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The eDiscovery Paradigm Shift

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Monday, February 9, 2009

Top 10 eDiscovery Cases from 2008

During my Monday morning review of eDiscovery Blog postings and other relevant eDiscovery articles added to the web this past weekend, I came across a really interesting top 10 list of the most relevant cases in eDiscovery for 2008. The article, titled, "Top 10 e-Discovery Cases in 2008", was posted on the Discovery Resources website on January 13th 2009.

2008 was definitely a banner year for legal rulings that could shape the future of eDiscovery. However, I think that 2009 will be even more significant. Nevertheless, David Letterman would be proud as this is a really great top 10 list and should be read and studied by anyone that is in the eDiscovery business.

The full text of the article is as follows:

This past year saw a wide range of rulings on e-discovery issues and enforcement of The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Following are what I believe to be the most influential cases and rulings from 2008:

1. Mancia v. Mayflower Textile Services Co., 2008 WL 4595275 (D. Md. Oct. 15, 2008)

Result: Magistrate Judge Paul Grimm writes that Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(g) requires counsel to cooperate in e-discovery and that failure to do so can be construed as a violation of the duty of “reasonable inquiry” prior to certifying demands or responses. Cited The Sedona Conference® Cooperation Proclamation.

Significance: Influential opinion to jump-start the Cooperation Proclamation; will increase the use and documentation of 26(f) meet and confer proceedings.

2. Qualcomm v. Broadcom, 2008 WL 638108 (S.D.Cal., March 05, 2008)

Result: An adversarial relationship created between client and counsel; privilege abrogated so that counsel could defend themselves.

Significance: Outside counsel and inside counsel are even more wary about each other discharging responsibilities correctly; increases the tension that started when Zubulake put both sets of counsel on notice that they were responsible for preservation and understanding the information system; demonstrates the backing by a district judge of difficult decisions and creative sanctions made by a magistrate judge; January opinion by Judge Major was a significant push for cooperation (may have sparked Cooperation Proclamation); CREDO process still not released to public, but it is in process; may be on this list again in 2009.

3. Victor Stanley v. Creative Pipe, 2008 WL 2221841 (D. Md. May 29, 2008)

Result: Failure to agree on a “clawback agreement,” or agreement on choice of search key words, results in waiver of privilege when court holds that unilateral choice of keywords in privilege review did not rise to level of “reasonable precautions” to prevent inadvertent waiver.

Significance: Underscores the need for Federal Rules of Evidence 502 on privilege waiver; also underscores the benefit of agreeing on search terms; establishes framework for protocols to validate unilateral search.

4. Digicel v. Cable & Wireless LLC, [2008] EWHC 2522 (Ch)

Result: High Court of England and Wales orders defendants to search again (at their own expense) due to failure to secure agreement on keywords; cites Zubulake and The Sedona Principles.

Significance: European Zubulake opinion; will jump-start the “e-disclosure” momentum.

5. Citizens for Responsibility & Ethics in Washington v. Executive Office of the President, No. 1:07-cv-01707-HHK (D.D.C. Nov. 12, 2007)

Result: Motion to dismiss denied by Judge Kennedy on November 10, 2007.

Significance: Keeps Magistrate Judge Facciola’s work alive regarding preservation of White House emails; implications for all government agencies regarding preservation; details underfunded and unsupervised IT efforts to preserve. Slow-moving train wreck.

6. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 127 S.Ct 1955 (2007)

Result: Raises pleading requirements for antitrust cases alleging conspiratorial behavior.

Significance: Decision reached in part (according to dicta) because of e-discovery costs and fishing expeditions; on this list due to the explosion of 2008 cases citing Twombly to raise pleading requirements for other issues. Sleeper case for e-discovery.

7. The warrant in the Bear Stearns trader computer seizure (unpublished)

Result: Two traders arrested, due in part to email found in suspect’s wife’s email account.

Significance: Aggressive and wide-ranging e-discovery for criminal cases, particularly related to the financial crisis.

8. Keithley v. The Home Store.com, 2008 WL 3833384 (N.D. Cal. August 12, 2008)

Result: Lack of preservation protocols results in $148,269.50 costs award to plaintiff and adverse inference.

Significance: “Lack of bad faith” not enough to demonstrate “good faith.”

9. In re Intel Corp. Microprocessor Antitrust Litig., 2008 WL 2310288 (D. Del. June 4, 2008)

Result: Work product privilege lost when witness interviews were offered up, opens the door to disclosure of privileged material.

Significance: Need to prove good faith regarding legal hold processes gone bad; distinction between core and facts; need for court-consumable documentation.

10. Treppel v. Biovail Corp., 2008 WL 866594 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 2, 2008)

Result: No adverse inference (failure to show relevance), but sampling of tapes and costs for forensic searches awarded.

Significance: Details what is expected from GC when monitoring C-level preservation; watch for this SDNY case in the upcoming financial crisis litigation.

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