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Technocat Tidbits: What are the Rules for eDiscovery?

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In the beginning, there was paper.  And lots of it. Seriously warehouses stacked with banker’s boxes as far as the eye could see.  And the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were designed to support paper discovery in the litigation process.  As the way we live, work and play become more digital, we realized the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure had to adapt to keep up. 

Since the early 2000’s, there have been several amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) that have had a significant impact on eDiscovery. Here are some of the key amendments:

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2006 FRCP amendments: A Wake-Up Call For The Digital Age

This one was a bit of a wake-up call for the legal profession, which was still getting to grips with the challenges of managing electronic information in legal disputes. It was like a referee blowing the whistle and saying, “Hey, everyone, this eDiscovery stuff is serious business now, so let’s get our act together and figure out how to deal with it!”

The first major eDiscovery amendment to the FRCP was made in 2006. They were intended to address the unique challenges posed by electronically stored information (ESI). Among other things, the amendments clarified the parties’ obligations to preserve, collect, and produce ESI, and set forth a framework for addressing eDiscovery disputes.

  • Rule 16: Requires early discussions on the discovery of electronically stored information (ESI) emphasized the importance of cooperation and addressing eDiscovery issues. The rule notes that the court may issue an order regarding the discovery of ESI and emphasizes the importance of cooperation between the parties in resolving eDiscovery issues.
  • Rule 26: Parties were required to disclose relevant ESI during initial disclosures, promoting transparency and streamlining discovery. Stated that parties must “meet and confer” regarding ESI discovery issues and provided guidance on how to handle disputes related to the form of production of ESI.
  • Rule 33: Clarified that a party may serve on any other party a request to produce ESI in addition to traditional paper documents. The rule also established a procedure for objecting to a request for ESI.
  • Rule 34: Clarified that ESI may be subject to discovery requests and provided guidance on how to handle disputes related to the form of production of ESI. The rule also established a procedure for objecting to a request for ESI.
  • Rule 37: Sanctions for failure to preserve or produce ESI were established, ensuring accountability in the digital realm. What factors that a court may consider when determining sanctions. Also clarified that the sanctions may include an adverse inference instruction.
  • Rule 45: Stated that subpoenas may be issued to produce ESI and provided guidance on how to handle disputes related to the form of production of ESI.
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2015 FRCP amendments

This one was all about proportionality. It’s like the legal system finally realized that not every case requires the same level of eDiscovery firepower. It was like saying, “Hey, let’s stop throwing nuclear missiles at every legal dispute and start using a bit of common sense and proportionality when it comes to eDiscovery.”

The most recent eDiscovery amendments to the FRCP were made in 2015. These amendments were intended to address the ongoing challenges of managing eDiscovery in an increasingly digital world. The amendments emphasized the importance of proportionality in eDiscovery and clarified the scope of discovery and the requirements for asserting objections to discovery requests.

  • Rule 1: Emphasized the importance of cooperation for a just, speedy, and cost-effective resolution of cases.
  • Rule 4: Clarified requirements for serving summons and complaints, including provisions for electronic service. Added provisions regarding the use of electronic means to serve process.
  • Rule 16: Encouraged early and active case management, addressing the discovery of ESI, and facilitating efficient resolution. Encourages the courts to issue scheduling orders early and requires the parties to confer in good faith to discuss the case management plan, including the discovery of ESI.
  • Rule 26: Aligned discovery scope with proportionality, emphasizing the need for tailored and reasonable information requests.
  • Rule 30: Limited the number of depositions without court permission, streamlining the discovery process.
  • Rule 31: Limited the number of written interrogatories that a party may serve without leave of the court.
  • Rule 33: Made several changes to the procedures for serving and responding to requests for production of documents, including ESI. Including ESI production format.
  • Rule 34: Similar changes to Rule 33, requiring parties to specify ESI production format, and providing additional guidance on objecting to a request.
  • Rule 37: Changed the sanctions that a court may impose for failure to preserve or produce ESI. Sanctions may include an adverse inference instruction, an order striking pleadings, or an order dismissing the action.
  • Rule 55: Broke down the procedure for default judgments and added a new subsection addressing the availability of default judgment in certain circumstances.

The 2015 amendments to the FRCP were designed to address the evolving nature of litigation, including the increasing use of technology in the discovery process. These amendments emphasized the importance of early and active management of cases by the court and encouraged the parties to work together to achieve a just, speedy, and inexpensive resolution of the case.

They also provided additional guidance on the scope of discovery, including the discovery of ESI, and clarified the procedures for imposing sanctions for failure to preserve or produce ESI. These changes have had a significant impact on the practice of eDiscovery and have helped to make the discovery process more efficient and effective.

These amendments were like a new coat of paint on an old house. They were necessary updates to the rules to make sure they were keeping up with the times. It’s like saying, “Hey, let’s put some new technology into this old legal system and see if we can make it work a bit better.”

The amendments to the FRCP have been critical in shaping the landscape of eDiscovery. Establishing a framework for addressing the unique challenges posed by ESI.  Clarifying the parties’ obligations and responsibilities in managing and exchanging ESI in legal disputes. The amendments to the FRCP have helped to provide some much-needed clarity and guidance in this complex and rapidly evolving area of the law.

Federal Rules of Evidence (FRE):

  • Rule 502: Attorney-Client Privilege and Work Product; Limitations on Waiver. Ah, the sacred realm of attorney-client privilege and work product doctrine! Rule 502 provides guidance on the protection and waiver of these privileges, even in the digital realm of eDiscovery. It’s like the fortress that guards our confidential communications and strategic musings.

Rules in a Nutshell

Understanding and harnessing the power of these rules are vital to navigating the digital frontier of eDiscovery effectively.

However, it’s important to remember that rules alone may not cover every scenario. Case law and local rules also shape the eDiscovery landscape, providing additional guidance and insights.

Catherine “Cat” Casey on EmailCatherine “Cat” Casey on Linkedin
Catherine “Cat” Casey
Chief Growth Officer at Reveal
Catherine “Cat” Casey is the chief growth officer for leading AI-powered e-discovery technology Reveal. A global thought leader on the application of AI and advanced technology to the practice of law. She is a frequent keynote speaker and outspoken advocate of legal professionals embracing technology to deliver better legal outcomes. Casey has more than a decade and a half of experience assisting clients with complex e-discovery and forensic needs that arise from litigation, expansive regulation, and complex contractual relationships. Casey has an A.L.B. from Harvard University and attended Pepperdine School of Law.

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