Post Process

Everything to do with E-discovery & ESI

TX Case Blurb: Honza; Court addresses objection to discovery request based on revealing confidential information, court order

Posted by rjbiii on March 10, 2008

[Producing Party members] seek a writ of mandamus compelling Respondent, the Honorable Greg Wilhelm, Judge of the County Court at Law No. 1 of Ellis County, to set aside a discovery order requiring the Honzas to permit a forensic expert to create a mirror image of each of the computer hard drives in the Honzas’ office in an effort to locate two particular documents or iterations of those documents

The Honzas contend that Respondent abused his discretion because: (2) the order authorizes the disclosure of information protected by the attorney-client privilege; and (3) the order authorizes the disclosure of confidential information pertaining to the Honzas’ other clients who have no connection to the underlying lawsuit.

The present discovery dispute originated with [Requesting Party’s] motion to gain access to the Honzas’ computers, which was filed about one month before trial. By this motion, [Requesting Party] sought “[i]nformation (the ‘Metadata’) contained on the actual computers of the Defendants, such as any time stamps on the Relevant Documents, versions of the Relevant Documents, if any, as well as the deletion of various versions, if any.” [Requesting Party] explained that, although the Honzas responded to a prior request for production of relevant documents in their electronic version, “the Metadata was neither produced nor made available.”

[Ed. Testimony indicated the existence of relevant documents with respect to a another transaction apparently not addressed by earlier discovery requests]

[] [Requesting Party] sought discovery of relevant documents pertaining to the [newly revealed] transaction, and the [Producing Party] complied by providing pertinent written discovery.

[Requesting Party] seeks the metadata from the [Producing Party’s] hard drives because it wants to identify the points in time when the partial assignment draft was modified in relation to the diary entry. This goes to the issue of whether [the Producing Party] altered the partial assignment after the parties concluded their agreement but before the document was presented for execution.

[Ed. The opinion then went on to list various Federal and State sources for persuasive authority in discovery law, especially with respect to ESI]

Privileged or Confidential Information

The [Producing Party] also contend[s] that the discovery order improperly authorizes the disclosure of (1) information protected by the attorney-client privilege and (2) confidential information pertaining to the Honzas’ other clients who have no connection to the underlying lawsuit.

Notwithstanding the “unlimited” access necessarily granted the forensic expert, Respondent’s order preserves any privileged or confidential information in several ways. First, the expert is limited in his search to two specific documents or iterations of those documents. [Members of the Producing Party] are then accorded the right to review the documents and information which the expert believes responsive and produce to [Requesting Party] only those documents and information which [members of the Producing Party] themselves believe are responsive. These provisions effectively preclude [Requesting Party] from having any access to documents or information pertaining to other clients of the Honzas not involved in this litigation.

Second, the order allows the [Producing Party executives] to withhold from discovery any documents or information which they claim to be privileged or confidential and provide instead a privilege log, subject to in camera review by Respondent.

Finally, the order provides that: (1) the observation of information by [Requesting Party] representatives during the imaging process shall not constitute a waiver of privilege or confidentiality; (2) all participants in the imaging process are subject to a protective order prohibiting the unauthorized disclosure of information; and (3) [Requesting Party’s] expert must provide proof of being bonded and of having commercial liability insurance by which the [Producing Party] may be “fully indemnified against any monetary loss.”

For these reasons, we hold that Respondent appropriately tailored the discovery order to prohibit the unauthorized disclosure of privileged or confidential information and no abuse of discretion is shown.

[Ed. Note that a dissenting opinion is also entered by one of the Judges hearing the case. See the order itself for the full text of that dissent, or of the opinion itself.]

In re Honza, 2007 WL 4591917 (Tex. App. Dec. 28, 2007)

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