eDiscovery Trends: Congress Tackles Costs and Burdens of Discovery

By: Doug Austin

Sometimes, it does take an “act of Congress” to get things done.

On December 13, a key subcommittee of the House of Representatives will conduct hearings regarding “The Costs and Burdens of Civil Discovery”.  The 10-member House Constitution Subcommittee led by Chairman Trent Franks (R. AZ) will hear from various witnesses regarding these issues — the first such hearing since the rules were last updated in December 2006.

Since the new rules took effect five years ago, sanctions for discovery violations have increased exponentially. A 2010 study published in the Duke Law Journal (and reported in this blog one year ago today) found that there were more eDiscovery sanction cases (97) and more eDiscovery sanction awards (46) in 2009 than in any prior year – more than in all years prior to 2005 combined!!

The hearings were originally scheduled for earlier this month, on November 16.  According to the Lawyers for Civil Justice web site (which has not yet been updated to reflect the new hearings date), the hearings are expected to cover:

  • Scope and dimensions of the problems with the federal litigation system;
  • Costs and burdens faced by litigants particularly in the areas of preservation and discovery of information;
  • The impact of those costs and burdens on the American economy and the competitiveness of American companies;
  • The magnitude of the cost savings that would better be spent on improving products and services and creating jobs; and
  • Expressions of support for the Judicial Conference Committee on Practice and Procedure’s primary responsibility to develop rule based solutions that would help relieve some of those costs and burdens, increase efficiency, and improve access to the federal court system (more on their recent efforts and meeting here).

Scheduled witnesses include:

  • Rebecca Love Kourlis, former Colorado Supreme Court Justice, now Director of the Institute for the Advancement of the American Legal System;
  • William H.J. Hubbard, Assistant Professor of Law. University of Chicago Law School;
  • Thomas H. Hill, Senior Executive Counsel, Environmental Litigation & Legal Policy, General Electric Company; and
  • William P. Butterfield, Hausfeld LLP, plaintiff class action counsel.

According to the International Data Corporation (IDC), the amount of digital information created, captured and replicated in the world as of 2002 was 5 exabytes (5 billion gigabytes), rising to 988 exabytes by 2010 (nearly a 20,000% increase)!  As a result, expenses associated with storing, collecting, searching and producing ESI in discovery have skyrocketed and many say that changes to the Federal Rules are inevitable (though some say it is too soon to fully grasp the impact of the 2006 Federal Rules changes).  It will be interesting to see what comes out of the hearings next month.

So, what do you think?  Do you expect major changes to the rules regarding eDiscovery, and if so, what would you like to see changed, and why?  Please share any comments you might have or if you’d like to know more about a particular topic.

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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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