Sunday, December 6, 2015

New Federal Rules Amendments Now Effective

Last week, the long-awaited Federal Rules of Civil Procedure amendments became effective without changes to the proposed language by Congress. These rules importantly pertain to discovery of Electronically Stored Information or ESI-- a concept first introduced into the FRCP in 2006. The changes are essentially outlined as follows: Rule 1: The very first rule now specifies that both the court and the parties should interpret the rules to secure just, speedy and inexpensive outcomes. Rule 4: Plaintiffs now have only 90 days to serve a defendant after filing the complaint. Of course, courts may still extend the time for service upon a showing of good cause. Rule 16: Conferences set under this rule are now 90 days after service or 60 days after an appearance by a defendant, whichever is earlier. Rule 26: Scope of discovery substantially changes, requiring that discovery requests be proportional to the needs of the case, as opposed to just reasonably calculated to lead to the discovery of admissible evidence. Courts may now allocate discovery costs. Parties are to discuss preservation of evidence in their discovery plan and may serve document requests before the scheduling conference, having been considered served at the first Rule 26(f) conference. Rule 34: Responses to production requests now must state with specificity the grounds for objecting and whether any responsive materials are being withheld on the basis of that objection. Rule 37: The proverbial Safe Harbor relating to preservation obligations now lessens a court's power to impose sanctions for failure to preserve information, merely allowing ordering so-called curative measures based on a finding that a party is prejudiced from spoliation of evidence. More severe sanctions, such giving an adverse inference or entering default judgment, are permitted under proposed Rule 37(e)(2), but only after finding a party acted with intent to deprive another party of the information’s use in the litigation. Of course, despite a new emphasis on cooperation and proportionality, continuing E-Discovery skirmishes are expected. The use of confidential mediation for the resolution of such disputes by E-Neutrals is encouraged if the parties and counsel cannot settle the entire matter. E-Neutrals are mediators specializing in complex cases involving electronic evidence who can shape discovery plans, allocate costs and suggest and create efficiencies. The mediation process may focus a confidential conference solely on managing ESI, or the neutral may broaden the discussion, reminding parties of risks and perhaps dissuading them from merely using E-Discovery as a sword or shield. Mediation is an avenue that can present parties with significant cost-savings in ESI cases, if performed early enough in the litigation. Getting back to the merits is the goal of this process and these new discovery rules. Until there are orders applying these amendments and some new FRDs reported, it remains to be seen how they will impact litigation in the federal courts. See more on this development here-- and