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Discovering E-Discovery: Court Rules and Legal Ethics

What is Electronically Stored Information?

The term "electronically stored information" was introduced to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in the 2006 amendments.  The Committee Comments to Rule 34 state:

The wide variety of computer systems currently in use, and the rapidity of technological change, counsel against a limiting or precise definition of electronically stored information. Rule 34(a)(1) is expansive and includes any type of information that is stored electronically. A common example often sought in discovery is electronic communications, such as e-mail. The rule covers -- either as documents or as electronically stored information -- information “stored in any medium,” to encompass future developments in computer technology. Rule 34(a)(1) is intended to be broad enough to cover all current types of computer-based information, and flexible enough to encompass future changes and developments.
References elsewhere in the rules to “electronically stored information” should be understood to invoke this expansive approach. A companion change is made to Rule 33(d), making it explicit that parties choosing to respond to an interrogatory by permitting access to responsive records may do so by providing access to electronically stored information. More generally, the term used in Rule 34(a)(1) appears in a number of other amendments, such as those to Rules 26(a)(1)26(b)(2)26(b)(5)(B)26(f), 34(b), 37(f), and45. In each of these rules, electronically stored information has the same broad meaning it has under Rule 34(a)(1). References to “documents” appear in discovery rules that are not amended, including Rules 30(f)36(a), and 37(c)(2). These references should be interpreted to include electronically stored information as circumstances warrant.

Fed. R. Evid. Rule 101

Fed. R. Evid. Rule 502(b)

Rules of Professional Ethics

ABA Model Rule 3.4 Fairness to Opposing Party and Counsel

A lawyer shall not:

(a) unlawfully obstruct another party' s access to evidence or unlawfully alter, destroy or conceal a document or other material having potential evidentiary value. A lawyer shall not counsel or assist another person to do any such act;

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Florida Rules of Professional Conduct Rule 4-3.4 Fairness to Opposing Party and Counsel

A lawyer must not:

(a) unlawfully obstruct another party's access to evidence or otherwise unlawfully alter, destroy, or conceal a document or other material that the lawyer knows or reasonably should know is relevant to a pending or a reasonably foreseeable proceeding; nor counsel or assist another person to do any such act;

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Florida Bar Ethics Opinion on "Cleaning Up" Social Media Pages before Litigation

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