As part of the e-discovery process, we use digital means to identify relevant information for use in a legal proceeding. The proceeding may be a large-scale medical malpractice lawsuit, a patent infringement case, a government investigation, or countless other legal actions. However, the skills and resources used in those types of matters can also be used in other areas.
Recently, our LitSmart team was asked to provide assistance on a pro bono matter involving a death row inmate seeking a successor petition for habeas corpus review. This matter was outside of the norm for us in that it did not involve the review of documents in preparation for making a document production or preparing for depositions. Rather, the goal was to review and organize 30 years’ worth of documents, recordings, court filings, handwritten notes, interviews, recordings, and voluminous prison and medical records, so that the current legal team and experts could efficiently review all relevant files.
Working with the attorneys handling the petition and the mitigation experts assisting them, we developed a customized review strategy that fit the specific needs of this project. Rather than reviewing documents for responsiveness, privilege or confidentiality, as we typically do, we tailored the coding layout with tags for the cast of characters/genogram, records log (including document title, date coded, document category, document description, name of institution or source), relevant proceedings, mitigation issues, successor claims, hot documents and various comment fields.
Identifying the Cast of Characters and Linking Them to Documents
One critical area of concern was tying documents to certain key individuals. Our e-discovery team came up with idea of using the linking tool in Relativity that we had used in data breach cases to link documents to individuals. For the cast of characters, as we reviewed documents, we inserted identifying information about the individuals mentioned in the documents (including the author since we had little to no metadata), including any aliases, their role, address and availability as a witness, and then linked the document to that individual. By using the linking function, we only needed to enter each individual and their descriptive information once, and then later analyses involving that individual could be linked with a simple click. With all of the documents categorized and linked, we are able to pull and review all documents associated with a specific character, for example, an investigating officer, including his reports, testimony and any other documents in which he is mentioned.
Unitization to Break Down Large Documents
Another area of concern was how to make sense of the very long documents that ended up being hundreds of documents scanned together with no sense of organization. Using the unitization tool in Relativity, we were able to break down the large pdfs into individual documents that allowed for much easier review and reference. Although the unitization process required manual input at the outset, it was tremendously effective as it meant that someone searching within the database would not have to scroll through a 1,000+ page pdf to locate a medical report from August 2005 or witness statement from 1998. Another key benefit of the unitization was that we could date and title the specific documents, so searches done by using date or name of document parameters were much more likely to catch all related materials.
Coding for Mitigation and Other Issues
As in typical review projects, we also coded for issues in this review, but the focus was on identifying specific mitigation and other issues the experts might want to use in their analysis, which required a much more thorough analysis. As a result, the legal team and experts are able to review all documents that have been identified as pertaining to a specific issue.
While our team is regularly involved with pro bono matters, this has been one of the more unique in that it required a completely customized workflow and coding layout to meet the specific needs of the case. We collaborated closely with the legal team, experts, project management team, technical experts and review teams to develop an innovative, efficient and effective protocol, and then tweaked it along the way as needed. This is just one of many examples where creative thinking has allowed us to take advantage of e-discovery tools and the experience of our E-Discovery team in a new way.
DISCLAIMER: The information contained in this blog is not intended as legal advice or as an opinion on specific facts. For more information about these issues, please contact the author(s) of this blog or your existing LitSmart contact. The invitation to contact the author is not to be construed as a solicitation for legal work. Any new attorney/client relationship will be confirmed in writing.