There is a lot going on in the eDiscovery / eDisclosure world at the moment, what with new Civil Procedure Rules in England and Wales, and with products, appointments and webinars to write about and conferences to plan for.
There has also been a stream of interesting articles which are worth passing on. I would normally seek to add some value with commentary of my own rather than merely give you hyperlinks, but they come thick and fast, and it seems better to pass them your way whilst they are topical rather than wait for an opportunity to expand on them. Besides, the articles in question have plenty of meat of their own and I do you no great service by adding more.
The subject is pending revisions to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, a subject which I have already covered in an article called A new definition of relevance in US eDiscovery? which was itself based on an article by Ralph Losey called Georgetown Part 2: New Rules are Coming! There was a curious lull after that, with relatively few US commentators seizing on two points in particular which seemed to me of significance – the proposed express incorporation of proportionality into Rule 26(b)(1) and planned amendments to Rule 37(e) which aim to clarify the “safe harbor” from sanctions where documents are deleted as a result of a “routine, good faith operation” of computer systems.
The problem (or one of the problems) with these areas is the lack of precision implicit in both. Preservation decisions turn on the “reasonable anticipation” of litigation, and anything involving the word “reasonable” involves a degree of subjectivity. Where a client is contemplating a voluntary but irrevocable decision such as the deletion of data, the average lawyer will err on the side of caution in circumstances where severe sanctions may be invoked against the client. The present wording of Rule 37(e) gives too much scope for “average” lawyers to take refuge in the safe course which urges clients to keep everything “just in case”. “Just in case of what?” the clients might ask. There are circumstances which will clearly warrant sanctions; there are those which equally clearly do not; there are grey areas. The lawyer’s job is to discriminate between them where too many simply give the risk-free advice to keep everything (and take a fee for giving it). Read the rest of this entry »