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In Timken Co. v. U.S., the plaintiff ("Timken" or "Plaintiff") challenged the decision of the Department of Commerce, International Trade Administration ("Commerce"), denying Plaintiff access to computer tapes submitted by defendant-intervenors (the "Defendant") in a complex trade case. Timken sought the tapes notwithstanding that it had received the very same information in paper form. Plaintiff advocated its position by discussing the hardship that would be imposed if Plaintiff had to reproduce the tapes itself. Plaintiff demonstrated that it would require 7,500 man-hours and a legion of "keypunchers," at a total cost of approximately $200,000 to duplicate what Commerce already had in its possession. With respect to the need for the tapes, Plaintiff indicated that without the tapes it would not be able to identify factual errors in the data and other mathematical or methodological errors. Commerce countered the above points by arguing that if it had to supply the tapes, it would have to expend significant energy insuring that customer names had been deleted and assisting Plaintiff with mechanical problems that may arise. Commerce also asserted that if it was compelled the tapes companies would be less likely to store information on tapes moving forward, to prevent disclosure. In reviewing the merits, the Court of International Review applied the standard expounded in the applicable legislative history; that is, "whether the need of the party requesting the information outweighs the need of the party submitting the information for continued confidential treatment." The court first concluded that the cost factored weighed in favor of Plaintiffs. Not only were Plaintiff’s costs to reproduce high, but also Plaintiff was willing to offset any costs to Commerce. This process also minimized the involvement, and therefore the burden, of Commerce. With respect to the argument that the tapes were required by Plaintiff to independently analyze the data, the court found that access to the tapes was essential for effective advocacy, and that such work by Plaintiff would not constitute a "duplication of administrative functions." Finally, the Court dismissed Commerce's argument that companies would no longer maintain data on tape: "[I]t is unlikely that the mere possibility of trade litigation in the United States would prompt foreign exporters to return to archaic business procedures." Although not articulated as such, the court engaged in a proportionality analysis typically applied to discovery disputes in federal courts. Plaintiff's willingness to offset the costs to Commerce seemed to sway the court, just as it would in a typical discovery dispute. Another principle to be extracted from this case is the value inherent in having data in a particular form. This may be an area where practitioners miss the boat. A savvy e-disco attorney will know the ins and outs of how different forms of data can be manipulated, and the form most ideal for recovering (or inhibiting recovery) of particular information. So practitioners should remember at their next meet and confer, just getting the information may not be enough—form may be critical. Adam L. Peterson is a graduate of Seton Hall University School of Law. Adam was a member of the Seton Hall Law Review and, prior to law school, Adam was an Environmental Analyst with the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Defendant Youkers was sentenced to an eight-year prison term. Youkers thereafter filed a motion for a new trial alleging that the judge who sentenced him engaged in improper communications and was not impartial. In particular, the father of Youkers’s girlfriend was one of the judge’s Facebook friends. The father also sent a message to the judge about Youkers’s pending case. Despite these potentially alarming facts, the judge testified that he knew the father because they both ran for office during the same election cycle. The judge testified that a mere Facebook friend designation was the extent of their relationship. Upon receiving the message from the father, the judge told the father that such communication was improper and he notified the appropriate individuals. To make Youkers’s allegations even weaker, the father was actually seeking leniency for Youkers. The court notes that the American Bar Association (ABA) has said in formal opinions that judges are not barred from using social media. Merely designating someone as a friend on Facebook “does not show the degree or intensity of a judge’s relationship with a person.” ABA Standing Comm. On Ethics & Prof’l Responsibility, Formal Op. 462 (2013). Accordingly the court concluded that the mere fact that the father and the judge were Facebook friends, by itself, did not suggest bias or partiality. The court concluded that there was no evidence of actual bias. Furthermore, because the judge fully complied with the Texas Committee on Judicial Ethics’ recommended procedure for treatment of ex parte communications, a reasonable person would conclude that there was no appearance of impropriety. Had the judge not followed state procedure on the treatment of ex parte communications, things might have gone differently. Judges should be very careful about all their communications and relationships over social media. Although in this case there was no communication between the judge and the father besides the father’s message and the judge’s response, a court might be willing to find bias if there was an ongoing relationship. Although a mere Facebook friendship alone does not establish anything, other communications over Facebook might have the effect of tending towards partiality. Rocco Seminerio is a 2014 Seton Hall University School of Law graduate. Mr. Seminerio focused his studies in the areas of Estate Planning, Elder Law, and Health Law. He graduated from Seton Hall University’s undergraduate program in 2011 with a degree in Philosophy. He is also interested in the life sciences.
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Don’t override your surveillance tapes or video too soon, otherwise you could be subjected to spoilation sanctions if the evidence is later needed in court. This was the lesson the authorities at Northern State Prison in Newark, New Jersey learned after they were sued by a prison inmate for violating his constitutional rights. Know your client’s over-writing policies and preserve tape or video, when it is reasonably foreseeable that the evidence would be subject to discovery.Continue Reading
The Federal Rules of Evidence (“FRE”) are notorious for their complication. Hearsay Rules continue to astound attorneys across the country. Now, in a more modern era, we have the advanced electronics capable of aiding the evidentiary process in many ways. But with a jury of lay people, it is difficult to describe the use of such equipment during a trial without the use of an expert witness.Continue Reading
In United States v. Suarez, the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey held that the government violated its duty to preserve relevant data during an ongoing investigation aimed at prosecution of certain individuals.Continue Reading
New Jersey is among the thirty-one states to adopt a sex offender Internet registry web sites as part of “Megan’s Law” legislation. In 2000, New Jersey implemented new legislation regarding sex offenders. In A.A. v. State of N.J., convicted sex offenders challenged constitutionality of Article IV, Section 7, Paragraph 12 of the New Jersey Constitution, a state constitutional amendment which authorizes the creation of an Internet sex offender registry (“Registry”), and an amendment to “Megan’s Law” known as the Internet Registry Act, which seeks to implement the Registry and would allow unlimited public access to certain information. The Third Circuit, however, denied the registrants’ motions for preliminary injunctions and held that the state could implement such a registry.Continue Reading
Very recently the second edition of the eDiscovery pocket guide for federal judges was released by the Federal Judicial Center. The new edition is key to understanding how judges view eDiscovery requests and how attorneys can avoid costly sanctions and unnecessary and damaging production. The Guide is comprehensive and expands on many of the fundamental issues surrounding electronic discovery that have further developed since the first edition. e-Lessons Learned will be posting a three-part series summarizing the Guide to help highlight the key issues that judges consider when dealing with electronic discovery. Part One will focus on Rule 16 conferences and the scope of electronic discovery under Rule 26. Part Two will focus on cost-shifting, subpoenas and implicated third parties, and form of production (stay tuned) Finally, Part Three will focus on privilege and waiver, preservation, spoliation, and sanctions (stay tuned)Continue Reading
The court’s decision to impose a cost shifting condition on the discovery of emails began with an analysis of the seven factors set forth in the Advisory Committee Notes to Fed. R. Civ. P. 26(b)(2)(B), included a determination that plaintiffs had not established good cause for production, and ended with another seven factor test which demonstrated the importance of the court’s authority to set conditions on discovery.Continue Reading
In the midst of deciding Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss and Plaintiffs’ Motion to Amend concerning 42 U.S.C. 1983, 1985(3), the New Jersey Civil Rights Act, and civil conspiracy claims against two state officials, the court in Major Tours addressed an appeal of a magistrate judge’s order regarding an e-mail discovery dispute. As the court affirmed the magistrate’s holding that production was unduly burdensome and good cause was not shown, did it offer the state and future defendants a treasure map to avoiding discovery obligations? In Major Tours, the plunder was at least a million dollars worth of discovery and avoidance of possible sanctions for spoliation, not to mention the possible value of the e-mails that were not produced.Continue Reading