In nearly every facet of litigation, the issue of electronic discovery and how to manage its production and review is becoming an important issue. This is no different in family law cases. Increasingly, individuals, businesses, and financial institutions are producing discovery via PDFs, hyperlinks to shared databases, and hard drives or cloud access. The collection of data and record retention policy gives us access to millions of megabytes of data to download, sift through, and produce. The size of discovery productions in family law cases can at times rival or exceed that of more “traditional” litigation.
The pressure to handle these productions in a secure and ethical way has grown so great that my firm took the affirmative step some time ago to select my partner, Joshua Hummel, to chair our Electronic Discovery Practice Group. Josh’s group is tasked with planning and managing Fox Rothschild’s e-discovery compliance. Thanks to Josh and his staff, our firm is extremely capable of handling large scale e-discovery cases which might otherwise drown a litigation department.
The burden is not just on the attorneys and clients, either. The courts have become overrun with electronic discovery issues. It is with this in mind that Courts throughout Pennsylvania have begun to set up special discovery master programs to deal with e-discovery and complex discovery cases. As highlighted in an article in The Legal Intelligencer, many of the local Philadelphia courts, both state and federal, have adopted special masters. Montgomery County has had private attorneys working as discovery masters for some time with Wendy Rothstein from my office serving as a master, while in Berks County, J. Benjamin Nevius of our Exton (Chester Co.) office appointed as a discovery master last fall.
The ultimate intent of a special master program – like with any court reform – is to speed up the litigation process and to deal with discovery issues efficiently and effectively. As cases become increasingly based on e-discovery and the laws and rules regarding their production evolve, it will be up to the attorneys to help their clients manage the information and ensure a production compliant with the Discovery Rules is made.
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Aaron Weems is an attorney and editor of the Pennsylvania Family Law Blog. Aaron is a partner in Fox Rothschild’s Blue Bell, Pennsylvania office and practices throughout the greater Philadelphia region. Aaron can be reached at 610-397-7989; firstname.lastname@example.org, and on Twitter@AaronWeemsAtty.