eDiscovery Case Law: Judge Peck Denies Recusal Motion in Da Silva Moore

By: Doug Austin

It’s been a few weeks since we heard anything from the Da Silva Moore case.  If you’ve been living under a rock the past few months, Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York issued an opinion in this case in February making it one of the first cases to accept the use of computer-assisted review of electronically stored information (“ESI”).  However, the plaintiffs objected to the ruling and questioned Judge Peck’s relationship with defense counsel and with the selected vendor for the case, Recommind and ultimately formally requested the recusal of Judge Peck.  For links to all of the recent events in the case that we’ve covered, click here.

Last Friday, in a 56 page opinion and order, Judge Peck denied the plaintiffs’ motion for recusal.  The opinion and order reviewed the past several contentious months and rejected the plaintiffs’ arguments for recusal in the following areas:

Participation in conferences discussing the use of predictive coding:

“I only spoke generally about computer-assisted review in comparison to other search techniques…The fact that my interest in and knowledge about predictive coding in general overlaps with issues in this case is not a basis for recusal.”

“To the extent plaintiffs are complaining about my general discussion at these CLE presentations about the use of predictive coding in general, those comments would not cause a reasonable objective observer to believe I was biased in this case. I did not say anything about predictive coding at these LegalTech and other CLE panels that I had not already said in in my Search,Forward article, i.e., that lawyers should consider using predictive coding in appropriate cases. My position was the same as plaintiffs’ consultant . . . . Both plaintiffs and defendants were proposing using predictive coding in this case.  I did not determine which party’s predictive coding protocol was appropriate in this case until the February 8, 2012 conference, after the panels about which plaintiffs complain.”

“There are probably fewer than a dozen federal judges nationally who regularly speak at ediscovery conferences. Plaintiffs' argument that a judge's public support for computer-assisted review is a recusable offense would preclude judges who know the most about ediscovery in general (and computer-assisted review in particular) from presiding over any case where the use of predictive coding was an option, or would preclude those judges from speaking at CLE programs. Plaintiffs' position also would discourage lawyers from participating in CLE programs with judges about ediscovery issues, for fear of subsequent motions to recuse the judge (or disqualify counsel).”

Relationship with defense counsel Ralph Losey:

“While I participated on two panels with defense counsel Losey, we never had any ex parte communication regarding this lawsuit. My preparation for and participation in ediscovery panels involved only ediscovery generally and the general subject of computer-assisted review. Losey's affidavit makes clear that we have never spoken about this case, and I confirm that. During the panel discussions (and preparation sessions), there was absolutely no discussion of the details of the predictive coding protocol involved in this case or with regard to what a predicative coding protocol should look like in any case. Plaintiffs' assertion that speaking on an educational panel with counsel creates an appearance of impropriety is undermined by Canon 4 of the Judicial Code of Conduct, which encourages judges to participate in such activities.”

Relationship with Recommind, the selected vendor in the case:

“The panels in which I participated are distinguishable. First, I was a speaker at educational conferences, not an audience member. Second, the conferences were not one-sided, but concerned ediscovery issues including search methods in general. Third, while Recommind was one of thirty-nine sponsors and one of 186 exhibitors contributing to LegalTech's revenue, I had no part in approving the sponsors or exhibitors (i.e., funding for LegalTech) and received no expense reimbursement or teaching fees from Recommind or LegalTech, as opposed to those companies that sponsored the panels on which I spoke. Fourth, there was no "pre-screening" of MSL's case or ediscovery protocol; the panel discussions only covered the subject of computer-assisted review in general.”

Perhaps it is no surprise that Judge Peck denied the recusal motion.  Now, the question is: will District Court Judge Andrew L. Carter, Jr. weigh in?

So, what do you think?  Should Judge Peck recuse himself in this case or does he provide an effective argument that recusal is unwarranted?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

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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About the Bloggers

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.

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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.

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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.

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