Wednesday, May 22, 2019
Seth Endo has published Discovery Hydraulics, 52 UC Davis L. Rev. 1317 (2019). Here’s the abstract:
Discovery reforms invariably have unexpected consequences. But the growth of electronically stored information has led to one constant — an ever-increasing pressure on the finite resources of both the judiciary and litigants. Courts, through their discovery rules, direct where that pressure will be channeled. However, like any force in a closed system, it must be sent somewhere, ultimately requiring difficult tradeoffs amongst the three mainstay procedural justice norms of accuracy, efficiency, and participation. Discovery Hydraulics explores this phenomenon, cataloging how recently proposed or implemented document discovery reforms affect these norms.
In creating the first purposive taxonomy of recent document discovery reforms, Discovery Hydraulics makes three main contributions to the literature by: (1) articulating an understanding of how the treatment of costs and information volume correspond to the accuracy, efficiency, and participation norms; (2) systematically collecting and organizing the plethora of suggestions that have been offered to address the burdens associated with the growth of electronically stored information; and (3) laying out the normative and instrumental benefits of discovery reforms that focus on reducing costs without losing information. Last, but not least, a significant practical benefit is that this analytical approach should provide courts with the tools needed to assess, ex ante, the potential normative effects of changes to document discovery processes.
Wednesday, December 19, 2018
Diego Zambrano has published Judicial Mistakes in Discovery, 113 Nw. U. L. Rev. 197 (2018). Here’s the abstract:
A recent wave of scholarship argues that judges often fail to comply with binding rules or precedent and sometimes apply overturned laws. Scholars have hypothesized that the cause of this “judicial noncompliance” may be flawed litigant briefing that introduces mistakes into judicial decisions—an idea this Essay calls the “Litigant Hypothesis.” The Essay presents a preliminary study aimed at exploring ways of testing the validity of the Litigant Hypothesis. Employing an empirical analysis that exploits recent amendments to Federal Discovery Rule 26, this Essay finds that the strongest predictor of noncompliance in a dataset of discovery decisions is indeed faulty briefs. This study concludes that the Litigant Hypothesis of noncompliance may have explanatory value.
Friday, November 16, 2018
SCOTUS grants cert to decide the scope of discovery in case challenging 2020 census question about citizenship status
The petition for a writ of mandamus is treated as a petition for a writ of certiorari. The petition for certiorari is granted. Petitioners' brief on the merits is to be filed on or before Monday, December 17, 2018. Respondents' brief on the merits is to be filed on or before Thursday, January 17, 2019. The reply brief is to be filed on or before Monday, February 4, 2019. The case is set for oral argument on Tuesday, February 19, 2019.
The question presented is:
Whether, in an action seeking to set aside agency action under the Administrative Procedure Act, 5 U.S.C. 701 et seq., a district court may order discovery outside the administrative record to probe the mental processes of the agency decisionmaker—including by compelling the testimony of high-ranking Executive Branch officials—when there is no evidence that the decisionmaker disbelieved the objective reasons in the administrative record, irreversibly prejudged the issue, or acted on a legally forbidden basis.
Tuesday, August 28, 2018
Below is the announcement for the William P. Butterfield Award for Excellence in eDiscovery Writing:
The Sedona Conference and Hausfeld, LLP are sponsoring the William P. Butterfield Award for Excellence in eDiscovery Writing. The Award will be presented annually to the winner of a writing competition held to recognize and incentivize innovative legal thinking and technical solutions that advance the field of eDiscovery and promote cooperation, collaboration and efficiency in eDiscovery. The winner of the competition will be recognized in a news release announcing the Award, receive a $10,000 cash award from Hausfeld LLP and, at the option of the winner and The Sedona Conference, have his or her winning paper published in The Sedona Conference Journal.
For more information about the Award and details about how to enter the writing competition, please see https://www.hausfeld.com/williampbutterfieldaward.
The 2018 deadline for submissions is October 1, 2018. The winner will be announced before 2018 year's end. For 2019 and the years following, the submission deadline will be March 1 of each year, with the winner to be announced on or before May 1 of each year.
Thursday, August 16, 2018
This week the Judicial Conference Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure (aka the Standing Committee) approved the publication of a proposed amendment to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(6). The amendment would impose a requirement to “confer in good faith about the number and description of the matters for examination and the identity of each person the organization will designate to testify.”
You can find the proposed FRCP 30(b)(6) amendment – along with proposed amendments to the Appellate, Bankruptcy, and Evidence Rules – here.
The period to submit written comments on the proposed amendments runs until February 15, 2019.
You can find more information about submitting written comments and presenting testimony at public hearings here.
Thursday, May 31, 2018
Bob Klonoff has posted on SSRN a draft of his article, Application of the New “Proportionality” Discovery Rule in Class Actions: Much Ado About Nothing, which is forthcoming the Vanderbilt Law Review. Here’s the abstract:
The “proportionality” amendment to the federal discovery rules, which went into effect on December 1, 2015, was greeted with panic by the plaintiffs’ bar (and the academy) and euphoria by the defense bar. Both sides predicted that the impact would be profound and immediate. Some predicted that the impact would be especially great in class actions. To examine whether the predictions have been correct, the author has reviewed every published judicial opinion (approximately 135) between December 1, 2015, and April 30, 2018, that applies the new proportionality rule in the class action context. The analysis is necessarily anecdotal rather than empirical. Nonetheless, the results are striking. At bottom, the proportionality amendment has had little impact, at least in the class action context. Courts have generally indicated that the new rule does not fundamentally change the governing principles. In ruling on discovery disputes in class actions, courts continue to conduct nuanced, highly fact-specific analyses, with results that differ little from pre-amendment case law. The courts are especially liberal in allowing discovery that is relevant to class certification. In short, the class action discovery decisions thus far do not support the predictions that the proportionality rule would lead to a sea change.
Tuesday, April 17, 2018
Agnieszka McPeak (Toledo Law) has published an article entitled Disappearing Data at 2018 Wis. L.R. 17, which considers the discovery implications of ephemeral social media platforms like Snapchat. Here's the abstract:
“Ephemeral” applications like Snapchat facilitate social interaction in a format that mimics the impermanence of face-to-face conversations. In the age of “big data” and the growing privacy concerns it raises, platforms offering ephemeral social media tools are meeting a market demand for smaller digital footprints. Additionally, these platforms are responding to regulatory pressure to embrace “privacy by design,” the idea that new technology should be built with privacy as a goal from the ground up. Indeed, ephemeral platforms, though imperfect in their impermanence, mark a positive shift in the direction of data minimization.
But the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure provide for broad discovery of electronically stored information. And they mandate, along with other rules, preservation of potentially relevant data in anticipation of litigation. Preservation duties for this new brand of ephemeral data, however, have not been clearly defined.
This article urges for a fair and balanced approach to defining preservation duties for disappearing data. While ephemeral content may be discoverable, onerous preservation duties are unwarranted and will negatively impact both corporate and individual litigants alike. For corporate interests, overly broad preservation duties lead to risk-averse companies stockpiling all things digital, often at great cost. For individuals, the law should recognize that mobile technology has become ubiquitous and social media is a key tool for personal expression, free speech, and social interaction. But individuals also have become the unwitting stewards of vast amounts of data, some of which is dynamic and ever-changing. Deletion or revision of personal information is a normal occurrence on social media platforms — indeed, some are a product of privacy by design. Overly broad preservation duties for individual litigants thus impose unwarranted burdens and are out of step with technological change.
Thursday, April 5, 2018
Yesterday’s story in the National Law Journal begins: “All litigation funding arrangements in Wisconsin state courts will have to be disclosed in civil cases under a new measure signed into law by the state’s governor Tuesday.”
Here’s the text of the bill.
Tuesday, January 9, 2018
Thursday, August 24, 2017
On October 13, 2017, the Vanderbilt Law Review will be hosting a symposium entitled The Future of Discovery. From the announcement:
The Vanderbilt Law Review and Professor Brian Fitzpatrick are pleased to announce the 2017 Vanderbilt Law Review Symposium: The Future of Discovery. This year’s Symposium will take place on Friday, October 13, 2017 at Vanderbilt Law School. The Symposium will feature three panels of scholars discussing their recent work in the area of e-discovery, a keynote address delivered by U.S. District Judge Paul W. Grimm, and a round-table discussion with sitting federal judges to consider advances in and future challenges of discovery. The Symposium is open to practicing attorneys, and CLE credit will be available.
Panelists presenting at the Symposium will include:
Sergio J. Campos (University of Miami School of Law)
E. Donald Elliot (Yale Law School)
Jessica Erickson (University of Richmond School of Law)
Brian T. Fitzpatrick (Vanderbilt University Law School)
Robert Klonoff (Lewis & Clark Law School)
Alexandra D. Lahav (University of Connecticut School of Law)
Johnathan R. Nash (Emory University School of Law)
Martin H. Redish (Northwestern University School of Law)
David Rosenberg (Harvard Law School)
Linda Sandstorm Simard (Suffolk University Law School)
Joanna M. Shepherd (Emory University School of Law)
Paul Stancil (Brigham Young University Law School)
Jay Tidmarsh (University of Notre Dame Law School)
Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Today the Supreme Court issued a unanimous decision in Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. v. Haeger. Justice Kagan’s opinion begins:
In this case, we consider a federal court’s inherent authority to sanction a litigant for bad-faith conduct by ordering it to pay the other side’s legal fees. We hold that such an order is limited to the fees the innocent party incurred solely because of the misconduct—or put another way, to the fees that party would not have incurred but for the bad faith. A district court has broad discretion to calculate fee awards under that standard. But because the court here granted legal fees beyond those resulting from the litigation misconduct, its award cannot stand.
Justice Gorsuch took no part in the decision.
Tuesday, April 4, 2017
Yesterday the Supreme Court issued its decision in McLean Co. v. EEOC, which begins:
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 permits the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to issue a subpoena to obtain evidence from an employer that is relevant to a pending investigation. The statute authorizes a district court to issue an order enforcing such a subpoena. The question presented here is whether a court of appeals should review a district court’s decision to enforce or quash an EEOC subpoena de novo or for abuse of discretion. This decision should be reviewed for abuse of discretion.
That first paragraph pretty much says it all, but Justice Sotomayor’s decision also contains a nice summary of the Court’s general approach for identifying the proper standard of review where the relevant statutes do not provide one.
Monday, March 20, 2017
The Akron Law Review is publishing a symposium issue entitled Discovery and the Impact of the December 2015 Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. From the announcement:
The Akron Law Review invites papers regarding the application and impact of the 2015 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, including articles relating to proportionality and the scope of discovery; protective orders regarding cost-shifting in discovery; sanctions for failing to preserve electronically stored information; measures to promote just, speedy, and inexpensive litigation; court application of the amended discovery rules; and the impact of the rule amendment process on rule content. This symposium issue will be published in the Akron Law Review in the 2017-2018 Academic Year.
Details in the full announcement below...
Tuesday, March 14, 2017
A very interesting ruling came down today from District Judge Mark Bennett of the Northern District of Iowa. From the opening paragraph:
This ruling involves one of the least favorite tasks of federal trial and appellate judges—determining whether counsel and/or the parties should be sanctioned for discovery abuses. This case squarely presents the issue of why excellent, thoughtful, highly professional, and exceptionally civil and courteous lawyers are addicted to “boilerplate” discovery objections.
Judge Bennett finds that the parties’ objections violated several discovery rules, including Rule 26(b)(5)’s provisions on asserting privileges and Rules 33 and 34’s requirements that objections to interrogatories and requests for production be stated “with specificity.” He concludes (footnotes omitted):
To address the serious problem of “boilerplate” discovery objections, my new Supplemental Trial Management Order advises the lawyers for the parties that “in conducting discovery, form or boilerplate objections shall not be used and, if used, may subject the party and/or its counsel to sanctions. Objections must be specific and state an adequate individualized basis.” The Order also imposes an “affirmative duty to notify the court of alleged discovery abuse” and warns of the possible sanctions for obstructionist discovery conduct.
I recall the words of a former U.S. Attorney General in a different context: “Each time a [person] stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, [they] send[ ] forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” I pledge to do my part— enough of the warning shots across the bow.
The conduct identified in the Show Cause Order does not warrant sanctions, notwithstanding that the conduct was contrary to the requirements for discovery responses in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. NO MORE WARNINGS. IN THE FUTURE, USING “BOILERPLATE” OBJECTIONS TO DISCOVERY IN ANY CASE BEFORE ME PLACES COUNSEL AND THEIR CLIENTS AT RISK FOR SUBSTANTIAL SANCTIONS.
The case is Liguria Foods v. Griffith Laboratories.
Monday, December 19, 2016
Now on the Courts Law section of JOTWELL is Jay Tidmarsh’s essay, Discovery Costs and Default Rules. Jay reviews a recent paper by Brian Fitzpatrick and Cameron Norris, One-Way Fee Shifting After Summary Judgment.
Thursday, October 20, 2016
Brian Fitzpatrick and Cameron Norris have posted on SSRN a draft of their article, One-Way Fee Shifting after Summary Judgment. Here’s the abstract:
New, defendant-friendly discovery amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure took effect on December 1, 2015. Although the discovery amendments created more controversy than perhaps anything the rulemakers have done in recent memory, defense-side advocates are pressing a still more ambitious proposal: to outright flip who pays for discovery, from the party who produces the discovery to the party who requests it. We share the view of most commentators that so-called "requester pays" is too extreme. But we also think the current regime — so called "producer pays" — errs too far in the other direction (even after the new amendments to the rules). In this article, we rely on economic analysis to offer a middle way: to ask plaintiffs to pay the cost of responding to their discovery requests only if they do not find anything trial worthy in those requests and lose their cases on summary judgment. Although Congress certainly has the power to implement our proposal, we believe that the rulemakers may be able to do so on their own as well.
Tuesday, October 11, 2016
My article on the 2015 amendments to the FRCPs is now in print. It’s The End of an Era? Federal Civil Procedure After the 2015 Amendments, 66 Emory L.J. 1 (2016). Here’s the abstract:
The recent amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were the most controversial in decades. The biggest criticisms concerned pleading standards and access to discovery. Many feared that the amendments would undermine the simplified, merits-driven approach that the original drafters of the Federal Rules envisioned and would weaken access to justice and the enforcement of substantive rights and obligations.
This Article argues that the amendments that came into effect on December 1, 2015, do not mandate a more restrictive approach to pleading or discovery. Although there was legitimate cause for alarm given the advisory committee’s earlier proposals and supporting documents, the final amendments — in light of their text, structure, and accompanying advisory committee notes — should be interpreted to preserve notice pleading and a robust discovery process. The more significant lesson of the 2015 amendments, therefore, may be to confirm the view that the amendment mechanism of the Rules Enabling Act is unlikely to generate consequential changes to the Federal Rules (for better or for worse). The process leading to the 2015 amendments was teed up almost perfectly for opponents of meaningful access and enforcement to make real, detrimental changes to federal pleading and discovery standards. Yet the final amendments ultimately did not do so.
Accordingly, the key battleground following the 2015 amendments will be in the federal courts themselves, as judges are called upon to interpret and apply the rules in particular cases. No doubt aware of this fact, Chief Justice Roberts has taken various steps to spin the recent amendments as making more significant changes than they actually do. These post-amendment moves are not legally authoritative and do not modify the law of civil procedure. But the Chief Justice and his allies may win the day if they are able to dominate the gestalt surrounding the 2015 amendments in a way that persuades lower court judges to take a more restrictive approach. Properly interpreted, the 2015 amendments do not support the Chief’s narrative. Recognizing this will be crucial for ensuring access and enforcement going forward.
Wednesday, September 7, 2016
Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit issued its decision in In re: Missouri Department of Corrections. The case involves a subpoena that two Mississippi death row inmates served on the Missouri Department of Corrections (MDOC) seeking discovery relating to Missouri’s use of pentobarbital in lethal injections, including the identities of its pentobarbital suppliers. The inmates are challenging Mississippi’s execution method (which does not use pentobarbital) as violating the Eighth Amendment.
MDOC moved to quash the subpoena, but the district court in Missouri denied the motion and ordered MDOC to produce most of the information sought by the inmates. The Eighth Circuit has now denied MDOC’s request for a writ of mandamus challenging that order. It’s a short six-page opinion, but it covers a lot of ground—from appellate mandamus, to whether a subpoena creates an undue burden under FRCP 45(d)(3)(A)(iv), to sovereign immunity, to the state secrets privilege.
Friday, August 19, 2016
Today U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan issued an opinion in Judicial Watch v. U.S. Department of State, a FOIA case seeking employment records relating to Huma Abedin, long-time aide to Hillary Clinton. In connection with the plaintiff’s request for discovery under FRCP 56(d), the court ordered that the plaintiff may serve interrogatories on Hillary Clinton but could not depose her.
From the opinion:
The Court directs Judicial Watch to propound questions that are relevant to Secretary Clinton’s unique first-hand knowledge of the creation and operation of clintonemail.com for State Department business, as well as the State Department’s approach and practice for processing FOIA requests that potentially implicated former Secretary Clinton’s and Ms. Abedin’s emails and State’s processing of the FOIA request that is the subject of this action.
Friday, July 15, 2016
Richard Briles Moriarty, Assistant Attorney General, State of Wisconsin, has published in the American Journal of Trial Advocacy, 39 Am. J. Trial Advoc. 227 (2015) (available on Westlaw), his article, And Now for Something Completely Different: Are the Federal Civil Discovery Rules Moving Forward into A New Age or Shifting Backward into A "Dark" Age?
This Article examines the 2015 Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The author explains the purposes behind the Rules historically, identifies major changes made in 2015, and analyzes why the 2015 Rule changes are fundamentally unacceptable. The author concludes by discussing the troublesome committee appointment process that underlies the 2015 changes and proposing an appointment process consistent with the check-and-balance views of the Founders, which, among other benefits, could ultimately restore fair and useful discovery rules to the civil litigation system.