Category Archives: Case Law

Relativity and X1 Publish Updated Joint Legal Whitepaper on ESI Collection Best Practices

By John Patzakis

Relativity and X1 have published an updated joint legal whitepaper addressing full-disk imaging as a disfavored collection practice in civil litigation, with Relativity eDiscovery attorney David Horrigan as the lead author. This paper is a substantive update from the original published a year ago, adding discussion of important and relevant new case law published in the past 12 months. The paper notes that “if the preliminary data from the first five months of 2022 are any indication, we may be seeing that the law of proportionality is becoming more settled — and that courts continue to disfavor full-disk imaging.”

The paper delves into all the legal reasons, including detailed analysis of case law, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the Sedona Principles establishing why forensic collection is not required in civil litigation. The paper primarily focuses on the principles of proportionality in its legal analysis as well as case law issued prior to the 2015 amendment to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which gave greater prominence and clarification of the proportionality rules.

One of the recent updated cases included is Besman v. Stafford, where the appellate court reversed and remanded a trial court’s order of a forensic examination of a law firm computer, holding the trial court erred in failing to take precautions to protect the privileged and confidential information on the device. “Generally, courts are reluctant to compel forensic imaging, largely due to the risk that imaging will improperly expose privileged and confidential material contained on the hard drive,” Judge Anita Laster Mays wrote for the appellate court.

This is an important topic as a key problem in eDiscovery that drives inefficiencies and higher costs is that default collection methods often involve full-disk imaging—a forensic examination of an entire computer—when searching for responsive data. As the whitepaper notes, “it turns out full-disk imaging is not required for most eDiscovery collections. In fact, courts often disfavor the practice.”

A copy of the whitepaper can be found here.

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Filed under Best Practices, Case Law, collection, eDiscovery, eDiscovery & Compliance, Enterprise eDiscovery, ESI, proportionality, Relativity

Industry Experts: Proportionality Principles Apply to ESI Preservation and Collection

By John Patzakis

Under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 26(b)(1), parties may discover any non-privileged material that is relevant to any party’s claim or defense and proportional to the needs of the case. Lawyers that take full advantage of the proportionality rule can greatly reduce cost, time and risk associated with otherwise overbroad eDiscovery production. In a recent webinar, eDiscovery attorney Martin Tully of Redgrave LLP, addressed how to use processes and best practices to operationally attain this goal, particularly in the context of preservation and collection. In addition to being a partner at the Redgrave firm, Tully is currently the chair of the Steering Committee of the Sedona Conference Working Group on Electronic Document Retention and Production (WG1), providing additional import to his comments on the subject.

During the webinar, Tully noted that the “duty to preserve is directly aligned with what is within the scope of discovery….so if something is not within the scope of discovery – that is its either not relevant or its not proportional to the needs of the case — then there should not be an obligation to preserve it in the first place.” Tully discussed at length the recent case of Raine Grp. v. Reign Capital, (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 22, 2022), which holds that under FRC 26(a), parties “have an affirmative obligation to search for documents which they may use to support their claims or defenses.” In meeting these obligations, the court provided that a producing party may utilize search methodologies, specifically mentioning search terms. Tully explained that the court—in addressing the concept of reasonable, proportional discovery under the Rules – provides that producing parties are obligated to search custodians and locations it identifies on its own as sources for relevant information as part of its obligations under Rule 26, but that such identification and collection efforts should be proportional.

Further to these points, Tully weighed in on overbroad practice of full-disk imaging, noting that it should not be the default practice for eDiscovery collection: “Too often there is a knee jerk approach of ‘let’s just take a forensic image of everything – just because.’” According to Tully, alternative and more targeted search and collection methods were more appropriate for eDiscovery and can better effectuate proportional efforts: “Indexing in-place is key because it doesn’t just preserve in-place and reduce costs, but it can give you insight (into the data) to further justify your decision not to collect it in the first place, or if you need to, you are in much better shape to go back and collect the data in a tailored and focused way.”

Co-presenter Mandi Ross, CEO of Insight Optix also provided keen insight, outlining her typical workflow applying the aforementioned proportionality concepts through custodian and data source ranking and keyword searching performed in an iterative manner to identify key custodians, data sources, and the potentially relevant data itself. To effectuate this, Mandi noted that the enterprise eDiscovery collection and early data assessment process should enable a targeted, remote, and automated search capability, with immediate pre-collection visibility into custodial data.

In fact, both Tully and Ross emphasized in their comments that none of the cost-saving, targeted collection efforts permitted under the Federal Rules can be realized without an operational capability to effectuate them. Ideally, the producing party can employ a defensible, targeted, and iterative search and collection process in-place, prior to collection to effectuate the proportional discovery process approved by the court in this decision. However, without such a capability, the alternative is an expensive, over-collection effort, where the data is searched post collection. Enabling the search iteration and targeted collection upstream brings dramatic cost savings, risk reduction, and other process efficiencies.

A recording of the webinar on proportionality can be accessed here.

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Filed under Best Practices, Case Law, Case Study, eDiscovery, eDiscovery & Compliance, Enterprise eDiscovery, ESI, Information Management, Preservation & Collection, proportionality

Case Law Update: Federal Court Endorses Targeted Search Term Based ESI Collection

By John Patzakis

A recent decision from the Southern District of New York provides that the parties’ have obligations to conduct reasonable searches during discovery, but such searches may be targeted. The court invoked the proportionality concepts within the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which govern the production of Electronically Stored Information (“ESI”). In Raine Grp. v. Reign Capital, (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 22, 2022), the plaintiff, “a merchant bank with over 100 employees,” sued defendant “Reign Capital LLC, a two-person real estate development and management firm, for trademark infringement and unfair competition based on Defendant’s” name. After unsuccessful meet and confer efforts to negotiate an ESI protocol, the Court ruled on two key issues in dispute—the scope of the plaintiff’s search and collection obligations and the formulation of certain search terms.

The court, in its written decision, first articulated a party’s general obligations under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, noting that Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 26 and 34 “require parties to conduct a reasonable search for documents that are relevant to the claims and defenses.” The court further noted that under Rule 26(a), “Parties have an affirmative obligation to search for documents which they may use to support their claims or defenses.” In meeting these obligations, the court provided that a producing party may utilize search methodologies, specifically mentioning search terms. The court observed that, “in this instance, the producing party must include and utilize search terms it believes are needed to fulfill its obligations under Rule 26 in addition to considering additional search terms requested by the requesting party.” The court—in addressing the concept of reasonable, proportional discovery under the Rules—continued: “In other words, the producing party must search custodians and locations it identifies on its own as sources for relevant information as part of its obligations under Rules 26 and 34.” Importantly, the court noted that “an ESI protocol and search terms work in tandem with the parties’ obligations under the Federal Rules…”

Additionally, the court advised the plaintiff to search not only the relevant custodians’ direct data sources, but also “other sources of data such as shared drives that are not particular to a specific custodian that should be searched as part of Plaintiffs’ obligations under Rule 26. Plaintiff is expected to conduct a reasonable search of such non-custodian sources likely to have relevant information.” The court here is making an important point about shared network drives, and that the parties have a duty to search them for relevant information. We have previously blogged about the importance of network file shares and how to effectively conduct eDiscovery on those critical data sources.

In regard to the formation of search terms, the court, explained that “[s]earch terms, while helpful, must be carefully crafted. Poorly crafted terms may return thousands of irrelevant documents and increase, rather than minimize the burden of locating relevant and responsive ESI. They also can miss documents containing a word that has the same meaning or that is misspelled.” The court further correctly advised that overly broad search terms “are typically not sufficiently targeted to find relevant documents. Modifiers are often needed to hone in on truly relevant documents.” This decision is very important as the court endorses the concept of utilizing highly targeted search terms and other parameters to defensibly collect and preserve potentially relevant ESI.

Additionally, this decision illustrates the necessity of an iterative, in-place search and collection process. None of the cost-saving, targeted collection efforts outlined by the court can be realized without an operational capability to effectuate them. Ideally, the producing party can employ a defensible, targeted, and iterative search and collection process in place, prior to collection to effectuate the proportional discovery process approved by the court in this decision. However, without such a capability, the alternative is an expensive, over-collection effort, where the data is searched post collection. Enabling the search iteration and targeted collection upstream brings dramatic cost savings, risk reduction, and other process efficiencies.

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Filed under Best Practices, Case Law, eDiscovery & Compliance, Enterprise Search, Preservation & Collection