As Dec. 1 deadline looms, survey finds some ignorant of new requirements
Many companies don’t appear to be prepared for new federal rules slated to take effect Dec. 1 for electronic discovery of documents in civil cases, according to a survey conducted this month by Computerworld.
About 32% of 170 IT managers and staffers surveyed said they aren’t prepared to meet the requirements of the federal edict, 11% said they are somewhat prepared, while 42% said they don’t know the status of their companies’ preparation.
The new rules specify requirements for submitting electronic documents — likely including e-mail and perhaps instant messaging logs, depending on future case law — as evidence in civil litigation.
The rules were recommended in September 2005 by the Judicial Conference of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure.
The rules, described in a 300-plus-page document compiled by the conference, require that companies involved in civil litigation meet within 30 days of the filing to decide how to handle electronic data. The firms must agree on what records are shared and on which electronic format.
Past decisions by courts indicate that penalties for failure to comply could be harsh — and costly. Morgan Stanley was fined $1.5 billion in May 2005 when a judge ruled that it had failed to preserve electronic information.
James Brady, e-mail administrator in enterprise information services at Cedars-Sinai Health System in Los Angeles, said at Computerworld’s Storage Networking World conference in Orlando earlier this month that the rules are a “looming new problem.”
Brady said he spent six months lobbying Cedars-Sinai management to prepare to comply with the rules. The company is spending $5,000 per month copying tapes to make sure data is available.
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