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Brad Jenkins

Brad Jenkins, President and CEO of CloudNine Discovery, has over 20 years of experience leading customer focused companies in the litigation support arena. Brad has authored many articles on litigation support issues, and has spoken before national audiences on document management practices and solutions.

Doug Austin

Doug Austin, Professional Services Manager for CloudNine Discovery, has over 20 years experience providing legal technology consulting and technical project management services to numerous commercial and government clients. Doug has also authored several articles on eDiscovery best practices.

Jane Gennarelli

Jane Gennarelli is a principal of Magellan’s Law Corporation and has been assisting litigators in effectively handling discovery materials for over 30 years. She authored the company’s Best Practices in a Box™ content product and assists firms in applying technology to document handling tasks. She is a known expert and often does webinars and presentations for litigation support professionals around the country. Jane can be reached by email at jane@litigationbestpractices.com.

Defendant Claiming Not Reasonably Accessible Data Has Some ‘Splaining To Do – eDiscovery Case Law

November 09, 2012

By Doug Austin

 

In Murray v. Coleman, No. 08-CV-6383, 2012 U.S. Dist. (W.D.N.Y. Sept. 12, 2012), the plaintiff alleged harassment and retaliation in connection with his employment with the New York State Department of Correctional Services (DOCS). This discovery dispute arose when the plaintiff requested access to certain electronic records, alleging that the defendants withheld them.

In his motion, the plaintiff asserted that the defendants “never provided a ‘chronological e-mail history of any kind.’” In response, defense counsel “simply aver[red] that after plaintiff filed this motion to compel, he provided plaintiff with…‘the documents sought’ and, therefore, plaintiff’s motion is ‘moot.’” The plaintiff responded to the defendant’s reply, asserting that “‘virtually no electronic records [were] included’ in defendant’s discovery responses.”

Because the defense counsel’s response to the plaintiff’s motion was “terse,” New York Magistrate Judge Jonathan Feldman stated that it was “difficult . . . to determine whether defendants have in fact produced all relevant electronic records and e-mails as demanded by plaintiff.” Lacking in defense counsel’s response were “details regarding how and where electronically stored information (“ESI”) is held, what efforts were made to preserve relevant ESI, and the method used by defendants to locate, search and produce relevant ESI.”

As such, Judge Feldman “construe[d the defendants’] response as a claim that ESI, including e-mails, [were] not . . . produced because the data demanded [was] destroyed or [was] not ‘reasonably accessible’” pursuant to Rule 26(b)(2)(B) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which requires a producing party to “show that the information is not reasonably accessible because of undue burden or cost.”

Therefore, because the defendants had not sufficiently demonstrated that the ESI was not reasonably accessible, Judge Feldman ordered as follows:

“Defense counsel shall file an affidavit of a person with direct knowledge of DOCS’s document and e-mail retention system stating: (1) the document/e-mail retention policy used by DOCS currently and during the relevant time periods, (2) the dates of e-mails “reasonably accessible” for production in this litigation, (3) the back up or legacy system, if any, used by DOCS to preserve or archive e-mails that are no longer “reasonably accessible” and whether responsive documents or data may potentially be found on such back up or legacy systems, (4) whether accessing archived or back up e-mails would be unduly burdensome or costly and why, and (5) the date when a litigation hold or document preservation notice was put in place by DOCS regarding this matter and either a copy of or a description of the preservation or litigation hold utilized by DOCS.”  [emphasis added]

Judge Feldman ordered the defense to provide this affidavit within 30 days.

So, what do you think?  Was this an appropriate ruling given the situation?  Or did the defendant deserve sanctions?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

Case Summary Source: Applied Discovery (free subscription required).  For eDiscovery news and best practices, check out the Applied Discovery blog here.

Disclaimer: The views represented herein are exclusively the views of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views held by CloudNine Discovery. eDiscoveryDaily is made available by CloudNine Discovery solely for educational purposes to provide general information about general eDiscovery principles and not to provide specific legal advice applicable to any particular circumstance. eDiscoveryDaily should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a lawyer you have retained and who has agreed to represent you.
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