Coming Soon to a Courtroom Near You

I  am  a  member  of  the  American  Bar  Association’s  Science  &  Technology  Section,  Electronic  Discovery  and  Digital Evidence  (EDDE)  Committee  and  recently  had  the  privilege  of  spending  a  couple  of  days  with  the  leading  experts  in the  country  on  electronically  stored  information,  legal  forensics  and  e-discovery.    The  two-day  meeting  was  packed with excellent and timely new information whose highlights I have summarized below:
1)  Federal  Rules  of  Civil  Procedure  (FRCP)  expected  to  be  approved  within  the  next  week  or  so. Proposed  changes: (NOTE: these are still “proposed” and could change)
a.  Rule  26(b)(1)–  the  issue  of  proportionality  now  at  the  top  of  the  list  of  considerations  that  a  court  should  use when deciding on the relevancy and importance of evidence to a case.
i.   If   preservation   or   production   of   electronic   evidence   will   place   a   burden   on   one   of   the   parties disproportionate to either:
1.  The issues of the case, or
2. That party’s responsibility and capability to preserve or produce the evidence,
ii.  The  court  is  asked  to  make  decisions  on  whether  to  compel  production,  and  who  should  pay  for  the production, based on the weight of the burden.                 
b.  New  language  to  clarify  that  this  decision  should  no  longer  be  based  entirely  on  the  financial  burden  but should  consider  all  issues  that  are  affected  by  the  request  and  might  impact  the  parties  involved  (e.g.  reputation,  time & personnel resources, etc.)
c.  Rule  37(e)  clarified    that  some  of  the  more  onerous  sanctions  for  spoliation  should  only  be  considered  if  there can  be  shown  that  the  party  acted  with  the  intent  to  deprive  another  party  of  the  information’s  use  in  litigation.    It  also states no sanctions, unless it can be shown that the spoliation of loss of evidence has created prejudice. 
d.  Rule  34(b)(2)(B)  –  Objecting  to  producing  electronic  evidence  due  to  an  assertion  of  burden  will  require showing  real  reasons  with  actual  evidence  of  the  burden.  You  will  need  to  state  specifically  why  you’re  objecting  to and what you are withholding as a result of your objection.
2)  The  Internet  of  Things  and  the  complexities  involved  in  the  acquisition,  preservation  and  production  of  evidence from these devices.
a. Most of them are not designed to log events        
b. The majority of current products are not secured in any way         
c. All connected to the Internet                 
d.  All  with  the  capability,  if  compromised  or  accessed  by  the  wrong  people,  to  disrupt  our  lives,  steal  sensitive information, or even cause physical damage                             
i.  The  flaming  toaster:  imagine  an  Internet  connected  toaster  that  a  bad  guy  intentionally  changes  the  settings to toast infinitely, the toast catches fire and the house burns down. 
ii.  The  smart  refrigerator:  Food  packaging  that  contain  computer  chips  so  the  fridge  can  tell  you  what  is  about to  spoil  and  even  make  a  grocery  order  for  you  over  the  Internet.    That  means  your  refrigerator  (or  whoever  can connect to it) has the ability to charge your credit card.  ’Nuff said.       
3)  Computer  forensics  data  can  easily  be  lost  or  compromised  if  the  acquisition  is  delayed  with  many  organizations storing data in the cloud and/or using virtual machines.        
4)  The  use  of  social  media  to  screen  jurors  during  voir  dire  (jury  selection).    The  ABA  formal  opinion  466  basically states  that  counsel  has  a  duty  to  examine  a  potential  jurist’s  “Internet  presence”.    It  was  opined  that  not  doing  this extensive  research  could  result  in  malpractice  lawsuits  and  is  basically  another  part  of  an  attorney’s  ethical  obligation to understand and use technology responsibly. 

We  are  in  a  rapidly  shifting  landscape  when  it  comes  to  the  world  of  electronic  data.    All  of  us  have  an  obligation  to understand  and  manage  it  and  take  responsibility  for  the  data  we  create,  collect,  store  or  manage.  Those  who practice  law  or  participate  in  any  way  with  litigation  have  an  even  greater  ethical  responsibility  to  do  our  best  to  stay up to speed in all of these areas and to provide adequate, timely and relevant expertise and assistance to our clients