W. George Wailes, a Business Trial Attorney and Director at Carr McClellan, in Burlingame, CA brings us this warning from the California Court of Appeal about what could happen to a third party that refuses to comply with a subpoena for electronically stored information.

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The California Court of Appeal recently provided rare guidance regarding a third party’s obligations to produce electronically stored information (ESI) in response to a subpoena.  In Vasquez v. California School of Culinary Arts, Inc. (Sallie Mae) (2014) 230 CA4th 35, the court defined subpoenaed parties’ obligations to extract existing data from computer systems and upheld an award of attorneys’ fees against the recalcitrant third party.  The court concluded that it is unreasonable for a third party to withhold ESI that exists in its computer systems on the basis that outputting the ESI entails creating a “new” spreadsheet.


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To determine whether or not a responding party has made a reasonable inquiry, you must determine where the responding party searched (what efforts were made), who did they talk to (did they make an inquiry to their legal department, human resources, customer relations, the employees in the chain of command, etc.), and what were the questions they asked.

More often then not I see responses to document requests being done (1) by the one with the highest bar number on the pleading (a.k.a. the newbie associate) and/or (2) by the attorney dictating at their desk instead of taking the time to sit down with the client, determining whom they should be talking to and knowing what questions to ask.

It is my opinion that the person who should be talking to the client and collecting the documents is the experienced senior attorney who has a relationship with the client and knows what questions to ask. If the senior attorney still chooses to delegate, then they need to be “hands on” and take responsibility whether or not a “diligent search” and “reasonable inquiry” were in fact made prior to the response and production being served.
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confused man.jpgHave you ever been around a bunch of lawyers from the Silicon Valley when they start talking about e-discovery?  They start using fancy e-discovery words like “meta data,” “native format” and “clawback agreements.”  Meanwhile your eyes are glazing over and you begin to clench your teeth because all you want  are the e-mails, letters and