The Northern District of California recently issued new ESI guidelines in order to promote cooperation among all parties and reduce litigation costs, particularly in regards to eDiscovery. This new issuance of guidelines has several specific goals, and is potentially setting the tone for new, industry-wide standards.
Goals in Setting New Guidelines
The overarching ideal set forth by these new ESI guidelines calls for greater efficiency, increased cooperation, and proportionate eDiscovery:
“These Guidelines should guide the parties as they engage in electronic discovery. The purpose of these Guidelines is to encourage reasonable electronic discovery with the goal of limiting the cost, burden and time spent, while ensuring that information subject to discovery is preserved and produced to allow for fair adjudication of the merits. At all times, the discovery of ESI should be handled consistently with Fed. R. Civ. P. 1 to ‘secure the just, speedy, and inexpensive determination of every action and proceeding.’
“These Guidelines also promote, when ripe, the early resolution of disputes regarding the discovery of ESI without Court intervention.”
By reducing the amount of court intervention required during discovery disputes, litigation costs will be significantly lowered.
New Guidelines: An Overview
One of the primary standards in the new ESI guidelines involves proactive, mutual agreement regarding discovery procedures. Both parties are now required to address the question of preservation at the outset of the case, or even earlier. Discussions should also be continued throughout proceedings, to ensure all parties stay on target. If the parties are unable to resolve preservation disputes, then the issue must be immediately addressed with the court before further damage is done.
Additionally, both parties are encouraged to discuss a strategy for discovery in order to ensure that the most relevant information is delivered first, and also to discuss any potential difficulties with regard to preservation. The estimated scope and source of electronically stored information to be produced should also be discussed.
One of the most interesting portions of the new guidelines states that both parties should assign a designated “eDiscovery liaison,” particularly in the event of a discovery dispute. The liaison will be responsible, knowledgeable about procedure and limitations, as well as able to explain the ins and outs to those less experienced.
The ESI guidelines from California set, above all, an expectation for cooperation among all parties involved in litigation. With an emphasis on a more cooperative process, costs will be reduced and the entire litigation and discovery process will become far more efficient. If the measures taken in this district prove effective, they may well determine a new standard for other district courts across the nation.