December 21, 2010

Judge Richard A. Kramer comments on the California Electronic Discovery Act, one year later

by Cary J. Calderone

This blog covered the California Electronic Discovery Act (CEDA) when it was signed into law, more than a year ago. Now that a fair amount of time has passed, we may wonder whether it has helped, hurt, or had any effect at all on discovery proceedings and litigation in California state courts? To find the answer, I went to the Honorable Richard A. Kramer to ask his opinion.  Judge Kramer's department handles Complex Litigation for the Superior Court and he is nationally known for his rulings on same-sex marriage. However, I selected him for this piece because I had the pleasure of listening to Judge Kramer speak about electronic discovery and in particular, his practice of requiring litigants in his courtroom to agree to a “bring your geek to court day.” He is one of the most knowledgeable judges on the current issues surrounding electronic discovery and this makes him one of the very best sources for follow-up comments on the CEDA. After 3 weeks of pleasant, yet persistent pestering, the Judge was able to speak with me on Friday December 17. Here is the interview:

: More than a year has passed since CEDA was enacted and signed into law. Have you noticed any changes? Can you say if attorneys and litigants are better or worst prepared to handle electronic discovery?
Judge Kramer: No difference. The attorneys who were familiar with the discovery of electronically stored information before, still are. And, those who did not understand it, still don't.

Calderone: Has the general understanding of what is necessary to comply improved?
Judge Kramer: The CEDA clarified a few concepts and some of the issues with electronic discovery. The law really did not change but those attorneys who were not very techno-savvy have now at least heard of the concepts and definitions. So perhaps there are fewer who look like a deer in the headlights when we discuss these matters in Court.

Calderone: Has anything with electronic discovery gone from bad to worse? Are there more disputes and accusations of inadequate production?
Judge Kramer: No difference under CEDA. The Court already had and has broad powers and discretion around discovery matters to protect the parties. If I could give one bit of advice to attorneys it would be, "if you don't know, fess up!" Do not make up unsubstantiated claims of cost or not being able to access the data.

Calderone: Can you comment on whether certain subject matters or types of litigation have had more or fewer issues with electronic discovery?
Judge Kramer: No difference.

Calderone: Where would you like to see continued improvement? Could the Act be clarified? Are lawyers still lacking in their understanding in some specific areas?
Judge Kramer: The CEDA is fine. It did not really change any law, just clarified some of the issues.

Calderone: Do you have any other particular hopes for the continued evolution of electronic discovery in litigation?
Judge Kramer: I would like to see attorneys subscribe to the Sedona Cooperation Proclamation, be more cooperative, and be more like a geek. A geek is the person who, when asked to fix your computer, he starts doing it. He is not always able to fix the problem completely, or, give you exactly what you ask, but the geek gets started and makes progress. Attorneys need to be more willing to indicate what they can do and can provide, instead of just claiming “it can't be done” or "it will cost a million dollars!" Eventually a smart geek on one side or the other will probably prove the attorney wrong.

In closing, let me express my great appreciation, respect, and gratitude to Judge Kramer for taking time from his busy schedule to speak with the blog simply to help us better understand the CEDA and the state of electronic discovery in California today. In return, we hope that a few more of those attorneys and litigants who enter his, and other courtrooms in the state, will be a little better prepared for electronic discovery.

No comments: