Sunday, May 20, 2007

2007-05-20 Magistrate Judge's eDiscovery Rulings Subject To Abuse of Discretion Standard

Which means, of course that a District Judge will (at least in the Southern and Eastern District of New York) accord substantial deference to an eDiscovery ruling.

From the May 15, 2007 Eastern District decision in Curto v. Medical World Communications, Inc. Slip Copy, 2007 WL 1452106 (E.D.N.Y. 2007).

"This Court reviews a magistrate judge's decision regarding non-dispositive pretrial matters under a “clearly erroneous or contrary to law” standard. See 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(A); Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(a). Discovery matters are generally considered non-dispositive of litigation. See Thomas E. Hoar, Inc. v. Sara Lee Corp., 900 F.2d 522, 525 (2d Cir.1990).

An order is “clearly erroneous” only if a reviewing court, considering the entirety of the evidence, “ ‘is left with the definite and firm conviction that a mistake has been committed’ “; an order is “contrary to law” when it “fails to apply or misapplies relevant statutes, case law, or rules of procedure.' “ EEOC v. First Wireless Group, Inc., 225 F.R.D. 404, 405 (E.D.N.Y.2004) (quoting Weiss v. La Suisse, 161 F.Supp.2d 305, 320-21 (S.D.N.Y.2001)). This standard is “highly deferential,” “imposes a heavy burden on the objecting party,” and “only permits reversal where the magistrate judge abused his discretion.” Mitchell v. Century 21 Rustic Realty, 233 F.Supp.2d 418, 430 (E.D.N.Y.2002). Because it is clear that a magistrate judge is best qualified to “judge the entire atmosphere of the discovery process,” Bogan v. Northwestern Mut. Life Ins. Co., 144 F.R.D. 51, 53 (S.D.N.Y.1992), his discovery-related rulings are entitled to substantial deference. See Nikkal Indus., Ltd. v. Salton, Inc., 689 F.Supp. 187, 189 (S.D.N.Y.1988) ( “Consistently, it has been held that a magistrate's report resolving a discovery discourse between litigants should be afforded substantial deference and be overturned only if found to be an abuse of discretion.”)."
2007-05-20 Electronic Discovery Requests - Be Very Careful What You Ask For...And How You Ask For It

Just because you ask for electronically stored information, does not mean the producing party must produce the information requested in electronic format.

In Pace v. International Mill Service, Inc. Slip Copy, 2007 WL 1385385 (N.D.Ind. 2007), the Court denied a motion to compel, holding that "[Plaintiff's] assumption that Rule 34 can be read to provide a general standard for electronic documents, without reference to his specific request, is incorrect. The Court reasoned that so long as the production is "reasonably usable" it complies with discovery rules.

The Court then offers a wonderful gotcha issued in Northern Crossarm Company, Inc. v. Chemical Specialities, Inc., 2004 WL 635606 (W.D.Wis.2004) in which it notes with approval that Court's observation that “First, plaintiff did not specifically request production of the e-mail in electronic format, it simply asked for production of documents, adopting the definition in Rule 34(a). This certainly entitled plaintiff to disclosure of the information stored electronically, but it did not require production in electronic format.”

Moral: Competency competency check: Just because you make an Fed. R. Civ. P. Rule 34 Request does not mean that you will get electronically stored information in the manner in which it is stored. Stripped electronic information, by way of .pdf or .tiff format may, absent a specific request (and be ready understand how to defend that request) suffice.