Tagged: Ethical Concerns

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).

Inadvertently Produced Privileged Material May Generally Be Used for Purpose of Challenging Assertion of Privilege

A New York federal court has recently held that inadvertently produced privileged documents may be used by the receiving party for the limited purpose of challenging the claim of privilege to the extent that the receiving party became aware of the contents of those documents prior to the assertion of the privilege over those documents. In re Keurig Green Mt. Single Serve Coffee Antitrust Litig. In that case, the parties had entered into a stipulated protective order with a Federal Rule of Evidence 502(d) clawback provision, but the parties relied on two different provisions of the same order to support their arguments concerning whether the privileged document could be relied upon in challenging the claim of privilege. The order stated that “[i]f a party has inadvertently or mistakenly produced Privileged Material, and if the party makes a written request for the return, … the receiving party will also make no use of the information contained in the Privileged Material … regardless of whether the receiving party disputes the claim of privilege.” However, the order also stated that “[t]he receiving party may not use the Privileged Material … for any purpose whatsoever other than moving the Court for an order compelling production of the Privileged Material…” The Court relied on two prior decisions, both authored by...

New York Bar Association Revises Social Media Ethics Guidelines

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. The Guidelines do, however, cite ethics opinions where there is a difference of opinion or...

Latest Technology Survey of Lawyers Reveals Troubling Trends

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 that an attorney’s e-discovery ignorance, which resulted in the deletion of relevant data and the...

State Bar of California Revises Proposed E-Discovery Ethics Opinion

Attorney competence is currently one of the most-discussed issues in e-discovery. Not surprisingly, much attention has been paid to the proposed ethics opinion issued last year by the State Bar of California that addresses an attorney’s ethical duties in the handling of the discovery of ESI. (See e.g., our previous blog post summarizing topics addressed at the Gibbons Eighth Annual E-Discovery Conference.) In response to several critical comments received during the public comment period, the California Bar’s Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct met in December 2014 and issued a revised version of Proposed Formal Opinion Interim No. 11-0004 (ESI and Discovery Requests). The public comment period for the revised version of the proposed opinion ends on April 9, 2015.

E-Discovery Year-in-Review 2014: Panel at Gibbons Eighth Annual E-Discovery Conference Discusses Recent Developments, Issues, and Trends

On December 5, 2014, Gibbons hosted its Eighth Annual E-Discovery Conference. The day’s first session discussed the year’s significant developments and featured panelists Michael Arkfeld, Principal at Arkfeld & Associates, and two Gibbons E-Discovery Task Force members; Director Jennifer Hradil and Associate Michael Landis.

ABA Says that Attorneys May Investigate Jurors’ Social Media Presence, Even if Automatic Notifications are Generated

The American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Ethics and Professional Responsibility recently weighed in on the ethical parameters of attorneys’ investigation of jurors’ social media presence. In ABA Formal Opinion 466, the Committee concluded that an attorney may review a juror’s social media presence; an attorney may undertake that review even if the social media website issues a notice to the juror that the attorney viewed his social media profile; and an attorney may not request private access to a juror’s social media profile.

Attorneys’ Use of Social Media to Research Jurors — Another Ethical Land Mine

The New York City Bar Association’s Formal Opinion 2012-2 examines whether ethical restrictions apply to attorneys who use search engines or social media websites for the purpose of researching jurors. While the Opinion does not oppose such research (provided no communication between an attorney and potential or sitting juror occurs), it broadly interprets “communication.” Although a “friend request” would obviously constitute a communication, the Opinion struggles with whether an inadvertent or unknowing notification or message to the juror, which was triggered by the attorney’s attempt to view a page or comments (such as what can occur when one views a person’s LinkedIn™ profile), should also be treated as a communication and thereby prohibited. Ultimately, the Opinion “takes no position” on that issue and instead, cautions attorneys to understand the technology at issue, refrain from engaging in deception to gather information, and promptly report any discoveries of juror misconduct that are gleaned from the research.

The Fifth Annual Gibbons E-Discovery Conference Kicks Off with an Interactive and Thought-Provoking Overview of the Past Year’s Pivotal E-Discovery Case Decisions

The Fifth Annual Gibbons E-Discovery Conference kicked off with an interactive overview of the important judicial decisions from 2011 that shaped and redefined the e-discovery landscape. Before an audience of general and in-house counsel, representing companies throughout the tri-state area, the esteemed panel of speakers, including Michael R. Arkfeld, Paul E. Asfendis, and Mara E. Zazzali-Hogan, moderated by Scott J. Etish, tackled the issues faced by the courts over the past year. Through a series of hypotheticals, the panelists and attendees analyzed and discussed how to handle the tough e-discovery issues that arose and how the courts’ decisions again reshaped the e-discovery landscape as we know it. Litigation hold protocols and spoliation concerns, the use of social media in discovery with its attendant ethical concerns, and the use of social media and the Internet in the courtroom were the hot topics of the day. This interactive overview of the past year’s hot button, e-discovery issues was an instant success and clearly set the tone for the remainder of the conference.