Hands-on eDiscovery: California Seminar on Responding to Discovery Requests

I had the good fortune to organize a seminar on responding to electronic discovery requests for the Santa Clara County Bar Association’s Civil Practice Committee on February 27, 2013. However, this seminar was different from other eDiscovery CLE’s, because the attendees spent a full hour conducting searches for responsive ESI to requests for production. The speakers included Santa Clara County Judge Socrates Manoukian (currently assigned to civil discovery), Tyler Atkinson of McManis Faulkner and Charlie Kaupp of Digital Statra.

Our seminar first focused for one hour on the California eDiscovery Act, California Rules of Court on eDiscovery, search and strategies for conducting document review.

Unfortunately, there is very little published California case law on eDiscovery. We have two main cases to explore, specifically Toshiba America Electronics Components v. Superior Court, 124 Cal. App. 4th 762, 764 (Cal. App. 6th Dist. 2004), which addressed mandatory cost-shifting for translation of back-up tapes into a reasonably useable form and Doppes v. Bentley Motors, Inc., 174 Cal. App. 4th 967 (Cal. App. 4th Dist. 2009), which does not address the eDiscovery Act, but unstated litigation hold issues and eDiscovery abuses resulting in an answer stricken and a default judgment entered.

However, at least one unpublished California opinion hints Courts want more than mere speculation that a discovery production was inadequate:

Following remand, Sukumar asked Nautilus to disclose its e-mails and all other electronically stored information concerning the Med-Fit order. After Nautilus responded that it had already disclosed all relevant documents, Sukumar filed a motion to compel. The trial court denied the motion, concluding that Nautilus’s response was sufficient and Sukumar “has offered only speculation that additional documents exist.” On appeal, Sukumar asserts that the trial court’s order denying his motion to compel should be reversed.

Sukumar v. Med-Fit Sys., 2012 Cal. App. Unpub. LEXIS 3309 (Cal. App. 4th Dist. May 2, 2012).

The appeal in the above case was denied, however it a glimpse at how California courts are handling production issues. Unfortunately, California discovery orders are not published and unpublished cases cannot be cited for any precedential value.  We literally have to watch for tentative orders to see how these issues are being presented to the courts to determine any trends. 

Review-TeamThe second hour required attendees to work as teams in a review database finding responsive discovery from the ENRON dataset, which was provided by Digital Strata in their InControl review platform.

Searching for responsive electronically stored information is a frequent topic at continuing legal education seminars, but infrequently a hands-on experience for attorneys. Our attendees were very engaged and diligently worked through the different hypothetical discovery requests.

We gave several case law examples of “bad” discovery requests, such as the following:

Produce any and all information related to email, including messages, from 1997 to 2006. 

Using the above as a reminder that production requests must be reasonably tailored to secure the production of documents relevant to the issues in a Federal lawsuit (See,Thompson v. Jiffy Lube Int’l, 2006 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 27837 (D. Kan. May 1, 2006)), we developed Requests for Production such as the following for the attendees:

Request for Production 3:

Any and all electronically stored information pertaining to the $56 million loss on Catalytica Energy Systems, sent between 12/01/2000 to 12/31/2001, in native file format, with the following extracted text or metadata:

From, To, CC, BCC, Date, Time, Subject, Document Author, Document Name, Custodian, Control Number, Folder (System File Pathway).

Request for Production 4: 

Any and all electronically stored information authored by Will Nolen, Sally Beck, Susie Ayala, Shona Wilson or David Port relating to project “jedi” sent between 1/01/2000 to 12/31/2001, in native file format with extracted text, substantive and embedded metadata.

One hour of conducting searches is only the beginning of how to respond to discovery requests. However, it is a very good first hour for attorneys who want to learn how to effectively search and respond to discovery requests.

Working with virtual screen

I would like to put together a future program focused on conducting privilege review, redaction, production and privilege log creation at a future seminar. I also think attorneys would benefit from a half to full day conference focusing on practical eDiscovery, such as issuing litigation holds, tracking hold compliance, document review strategies, developing search strings, testing different search tools (i.e., concept, complex Boolean, predictive coding), and production.

Conducting discovery is a skill. Like any skill, it is best to learn it by actually doing it. I believe our profession needs more hands-on eDiscovery events for attorneys to build their comfort level and confidence to competently represent their clients.

  1. We hear ya, Bowtie! The Appalachian Institute of Digital Evidence will do just that on April 22 in Charleston, WV. Thank you for the encouragement and excellent perspectives.