Tagged: Blogs

Ignorance Isn’t Bliss: Federal Sanctions Imposed for Party’s Failure to Timely Search Its Email Server

A recent decision from the Eastern District of Pennsylvania underscores an important lesson on attorneys’ duty of competence, which requires a practical and well-rounded understanding of technology in order to execute their clients’ e-discovery obligations. Indeed, as Ondigo LLC v. intelliARMOR LLC reflects, ignorance of the various sources of e-discovery cannot shield attorneys or parties from sanctions under Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 26(g) or 37(e).

Think Before You Send: Communications to an Attorney Using Work Email May Not Be Protected Under the Attorney-Client Privilege

Generally, a confidential email sent to one’s personal attorney is protected under the attorney-client privilege. But what if the communication is sent using a business email account? Will a corporate policy entitling the company to access “all communications” sent on work computers undermine the privilege? Followers of this blog will recall, among other posts, our detailed recap of the extensive discussion of this issue at our Annual E-Discovery Conference in the wake of the New Jersey Supreme Court’s decision in Stengart v. Loving Care Agency, Inc., upholding the privilege where the employee used a company computer to communicate with her attorney via a personal password-protected internet based e-mail account, and sanctioning the employer’s attorneys for failing to turn over the protected communications. Readers may also recall our discussion of US v. Hamilton, where the United States Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that a husband waived the marital communications privilege when he sent messages from his work email account to his wife, but took no steps to protect their sanctity. Since those decisions, courts nationwide have continued to wrestle with these issues. Most recently, a Delaware Court held an employee waived the attorney client privilege where he used his work email account to email his lawyer with knowledge of the company’s policy establishing its right to access all communications on work computers.

Tweets Contradict Court Filings, Leading to Judgment of Conviction and Appeal

We have been covering a case pending in the Criminal Court of the State of New York in which the State sought discovery and use of a criminal defendant’s tweets for use in his trial. Malcolm Harris was accused of disorderly conduct when he and others allegedly marched on to the Brooklyn Bridge during an Occupy Wall Street protest. For nearly a year, Harris argued in court papers that he was not guilty because the N.Y.P.D. had allegedly led the protestors onto the roadway of the Brooklyn Bridge as the protest swelled.

Coming to a Close: Reflections on the Proposed Amendments to F.R.C.P. 37 Debate at the 2013 Georgetown Advanced eDiscovery Institute as the End of the Public Comment Period Nears

The proposed amendments to F.R.C.P. 37(e) would establish a single standard by which courts will assess culpability and issue sanctions for failure to preserve electronically stored information (“ESI”). Our previous blog post discusses the rule. The proposed amendments to F.R.C.P. 37(e) were recommended for adoption in 2010 and, on June 3, 2013, they were approved for public comment (as part of a package of amendments to several federal rules) by the Judicial Conference of the United States’ Standing Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure. On August 15, 2013, the Committee officially published for public comment the full slate of proposed rule changes. Unsurprisingly, the proposed amendments have generated considerable feedback from the legal community and, indeed, the discussion took center stage at the 2013 Georgetown Advanced eDiscovery Institute on November 22, 2013. With little more than a week to go before the comment period expires, and with, to date, more than 600 comments already posted addressing various aspects of the proposed rule amendments, we thought it might be a good time to reflect upon the discussion at Georgetown, especially for those considering weighing in before the end of the public comment period.

Update of Proposed Rule Changes: A Universal Federal Sanctions Standard for the Failure to Preserve ESI Could be a Reality

The United States Courts’ Advisory Committee on Civil Rules (“the Committee”) has proposed various amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that, if adopted, will profoundly affect the range and scope of sanctions a court may impose for failures to preserve electronically stored information (“ESI”). F.R.C.P. 37(e), which currently addresses sanctions in those instances, is one of several rules slated for amendment.

An International Standard for E-Discovery?

The International Organization for Standardization (“ISO”) is forming a new e-discovery committee tasked with the development of standards for e-discovery processes and procedures. The international standard “would provide guidance on measures, spanning from initial creation of [electronically stored information] through its final disposition which an organization can undertake to mitigate risk and expense should electronic discovery become an issue” according to a draft committee charter.

A Bad “Day” for a Company Whose In-House Attorney Failed to Properly Preserve Relevant Documents

An Arizona federal court has determined that default judgment, an adverse instruction and monetary damages are proper remedies for in-house counsel’s failure to take the proper steps to preserve potentially relevant evidence after receiving notice of potential litigation. In Day v. LSI Corporation, Docket No. CIV-11-186-TUC-CKJ, the United States District Court for the District of Arizona granted, in part, the plaintiff-employee’s motion for entry of a default judgment and imposed additional sanctions against the defendant-employer, concluding that the employer’s in-house attorney had a “culpable mind” and acted willfully in failing to carry out the company’s preservation obligations.

Harris Running Out of Options: Judge Has Tweets and May Conduct In Camera Review

We previously reported on the First Appellate Department’s refusal to stay Judge Sciarrino’s order that Twitter turnover criminal defendant, Malcolm Harris’s tweets, which will allegedly contradict his defense in a criminal action. Facing the threat of a contempt order, Twitter produced to Judge Sciarrino the tweets in question on September 14. However, Harris previously brought an Article 78 proceeding against Judge Sciarrino (In the Matter of Harris v. Sciarrino, Index No. 103569/12) and filed a motion seeking a stay of Judge Sciarrino’s order that the tweets be produced to Judge Sciarrino for in camera review before production to the District Attorney. On September 27, 2012, Judge Huff denied Harris’s motion to stay enforcement of Judge Sciarrino’s order pending the resolution of the Article 78 proceeding. Although Harris argued pursuant to CPLR 7803 that Judge Sciarrino had acted outside of his jurisdiction, the District Attorney successfully countered that criminal defendants may not “interrupt their prosecutions to launch what is in essence a pre-conviction collateral attack using Article 78 as a vehicle.” Stay tuned for further updates….

Between A Rock and Hard Place: Twitter’s Back Now Against The Wall In Harris Case

That didn’t take long. A panel of the Appellate Division, First Department in People of the State of New York v. Harris, Index No. 080152/2011 has denied Twitter’s motion for a stay of enforcement of the Trial Court’s order requiring the production of Mr. Harris’s tweets. On Tuesday September 11, the Trial Court warned Twitter during a hearing on the District Attorney’s motion to hold Twitter in contempt that Twitter must produce the information in question by Friday September 14 or face a finding of contempt. Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Sciarrino further warned that he would review Twitter’s most recent quarterly financial statements in determining the appropriate financial penalty if Twitter does not obey the order. Denial of the stay and the Trial Court’s expected insistence on compliance puts Twitter in a difficult position as production of the tweets will effectively moot their appeal of Judge Sciarrino’s order. Twitter’s next move should be interesting. We will continue to keep you apprised.

Twitter Appeals Order to Produce Tweets

We previously reported on the New York District Attorney’s attempts to obtain tweets by a criminal defendant in People of the State of New York v. Harris, Index No. 080152/2011 and the corresponding challenges asserted by the individual user/defendant and Twitter itself on May 23 and June 7. Defendant is accused of disorderly conduct for allegedly having blocked traffic during an Occupy Wall Street protest. The District Attorney has sought defendant’s simultaneous tweets that allegedly will undermine his defense that he was forced onto the street by police officers. The trial court first denied defendant’s motion to quash the subpoena served on the social networking site Twitter and then denied Twitter’s own motion to quash.