintiff's have asked the court to order defendant's to use computer-assisted review to respond to plaintiff's document requests. How Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan (who by the way is a Chair for the Seventh Circuit Electronic Discovery Pilot Program) rules on that issue may have far greater impact than Judge Peck's decision. Stay tuned.

While the above issues do not have the groundbreaking caché that computer-assisted review currently does, they are none-the-less relevant and important, and may likewise have a large impact on the eDiscovery landscape moving forward. I for one, hope that they get the attention they deserve in this case and others moving forward.

Below is a link to Judge Peck's decision as well as a link to the Seventh Circuit Electronic Discovery Pilot Program Home Page.

Judge Peck's Da Silva Moore Opinion: http://falcondiscovery.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/dasilvamoore-2-24-12-opinion.pdf

Seventh Circuit Electronic Discovery Pilot Program Home Page: http://www.discoverypilot.com/