Meet & Confer

Predictive Coding v. Human Review: Which Will the Court Favor?

A party has been burdened with manually reviewing 565,000 potentially relevant documents for search term hits. This manual method of review was agreed on by both parties and memorialized in a court order at the start. Shortly into the review process, the plaintiff realized this method would be costly and time consuming, and took it upon themselves to apply a predictive coding method using the agreed upon search terms. They then moved before the court to be able to use these predictive coding techniques, and not human manual review, to review the documents. The plaintiff argued that the modification to predictive coding should be utilized because it would achieve a more accurate measure of relevant documents, in addition to saving time and money. The defendant argued the opposite, believing that the predictive coding protocol was complicated and had various other issues involved. They argued that other courts, which have allowed predictive coding, have stressed the need for transparent and cooperative behavior by all parties, a manner of which plaintiff in this case has not acted. They even went as far as to say that the predictive coding protocol utilized by the plaintiffs did not comply with the “best practices” for the chosen software.   The court, although in support of predictive coding, ordered the plaintiff to produce all documents in the agreed upon manner (Human review wins!). “If the parties had worked with their E-discovery consultants and agreed at the onset of this case to a predictive coding based ESI protocol, the court would not hesitate to approve a transparent mutually agreed upon ESI protocol.”  But here, their hands were tied by the earlier court order.   The court also stated that, and agreeing with the defendant’s argument, predictive coding requires a heightened degree of transparent cooperation among parties. “In the few cases that have approved technology assisted review of ESI, courts have consistently required the producing parties to provide the requesting parties with full disclosures about the technology being used, processes, methodology and documents used to “train” computers.” Here, the court found that the Plaintiff has been unwilling to engage in the level of transparency necessary, which they believed would “only result in more disputes and delays.” TAKEAWAY: The parties, especially the moving party, should have prepared a electronic discovery strategy from the beginning, as the main problem here was that the plaintiff sought to modify an already agreed upon order and the court thought it was too late in the game. Additionally, the parties must be open and transparent about the methodology being used with the technology if predictive coding is the agreed upon ESI method.   Amanda is a third-year student at Seton Hall University School of Law, where she is pursuing a J.D. with a certificate in Health Law. Prior to law school, she was a 2011 magna cum laude graduate of Seton Hall University, where she earned Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and a minor in Philosophy. Presently, she is a law clerk at a small firm handling real estate and bankruptcy matters. After graduation this native New Yorker hopes to work at a mid-sized firm in the Big Apple.   Want to read more articles like this?  Sign up for our post notification newsletter, here.

When Should A Plaintiff Withdraw Its Motion For A Protective Order?

Communication is key to any joint status report!  Parties should not risk annoying the court by refusing to withdraw a motion when both sides are essentially in agreement.  The court will find a protective order unnecessary when the defendants completely understand their preservation duties, acknowledge their duties, and have made substantial efforts to preserve discoverable evidence.  Under such circumstances, the plaintiff or moving party will both lose the motion and risk wasting the court’s valued time. In McDaniel v. Loyola University Medical Center, McDaniel, the plaintiff, filed a motion seeking a document preservation order after learning that the Loyola University Medical Center, the defendant, planned to change its e-mail system provider.  The defendant was transitioning from GroupWise to Microsoft Office, and the plaintiff feared that relevant e-mails would be erased or lost.  In response, the court directed the parties to confer in an effort to resolve the preservation issue in a mutually agreeable way.  In the submitted joint status report, the defendant demonstrated its belief that it had adequately assured the plaintiff of his spoliation concerns; however the plaintiff was still unwilling to withdraw the motion. As a starting proposition, a party has a duty to preserve evidence if it reasonably knew or could reasonably foresee was material to a potential legal action.  Almost a year before the plaintiff filed his initial complaint in this case, the defendant issued litigation holds and constant reminders to 71 employees who may have information relevant to the litigation.  Furthermore, the defendant took similar precautions with the additional 20 custodians identified by the plaintiff.  Despite the defendant continually recognizing that it was under an obligation to preserve evidence, the plaintiff needlessly insisted that a preservation order was a necessary additional precaution. The court disagreed with the plaintiff and held that a preservation order was unnecessary.  When deciding whether to enter the preservation order, the court considered (1) whether the plaintiff demonstrated that the defendant would destroy evidence, (2) whether the plaintiff would suffer irreparable harm without a preservation order, and (3) the burden that likely would result from granting the protective order.  Here, the defendant was fully apprised of the scope and gravity of its preservation duties, and the plaintiff failed to demonstrate that the defendant would destroy evidence without a preservation order.  The court found that a protective order would be superfluous and needlessly burdensome in this case.  Moreover, the court noted in its decision that the parties appeared to be talking past each other and, in actuality, were in complete agreement regarding the defendant’s preservation duties. Lawyers must avoid submitting superfluous and needlessly burdensome motions to the court.  Do not waste the court’s valuable time with unnecessary motions on issues that have already been mutually agreed on by both parties.  The last thing any lawyer should want to do is to get on a judge’s bad side during the discovery stage of the litigation.     Gary Discovery received a B.S. in Business Administration, with a concentration in Finance from the Bartley School of Business at Villanova University.  He will receive his J.D. from Seton Hall University School of Law in 2015.  After graduation, Gary will clerk for a presiding civil judge in the Superior Court of New Jersey. Want to read more articles like this?  Sign up for our post notification newsletter, here.

All That Glitters is NOT Gold

Plaintiffs asked Defendants for documents to be scanned and produced as searchable PDFs.  Defendants did exactly that.  So, there’s no problem, right?  Wrong.  Plaintiffs felt a little slighted, to say the least, after receiving the unorganized files.  If only they asked for hardcopies instead. The court found that the term “documents” as defined in FRCP 34(b)(2)(E)(i) does not include ESI, so the rule’s requirement that documents be produced either in the usual course of business or labeled to correspond to categories in the request does not apply to ESI.  Once the parties agreed to transfer hard copy documents in an electronic form, that means of production is governed by the rules for ESI, and Plaintiffs in this case met their obligations under this rule without organizing or labeling the disclosed ESI. Plaintiffs wanted Defendants to identify the particular discovery request to which each document responds, but to be fair, Defendants already went through the effort of scanning the approximately 20,000 documents.  Plaintiffs tried to argue that Defendants’ storage of the documents in hard copy meant that scanning the documents in order to produce them for discovery should not abdicate Defendants’ responsibility to produce them as organized in the ordinary course of business.  It may seem surprising this argument was unsuccessful, but is it really? The court found that the parties stipulated out of FRCP 34(b)(2)(E)’s default provisions when the Plaintiffs’ requested items in scanned electronic form, and that Plaintiffs technically received exactly what they asked for.  Another hang-up for the Plaintiffs was FRCP 34(b)(2)(E)(iii) not requireing a party to produce the same electronically stored information in more than one form, which includes hardcopies. Beyond the facts and the ruling, this case should stand for the proposition that blindly requesting ESI is ill-advised.  Parties should know enough to know exactly what they need from a discovery request, and how to make that request as accurately and effectively as possible.  This decision may not exist if Plaintiffs simply asked for the documents to be scanned and produced in the usual course of business.  While Defendants may not have eagerly acceded to such a request, the request’s denial would have raised some red flags for Plaintiffs and forecasted what would be their eventual dissatisfaction if they merely asked for the documents to be scanned as searchable PDFs. Samuel is in the Seton Hall University School of Law Class of 2015 pursuing the Intellectual Property concentration. He received his master’s from the Rutgers Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences and became a registered patent agent prior to entering law school. Want to read more articles like this?  Sign up for our post notification newsletter, here.

eDiscovery Expertise: Is Knowing Too Much A Ground For Judicial Recusal?

Just like TNT, the Second Circuit sure knows drama.  After years of protracted litigation, the Second Circuit finally put an end to an attempt to recuse a judge for knowing too much about eDiscovery and predictive coding. On April 10, 2013, in an incredibly brief order most likely meant to send a message deeper than its two sentences, a Second Circuit Judge denied a request for the recusal of Judge Andrew J. Peck from an ongoing employment discrimination case.  According to Judge Jane A. Restani, “Petitioners have not ‘clearly and indisputably demonstrate[d] that [Magistrate Judge Peck] abused [his] discretion’ in denying their court recusal motion… or that the district court erred in overruling their objection to that decision.” The contentious attempts to recuse Judge Peck stemmed from a discovery dispute after Judge Peck ordered the parties to use a method of predictive coding during discovery.  Although the parties seemed to agree that predictive coding should be used, they could not agree on the methods of predictive coding that would be implemented.  The plaintiffs believed that Judge Peck favored the defendants in his order, and therefore they moved to recuse the judge because of his established history with eDiscovery and more specifically, his history of actively advocating predictive coding. Judge Peck has a long history of participating in eDiscovery conferences  and was considered one of the Court’s “experts in e-discovery.”  National Day Laborer Organizing Netwrok v. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency, 2012 WL 2878130, 11 (S.D.N.Y. 2012).  Judge Peck was even involved in one of the first cases to order the discovery of electronic data.  Atlantic-Monopoly, Inc. v. Hasbro, Inc., 958 F.Supp 895 (S.D.N.Y. 1995). Despite the strong undertones of the order’s brevity, the plaintiffs continued to fight this seemingly uphill battle and later filed a cert petition to the Supreme Court. Rather than attacking Judge Peck’s background and connections to the eDiscovery community, the plaintiffs in this case should have instead accepted that judges need to actively participate in conferences and seminars to better understand the technology implicated in eDiscovery.  Just as attorneys can no longer ignore the ramifications of eDiscovery, judges too must enhance their knowledge to further develop this complicated area of law and readily adapt it to continually changing technology.  Judges should not be punished or accused of bias for engaging in programs geared towards teaching them about technology and its implications on eDiscovery.  If this were at all all permitted, judges would be afraid to participate in seminars and review panels, which would stagnate the development of the law, a process that is already far-behind the rapid progress experienced by technology. Jeffrey, a Seton Hall University School of Law graduate (Class of 2014), focused his studies primarily in the area of civil practice but also completed significant coursework concerning the interplay between technology and the legal profession.  He was a cum laude graduate of the University of Connecticut in 2011, where he received a B.S. in Business Administration with a concentration in Entrepreneurial Management. 

Can a Court Compel Discovery about Discovery?

Collaboration and clarity are now the keys to success; well, at least the keys for a successful discovery. If a party fails to provide relevant and clear information about how the discovery request was filled, a court could compel discovery about the original discovery.

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Can You “Triangulate” for ESI? Not without the Other Party’s Permission.

On October 4th of 2013, the Northern District of California issued a tentative ruling in a discovery dispute where the Defendant had “triangulated” its employees to identify who would possess relative discovery documents. It appears the Court had no issue with the “triangulation” technique.

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Want to Claim the Producing Party is Tardy? First, Agree on Protocol for Production of ESI.

The producing party in a discovery request can be tardy producing documents, while making numerous generalized objections in a response, and still not have waived the party’s right to valid objections under Fed. R. Civ. P. 26 or Fed. R. Civ. P. 34.

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When Parties Fail to Cooperate During Discovery, Everybody Loses

It's no secret that courts prefer settlements over protracted litigation. Because the court system encounters an incredibly heavy case load, parties are heavily encouraged to resolve disputes amongst themselves. This is especially true for discovery disputes. Parties are expected to deal with any hiccups in the discovery process through negotiation and discussion between each other, with little court intervention.

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Honesty is the Best Policy, and Cell Phone Upgrades Are Not An Excuse

Don’t knowingly produce incorrect electronic devices for discovery! When opposing counsel requests production of your client’s cell phone from the relevant time period for inspection, it is your duty to provide accurate information regarding the whereabouts of the phone. 

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Delaware Court of Chancery Issues Updated eDiscovery Guidelines

The Delaware Court of Chancery is amending its Rules 26, 30, 34, and 45 in order to update provisions relating to the retention and discovery of electronically stored information. The Court is also expanding its "Guidelines for Practitioners" to include "Discovery Guidelines," which set out the Court's expectations with regard to eDiscovery best practices.

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