Post Process

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Archive for the ‘4th Circuit’ Category

Case Blurb: McBride, Distinction made between whether to execute a search and “ability to find” data

Posted by rjbiii on March 10, 2011

[Requesting Party] claims that the defendants violated a government-imposed document preservation order if they are not able to produce [certain] e-mails. It is important to keep separate, and not conflate, two distinct concepts: whether an additional search for certain information should be conducted, and whether or not the inability to find certain information should be sanctioned. The first is a question of interpreting the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, while the second is a matter of the application of the common law principle of spoliation.

U.S. ex rel McBride v. Halliburton Co., 05-CV-828 (D.D.C Jan. 24, 2011)

Read a case summary here, from Bow Tie Law.

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Posted in 4th Circuit, Case Blurbs, D.D.C., Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola, Scope of Discovery, Search Protocols | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Victor Stanley II; The Gang that couldn’t Spoliate Straight

Posted by rjbiii on September 14, 2010

PostProcess-Pappas = defendant and spoliating party; VSI = Plaintiff and Requesting Party Victor Stanley, Inc.

At the end of the day, this is the case of the “gang that couldn’t spoliate straight.” All in all, in addition to the attempted deletions that caused delay but no loss of evidence, there were eight discrete preservation failures: (1) Pappas’s failure to implement a litigation hold; (2) Pappas’s deletions of ESI soon after VSI filed suit; (3) Pappas’s failure to preserve his external hard drive after Plaintiff demanded preservation of ESI; (4) Pappas’s failure to preserve files and emails after Plaintiff demanded their preservation; (5) Pappas’s deletion of ESI after the Court issued its first preservation order; (6) Pappas’s continued deletion of ESI and use of programs to permanently remove files after the Court admonished the parties of their duty to preserve evidence and issued its second preservation order; (7) Pappas’s failure to preserve ESI when he replaced the CPI server; and (8) Pappas’s further use of programs to permanently delete ESI after the Court issued numerous production orders. The reader is forewarned that although organized into separate categories to facilitate comprehension of so vast a violation, many of the events described in the separate categories occurred concurrently. FN7

FN7: As will be discussed in detail later in this memorandum, when a court is evaluating what sanctions are warranted for a failure to preserve ESI, it must evaluate a number of factors including (1) whether there is a duty to preserve; (2) whether the duty has been breached; (3) the level of culpability involved in the failure to preserve; (4) the relevance of the evidence that was not preserved; and (5) the prejudice to the party seeking discovery of the ESI that was not preserved. There is something of a “Catch 22” in this process, however, because after evidence no longer exists, it often is difficult to evaluate its relevance and the prejudice associated with it. With regard to Pappas’s many acts of misconduct, the relevance and prejudice associated with some of his spoliation can be established directly, or indirectly through logical inference. As to others, the relevance and prejudice are less clear. However, his conduct still is highly relevant to his state of mind and to determining the overarching level of his culpability for all of his destructive acts. When the relevance of lost evidence cannot be proven, willful destruction of it nonetheless is relevant in evaluating the level of culpability with regard to other lost evidence that was relevant, as it tends to disprove the possibility of mistake or accident, and prove intentional misconduct. Fed. R. Evid. 404(b).

Victor Stanley, Inc. v. Creative Pipe, Inc., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 93644 at *11-13 (D. Md. Sept. 9, 2010)

Posted in 4th Circuit, Case Blurbs, D. Md., Duty to Preserve, FRE 404(b), Magistrate Judge Paul W. Grimm, Sanctions, Spoliation | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Benedict College; Attorney’s role as Officers of the Court

Posted by rjbiii on December 18, 2009

A primer on the American adversary system appears in order. Our system of dispute resolution and justice rests on the “unshakable foundation that truth is the object of the system’s process which is designed for the purpose of dispensing justice.” United States v. Shaffer Equipment Co., 11 F.3d 450, 457 (4th Cir. 1993). It is a process dependent on:the adversarial presentation of evidence, precedent and custom, and argument to reasoned conclusions–all directed with unwavering effort to what, in good faith, is believed to be true on matters material to the disposition. Even the slightest accommodation of deceit or a lack of candor in any material respect quickly erodes the validity of the process. As soon as the process falters in that respect, the people are then justified in abandoning support for the system in favor of one where honesty is preeminent.Id. The court does not view favorably any attempt “to play fast and loose” with our judicial system. United States v. Levasseur, 846 F.2d 786, 792 (1st Cir.1988).

Too often a lawyer loses sight of his primary responsibility as an officer of the court. Wagner v. Williford, 804 F2d 1012, 1017 (7th Cir. 1986). Zealous advocacy can lead to obstruction where it impedes the court’s search for truth. Counsel has a basic ethical obligation to be “scrupulously candid and truthful” in his representations to the court. More practically, if a lawyer is to be an effective advocate, where his reputation for veracity is suspect, he will lack the confidence of the court in matters serving his client. United States v. Thoreen, 653 F.2d 1332 (Wash. App. 1981). This court concurs with the proposition that the judicial system can provide “no harbor for clever devices to divert the search, mislead opposing counsel or the court, or cover up that which is necessary for justice in the end.” Shaffer, 11 F.3d at 457-458.

Benedict College v. Nat’l Credit Sys., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106742 at *17-18 (D.S.C. Nov. 16, 2009)

Posted in 4th Circuit, Case Blurbs, Cooperation Between Parties, D.S.C., Judge Joseph F. Anderson Jr. | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Benedict College; Uncategorized ‘Data Dumps’ are Impermissible

Posted by rjbiii on December 18, 2009

Furthermore, the fact that the information sought might already be in the possession of the requesting party or obtainable from another source is not a bar to discovery of relevant information.

Having reviewed the 30(b)(6) deposition of [Producing Party’s Representative], heard the arguments of counsel at the hearing, and considered the arguments presented in the briefs, the court finds [Producing Party’s] position untenable. Contrary to defense counsel’s argument, the rules of civil procedure and evidence do not permit a party to dump on opposing counsel a load of documents–in this case, some 5,000–without a correlation to the requesting party’s discovery request, then produce an unresponsive, evasive or otherwise obfuscating 30(b)(6) witness who fails to provide an explanation of the discovery produced, and then claim that it was the requesting party’s fault for not making proper inquiries in discovery.

Benedict College v. Nat’l Credit Sys., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106742, 16-17 (D.S.C. Nov. 16, 2009)

Posted in 4th Circuit, Case Blurbs, Cooperation Between Parties, D.S.C., Data Dump, Judge Joseph F. Anderson Jr. | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Benedict College; Printed and “PDF’d” DB Records Lacking in Completeness

Posted by rjbiii on December 18, 2009

The court rejects [Producing Party’s] argument that its production of nearly 5,000 pages of documents were provided “as they are kept in the usual course of business” and therefore need not be organized and labeled to correspond to the categories in [Requesting Party’s] discovery requests. According to [Producing Party’s] representations at the hearing and its brief, the documents were not provided as in the usual course of its business, but printed out from its database, copied, Bates numbered, converted to pdf format and then produced–with the information in the charts neutered of their derivation and metadata, and lacking the necessary identifiers to enable [Requesting Party] to make sense of the information provided.

Benedict College v. Nat’l Credit Sys., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 106742 at *9-10 (D.S.C. Nov. 16, 2009)

Posted in 4th Circuit, Case Blurbs, D.S.C., Form of Production, Judge Joseph F. Anderson Jr. | Tagged: | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Covad; Don’t blame the processing platform

Posted by rjbiii on September 2, 2009

Post Process: Previous decisions in this contentious case required, among other things, that the producing party submit itself to a third party forensics expert for an examination of its search protocol. In the instant decision, producing party was defending the fact that, after having produced e-mail in hard copy format, and then being ordered to re-produce it in native format, it only produced a native sub-set of the original imaged production. The producing party, in effect, blamed the processing platform for its difficulties in reconciling the two production sets. The court responded:
While the nature of the discrepancy is not explained, I have to assume that fewer e-mails have been produced in native format than were produced on paper. Revonet explains that the platform that Revonet originally used to search for documents was only capable of exporting documents to an HTML format. Thus, Revonet had to use a different platform to obtain .pst files and therefore could not re-run the original search exactly. This may explain the discrepancy. Neither party provides information about the magnitude of the discrepancy, however, largely because Revonet claims that it would be too burdensome for it to cross-reference the electronic documents against the hard copies to determine how many and which e-mails are missing.

While I appreciate that it would be difficult for Revonet to go back through its papers to determine whether all of the documents contained therein have since been produced and that Revonet’s present counsel did not supervise or conduct the August, 2008 search for e-mails, I also appreciate that it is a burden of Revonet’s own making. Covad should not be penalized by Revonet’s failure to maintain its discovery materials in some sort of organized fashion or keep some record of its own actions in this lawsuit. Wyeth v. Impax Labs., Inc., 248 F.R.D. 169, 171 (D. Del. 2006) (“[P]roducing party must preserve the integrity of the electronic documents it produces. Failure to do so will not support a contention that production of documents in native format is overly burdensome.”).

Post Process: In other words, a burden of one’s own making is not a basis for asserting undue burden. Another maxim: choose your platform wisely.

Covad Communs. Co. v. Revonet, Inc., 2009 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 75325 (D.D.C. Aug. 25, 2009).

Posted in 4th Circuit, Case Blurbs, D.D.C., EDD Processing, EDD Vendors, Form of Production, Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Covad Communs Co.; Court examines form of production dispute

Posted by rjbiii on February 23, 2009

On August 4, 2008, [Producing Party] advised [Requesting Party] that it had additional responsive documents available for inspection and copying. [Requesting Party] apparently never responded to that letter, but instead wrote to [Producing Party] on August 18th and demanded that [Producing Party] produce those documents by August 22nd. In an August 20, 2008 conference call, [Producing Party] stated that it would make the 35,000 pages of e-mails that are responsive to [Requesting Party’s] request available in hard copy at [Producing Party’s] office for inspection and copying. [Requesting Party] took issue with [Producing Party’s] offer to produce the documents in hard copy as hard copy is not the documents’ native format. A few weeks later, on September 3, 2008, [Producing Party] offered to make the e-mails available in electronic format as TIFF files, but only on condition that [Requesting Party] agree to pay for the fees incurred by having one of Revonet’s legal assistants delete privileged or otherwise non-responsive documents from the electronic production set. [Requesting Paryt] objects to the form of defendant’s production because printed pages (and TIFF files) are not the native format for e-mails.

Thus, [Producing Party] insists that it be permitted to produce the e-mails in hard copy or as TIFF, provided Covad pays for the necessary deletions.

[…]

Rule 34 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure states that (1) the requesting party may designate the form in which the electronically stored information should be produced, and (2) if the request does not specify, then it should be produced in a form in which it is ordinarily maintained, or in a reasonably usable form. Fed. R. Civ. P. 34(b)(1)(C), 34(b)(2)(E)(ii). Thus, as just explained, the parties’ view of the preliminary inquiry here is whether [Requesting Party] designated the form in which the documents should be produced.

Rule 26(f), as amended, specifically requires the parties to discuss the form that production of electronically stored information should take. Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(f)(3)(C). This controversy predates that provision, and underscores its importance. It does not appear that [the parties] ever discussed what form this (or any other) production should take. Instead the parties seem to be making assumptions based on each others’ behavior: [Requesting Party] expecting its documents in electronic form because [Producing Party] hired a company to collect electronically stored information, and [Producing Party] assuming that they should produce 35,000 pages of e-mails in hard copy because [Requesting Party] produced its documents in that format. As there is no agreement, the parties invite me to turn to the language of the requests themselves to determine whether [Producing Party] can produce the e-mails other than in their native format.

The instructions to [Requesting Party’s] document requests ask that [Producing Party] “[p]roduce all documents in [its] possession, custody or control, as they are kept in the ordinary course of business, including with all staples and clips attached and with all associated file folders, dividers and labels.”

“Documents” are defined as:

[A]ny tangible thing upon which any expression, communication, representation or data has been recorded by any means including, but not limited to, handwriting, printing, photostating, photographing, on a computer, instant messages, magnetic impulse, or mechanical or electronic recording and any non-identical copies (whether different from the original because of notes made on such copies, because of indications that said copies were sent to different individuals than were the originals, or because of any other reason), including but not limited to working papers, preliminary, intermediate or final drafts, correspondence, memoranda, charts, notes, records of any sort of meetings, invoices, financial statements, financial calculations, diaries, reports of telephone or other oral conversations, desk calendars, appointment books, audio or video tape recordings, microfilm, microfiche, computer tape, computer disk, computer printout, computer card, and all other writings and recordings of every kind that are in your actual or constructive possession, custody or control.

Thus, I am supposed to determine by examining ancient boilerplate — designed for discovery in a paper universe — such nice questions as whether an e-mail, existing in a computer’s memory is a “tangible thing” and how e-mails are “maintained in the ordinary course of business.” While I have considered a similar provision in depth once before, I see no need to repeat that metaphysical exercise here because it is a waste of judicial resources to continue to split hairs on an issue that should disappear when lawyers start abiding by their obligations under the amended Federal Rules and talk to each other about the form of production. I would much prefer to carry out my duties in accordance with Rule 1, which provides that the rules “should be construed and administered to secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.”

More importantly, I do not need to parse words because no one is pretending that Revonet prints all of its e-mails or converts them to TIFF files on a daily basis no matter how ephemeral, meaningless or trivial their content. Therefore, though [Requesting Party’s] instruction is hopelessly imprecise and [Producing Party] could colorably argue that it should be interpreted to include several different formats, no reasonable person can honestly believe that hard copy is one of them. For hard copy to be an acceptable format, one would have to believe that [Producing Party], in its day to day operations, keeps all of its electronic communications on paper. There is no evidence in the record that [Producing Party] operates in this manner, and no suggestion that such a practice would be anything but incredible. Therefore, even though I can’t say I know what [Requesting Party] has asked for, I can say what they have not asked for, and that is what they got.

Covad Communs. Co. v. Revonet, Inc., 254 F.R.D. 147 (D.D.C. 2008) (internal citations removed).

Posted in 4th Circuit, Case Blurbs, D.D.C., Form of Production, FRCP 26(f), FRCP 34(b), In the Ordinary Course of Business, Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Faber (II); Limitations on Discovery under FRCP 26(b)(2)(C)

Posted by rjbiii on July 26, 2008

Rule 26(b)(2)(C) limits otherwise permissible discovery if the court determines that: (i) the discovery sought is unreasonably cumulative or duplicative, or is obtainable from some other source that is more convenient, less burdensome, or less expensive; (ii) the party seeking discovery has had ample opportunity by discovery in the action to obtain the information sought; or (iii) the burden or expense of the proposed discovery outweighs its likely benefit, taking into account the needs of the case, the amount in controversy, the parties’ resources, the importance of the issues at stake in the litigation, and the importance of the proposed discovery in resolving the issues.

Peskoff v. Faber, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51946 at *4 (D.D.C. July 7, 2008 )

Posted in 4th Circuit, Case Blurbs, D.D.C., FRCP 26(b), Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola, Scope of Discovery | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: Faber (II); Cost Shifting Good Cause Determination

Posted by rjbiii on July 26, 2008

The following factors guide the “good cause” inquiry required under Rule 26(b)(2)(B): “(1) the specificity of the discovery request; the quantity of information available from other and more easily accessed sources; (2) the failure to produce relevant information that seems likely to have existed but is no longer available on more easily accessed sources; (3) the failure to produce relevant information that seems likely to have existed but is no longer available on more easily accessed sources; (4) the likelihood of finding relevant responsive information that cannot be obtained from other, more easily accessed sources; (5) predictions as to the importance and usefulness of the further information; (6) the importance of the issues at stake in the litigation; and (7) the parties’
resources.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26, advisory committee’s notes (2006).

Peskoff v. Faber, 2008 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 51946 at *3-4 (D.D.C. July 7, 2008 )

Posted in 4th Circuit, Case Blurbs, D.D.C., FRCP 26(b), Good Cause, Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola | Leave a Comment »