E-Discovery no longer dominantly involves emails and shared drive documents. With the increasing prevalence of mobile devices in the workplace and new apps being developed daily, mobile data and other non-email communications are moving to the forefront of discovery. Times have changed, and attorneys have professional and ethical obligations to keep up. To effectively and competently represent clients, attorneys must stay apprised of how to work with these ever-changing forms of data – or get help from someone knowledgeable. To do so, we have set out some suggestions below organized around common stages of the discovery lifecycle of digital evidence.

Identification. In conducting custodian interviews, ask questions to target the data types the custodian works with. Start broadly by determining if the company has a BYOD policy and asking if they allow the use of personal devices for work purposes. Confirm which messaging tools they use for business purposes, with the understanding that people tend to play down such use. For each messaging application, ask how they are used and with whom they communicate. Discuss these same topics with your client’s IT team to better understand  the company’s policies and capabilities for controlling the use of personal devices, as well as employees’ actual practices.


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Increasing mobile device usage for routine business – such as through text messages and mobile applications like WhatsApp – is contributing to a new developing trend in E-Discovery: broad discovery requests for businesses to collect and produce data from their employees’ mobile phones.

The proliferation of electronic communication not only makes it imperative for organizations to have mechanisms in place to capture and preserve mobile text messages, but also raises new challenges about how to protect employee privacy.  As more and more employees use their personal devices for business purposes (and vice-versa – employees using company-provided devices also for personal purposes), there is an increasing desire among employees to ensure their personal data is protected, even as the company produces other data required in discovery.

Courts have recognized this is an issue, and the law is evolving to strike a balance between the discoverability of relevant information and privacy protections from overly intrusive requests for text messages.
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On January 13, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge Castel of the Southern District of New York in SEC v. Telegram Group Inc. et al., No. 19 Civ. 9439 (PKC) granted the motion of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) to compel Telegram Group Inc., a technology company best known for its secure messaging app, to produce overseas bank records (Dkt. 67). The SEC had sought these records “fully unredacted” on an expedited basis in support of its claim that Telegram engaged in an unregistered securities offering (Dkt. 52). Telegram objected to any production, asserting that the records were of questionable relevance, that they contained banking and personal information protected by a host of foreign laws, and that it would be unduly burdensome to “to cull through these records and redact the personal information of non-U.S. persons and entities subject to foreign data privacy law protections.” (Dkt. 55). In a short decision, the Court ordered Telegram to produce the records on a tight timeline, holding that “[o]nly redactions necessitated by foreign privacy laws shall be permitted, and a log stating the basis for any redaction shall be produced at the same time the redacted documents are produced.”

There are a few key takeaways from this decision. First, the Court recognized foreign data privacy laws as legitimate grounds for withholding otherwise discoverable information. Defendant was not given a blank check to redact; rather, the Court required Telegram to log the basis for any privacy assertions, and one can expect the SEC will closely question Telegram on the redactions. At the same time, the Court clearly did not agree with the SEC’s characterization of data privacy laws as “blocking statutes” to be ignored, and was not swayed by its complaints that Telegram had not shown that such laws require deference. This is consistent with an observed general heightened sensitivity to data privacy and data security interests in the U.S. and abroad.

Judge Castel’s approach represents a change from U.S. courts’ prior dismissive treatment of similar disclosure objections. Courts traditionally would apply a multi-factor comity analysis that generally prioritized U.S. discovery interests over those of conflicting foreign laws and ultimately required unredacted production. See, e.g., Laydon v. Mizuho Bank, Ltd., 183 F. Supp.3d 409 (S.D.N.Y. 2016) (requiring unredacted production of data protected by the then EU privacy regulation, the 1995 EU Directive 95/46/EC, based on comity analysis set out in Société Nationale Industrielle Aerospatiale v. U.S. Dist. Court for S. Dist. of Iowa, 482 U.S. 522, 544 n.29 (1987) (hereinafter “Aerospatiale”)). Certainly, the SEC pushed for the customary approach, but Judge Castel appears implicitly to have to have resolved in short form (or skipped over) the Aerospatiale comity analysis and accepted the legitimacy of foreign restrictions on disclosure in U.S. proceedings.


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EDRM and the Bolch Judicial Institute at Duke Law recently released Technology Assisted Review (TAR) Guidelines (Guidelines) with the aim “to objectively define and explain technology-assisted review for members of the judiciary and the legal profession.” Among the topics covered are the validation and reliability measures practitioners can use to defend their TAR processes. This post summarizes this validation and reliability guidance, which has the potential to be a widely-referenced authority on this topic going forward.

According to EDRM, there are no “bright-line rules” governing what constitutes a reasonable review or one standard measurement to validate the results of TAR. Instead, principles of reasonableness and proportionality as set forth in FRCP Rule 26 generally guide the inquiry.
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We are pleased to announce the publication of a report titled “Data Law Trends & Developments: E-Discovery, Privacy, Cyber-Security & Information Governance.” The report explores recent trends and anticipated future developments on critical issues related to the intersection of technology and the law, which affect a wide range of companies and industries. In addition, the report highlights key cases and issues to watch in 11 areas of data law, including: information governance, cybersecurity, social media, technology-assisted review, criminal law, regulatory, cooperation, privacy, cross border transfers, bring your own device (BYOD), and privilege.
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In a recent article published in Law360, Beware of Conditional Reponses to Discovery, Gregory J. Leighton, Kevin C. May, and Andrew S. Fraker of Neal Gerber & Eisenberg LLP discuss the growing number of cases in which federal judges have scrutinized conditional discovery responses—responses that assert objections but state that documents will be produced “subject to” or “reserving” the objections. Because the use of this type of response is commonplace, and because the potential consequences—including wholesale waiver of objections—suggested by recent decisions could be severe, the issue is worth careful consideration.
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The State Bar of California may soon deem an otherwise highly skilled attorney to be “incompetent” in the practice of law if he or she does not know the basic steps to take with respect to electronic discovery and does nothing to fill that gap in knowledge. On February 28, 2014, California’s State Bar Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct tentatively approved a Proposed Formal Interim Opinion for a 90-day public comment distribution, which analyzes a hypothetical fact pattern of an attorney who makes egregious mistakes in e-discovery.
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In a Valentine’s Day order, Judge Denise Cote of the Southern District of New York ruled that the defendants in a set of complex mortgage-backed securities cases could not use documents obtained through discovery in related litigation in the Central District of California. This even included documents that purportedly should have been produced in the New York cases. The court’s ruling rests primarily upon pragmatic notions of efficiency, fairness, and reasonableness—and its reasoning may prove useful beyond the four corners of these cases.

The New York cases are FHFA v. HSBC N. Am. Holdings, Inc., et al., Nos. 11 Civ. 6189, 6190, 6193, 6195, 6198, 6200, 6201, 6202, 6203, 6739, and 7010 (DLC) (S.D.N.Y.). (This litigation also has been referenced as FHFA v. UBS Americas Inc., No. 11 Civ. 5201, based on a component case that has since settled.) The California litigation includes FHFA v. Countrywide Financial Corp., No. 12-cv-1059-MRP (C.D. Cal.), among other cases.
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Last month, in In Re Pradaxa (Dabigatran Extexilate) Products Liability Litigation, a federal judge in the Southern District of Illinois ordered the defendants in a multi-district litigation (MDL) product liability case to pay nearly $1 million in sanctions for repeated and bad faith discovery violations, primarily based on the defendants’ failure to adequately preserve electronic files and text messages of key custodians. The court attributed many of the discovery failures to the “gross inadequacy” of the defendants’ litigation hold.

While the court’s decision to issue sanctions in this case is likely limited to the specific facts of this case – namely, the defendants’ reported multiple and repeated discovery failures – the case nonetheless demonstrates certain important considerations for litigants in assessing their preservation duty: (1) the need for potentially broad preservation efforts in large, complex cases; (2) the need to reassess and possibly expand preservation notices as litigation develops; (3) the potential value of coordinating with the other side, and possibly the court, on the scope and recipients of preservation notices; and (4) the potential need for specialized e-discovery counsel as challenges begin to accumulate.


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On October 1st, I attended an all-day series of presentations hosted by Huron Legal Institute and Sandpiper Legal LLP in New York, which included several leading federal jurists and well-regarded practitioners offering their insights.

The event featured five hypothetical cases covering a range of topics, with attorneys appearing before one of more of the judges to conduct a mock discovery conference or to argue motions. This structure proved to be an engaging means of discussing the issues, and the more astute members of the audience recognized that a couple of the scenarios were drawn from recent cases, including the Biomet case that I discussed a few months ago and Pippins v. KPMG, which we posted about last year. The format also played to the judges’ strengths, allowing them to tease out issues and express their opinions. While the discussion was “off the record”, I will discuss the overall themes and provide some highlights (without attribution) of the discussions of predictive coding and proposed amendments to the Federal Rules on proportionality and preservation.
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