Post Process

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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 Summary: Carter; Authentication of Database Records discussed

Posted by rjbiii on March 8, 2010

United States v. Carter, 591 F.3d 656 (D.C. Cir. 2010)

Procedural History: Appeal by a criminal defendant of a of a 150-month sentence imposed by the United States District Court for the District of Columbia upon entry of his guilty plea to five counts of bank robbery.

Facts: At trial, Defendant plead guilty to charges associated with five robberies committed in the Washington, D.C. area. He was sentenced to 150 months in prison. The sentence was significantly affected by the district court’s finding that his criminal history included four theft convictions in Maryland. Carter appealed, challenging the admissibility of the evidence underlying the court’s finding.

Nature of the Dispute: At the sentencing hearing, the State produced Maryland state court records of the disputed convictions. These records were in the form of paper printouts of entries from the District Court of Maryland Criminal System Inquiry Charge/Disposition Display database. The entries for each conviction included Carter’s name, other identifying characteristics, the charge, the case number, the plea, the disposition, and the sentence. The Maryland court clerk’s office certified each printout. Carter objected to the sufficiency of the evidence, arguing that the possibility of data-entry errors rendered the computer records inherently unreliable. He suggested the government needed to produce a copy of the “actual court jacket” for each proceeding to prove the prior convictions. The district court offered to postpone the hearing to give Carter an opportunity to present contrary evidence. Carter declined. The district court then concluded that the printouts were reliable evidence of Defendant’s convictions in Maryland.

Issue at Appeal: When seeking a sentence enhancement, the government must prove a prior conviction by a preponderance of the evidence. Carter argued the printouts the government proffered were insufficient to meet this burden because they are unreliable.

Discussion: The court cited sec. 6A1.3 of the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines Manual (2008) for the proposition that [e]vidence is competent to support factual findings at sentencing if it bears “sufficient indicia of reliability to support its probable accuracy.” The court stated that under the advisory’ committee’s notes for FRE 803(8), certified records of a state court are considered presumptively reliable. The reliability of public records is “found in the declarant’s official duty and the high probability that the duty to make an accurate report has been performed.”

In challenging the records’ reliability, Carter cited no case holding certified records from a state court’s disposition database insufficient to support a finding of a prior conviction by a preponderance of the evidence, and the court continued that it was unaware of any such holding.

Carter argued, however, that the records could not be reliable, because there was no assurance that they conformed to the official case files or signed judgments of conviction. The court acknowledged that there existed a possibility of human error. But this does not warrant the conclusion that these records were inherently unreliable. A defendant must have the opportunity to refute records, an opportunity offered to, and declined by, Carter.

For the first time on appeal, Defendant pointed to a discrepancy between the computer record corresponding to his 1998 theft conviction and the Presentence Investigation Report’s description of the same offense. Alleging no other inaccuracies in the records, Carter presented this discrepancy as demonstrative evidence of their general unreliability. The court was not convinced by this argument, reasoning that a single alleged inaccuracy does not introduce clear error into the district court’s holding in favor reliability.

The court noted that in this case, the discrepancy, even if it truly existed, would not have changed the result of the calculation upon which the sentence was based. Therefore, even in the event that the discrepancy exists, this single inaccuracy does not introduce clear error into the district court’s conclusion, or reversible error into its calculations for sentencing.

Carter attempted to discredit the records, noting that some information they contain were truncated. The records do not cite the statute under which Carter was convicted, and Carter suggested that these omissions render the records inadequate for the purposes for which they were used by the lower court. The court was not persuaded, reasoning that these records contained information sufficient for the district court’s need.

Carter also argued that the decision in United States v. Price, 409 F.3d 436, 366 U.S. App. D.C. 166 (D.C. Cir. 2005) precluded the district court’s conclusion that the records were reliable. The Price court concluded that this unadorned reference was insufficient to “demonstrate that the description in the [PSR] is based on a sufficiently reliable source to establish [its] accuracy.” The court, however, maintained that Carter had interpreted Price too broadly. The Price court did not have before it any specific documentation supporting the alleged convictions, unlike the case here. The court did not describe what information its hypothesized docket listing contained or whether the docket listing was an officially certified court record. Here, the sentencing court had before it certified records with information sufficient to identify the defendant and make the necessary criminal history calculation. It did not rely simply on an unadorned PSR reference to state court records; it had the records themselves.

Because the district court did not err in concluding the certified computer records of the Maryland courts were sufficient to prove his prior convictions, the appellate court affirmed Carter’s sentence.

Posted in Admissibility of ESI, D.D.C., Fed. Circuit, Judge Thomas Beall Griffith, Uncategorized | 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 »

Does Outsourcing Lit Support to other Countries endanger Constitutional Protections?

Posted by rjbiii on June 19, 2008

K&L Gates has posted an article describing one law firm’s effort to obtain guidance on the issue whether transmitting data to foreign service providers waives fourth amendment protections with respect to that data.

The issues posed arising a scenario in which a service provider (in this case, Indian based Acumen Legal Services (India) Pvt., Ltd.) seeking to provide services to a law firm (Newman McIntosh & Hennessey, LLP of Bethesda, Maryland, “NMH”) is probably already providing services to attorneys who either compete with NMH or who represents interests that are adversarial to NMH’s clients. The questions posed in the complaint were whether:

1) its own electronic transmission of client data will affect a waiver of Fourth
Amendment protections to that data,
2) John Doe Esq. or Jane Doe, Esq.’s electronic transmission of non-client
data (such as data produced to John Doe, Esq. and Jane Doe, Esq. during civil discovery)
will waive Fourth Amendment protections to such data,
3) NMH, John Doe, Esq., and Jane Doe, Esq. are required to obtain prior
consent of the owner of such data prior to electronically transmitting it to a foreign
national residing overseas,
4) LPOs, such as Acumen, have an obligation to disclose the likelihood of
Fourth Amendment waiver with respect to data that is electronically transmitted to
foreign nationals residing overseas, and
5) President Bush has an obligation to establish intelligence gathering
protocols for the purpose of safeguarding Fourth Amendment rights with respect to
attorney communications to and from foreign nationals residing overseas.

K&L’s post has a link to the complaint, for those interested. Although this particular case applies to criminal cases, decisions here will affect all types of cases in a myriad of ways. One concerned Outsourcing company has posted its opinion on the matter.

Posted in 4th Circuit, Articles, D.D.C., EDD Industry, EDD Processing, EDD Vendors, International Issues, Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Case Blurb: O’Keefe; Expert Testimony needed to dispute search methodolgy in court

Posted by rjbiii on June 15, 2008

Whether search terms or “keywords” will yield the information sought is a complicated question involving the interplay, at least, of the sciences of computer technology, statistics and linguistics. See George L. Paul & Jason R. Baron, Information Inflation: Can the Legal System Adapt?, 13 RICH. J.L. & TECH. 10 (2007). Indeed, a special project team of the Working Group on Electronic Discovery of the Sedona Conference is studying that subject and their work indicates how difficult this question is. See The Sedona Conference, Best Practices Commentary on the Use of Search and Information Retrieval, 8 THE SEDONA CONF. J. 189 (2008), available at http://www.thesedonaconference.org/content/miscFiles/Best_Practices_Retrieval_Methods_revised_cover_and_preface.pdf. Given this complexity, for lawyers and judges to dare opine that a certain search term or terms would be more likely to produce information than the terms that were used is truly to go where angels fear to tread. This topic is clearly beyond the ken of a layman and requires that any such conclusion be based on evidence that, for example, meets the criteria of Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence. Accordingly, if defendants are going to contend that the search terms used by the government were insufficient, they will have to specifically so contend in a motion to compel and their contention must be based on evidence that meets the requirements of Rule 702 of the Federal Rules of Evidence.

United States v. O’Keefe, 537 F. Supp. 2d 14, 23-4 (D.D.C. 2008 )

Posted in 4th Circuit, Case Blurbs, D.D.C., FRE 702, Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola, Search Protocols | 1 Comment »

Case Blurb: Cafe Asia; Court Links Discoverability to Admissibility in certain circumstances

Posted by rjbiii on October 6, 2007

Defendant rightly notes that the scope of discovery under Rule 26 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure is broad. See, e.g., Friedman v. Bache Halsey Stuart Shields, Inc., 738 F.2d 1336, 1348-49 (D.C. Cir. 1984) (noting the “broad sweep” of Rule 26(b)(1) in allowing discovery of relevant material). Even if this broad scope were to shine a light of relevancy on the images, however, relevancy alone does not entitle a requesting party to carte blanche in discovery. See Crawford-El v. Britton, 523 U.S. 574, 598 (1998) (“Rule 26 vests the trial judge with broad discretion to tailor discovery narrowly.”). As with most things in life, Rule 26 is not an all-or-nothing proposition.

One important constraint is the admissibility of the discovery being sought. Defendant asserts that the images, if relevant, are discoverable under Rule 26 even if inadmissible at trial. This holds true, however, only if the images “appear[] reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence.” Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(1). See also Tequila Centinela, S.A. de C.V. v. Bacardi & Co. Ltd., 242 F.R.D. 1, 6 (D.D.C. 2007) “discovery of matters not ‘reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence’ are not within the scope of discovery.”).

To the extent that defendant aims to use the graphic content of the images to establish plaintiff’s “own standards of behavior,” Mot. to Compel at 1 (emphasis in original), the images themselves are the “end game” of the discovery request. As such, the question of discoverability is inseparable from admissibility, and a determination is necessary of whether, under Federal Rules of Evidence 403 and 412(b)(2), the probative value of the images substantially outweighs their prejudice.

Smith v. Café Asia, 2007 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 73071 (D.D.C. Oct. 2, 2007) (courtesy of the Electronic Discovery Blog and Lexis Nexis).

Posted in Admissibility of ESI, Case Blurbs, D.D.C., Discovery, Discovery Requests, Duty to Preserve, Fed. Circuit, Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »