Friday, June 29, 2012

An Intersection of Technology and Law

I recently visited the Administrative Office of the US Courts, and I happened across a rack of publications outside their cafeteria.  Those of you who know me are well aware of my voracious reading habits, so it comes as no surprise that I picked up a stack of booklets "for the flight home."  As it turns out, the Federal Judicial Center publishes a wide range of guides, booklets, etc. for attorneys and judges.  I am neither, but I found the materials well-written and (reasonably) accessible for one untrained in the legal arts.

Of particular interest was "Managing Discovery of Electronic Information: A Pocket Guide for Judges."  In the legal world, "discovery" is the process by which each party in a lawsuit can obtain evidence from the opposing side.  While much of the document is focused on the specifics of managing the process, there are several points of interest to the technology-inclined.  For instance, it seems that the Seventh Circuit has a standing order naming the following electronic data "not reasonably accessible" for purposes of discovery:

(1) deleted, slack, fragmented, or unallocated data on hard drives;
(2) random access memory (RAM) or other ephemeral data;
(3) on-line access data such as temporary internet files, history, cache, cookies, etc.;
(4) data in metadata fields that are frequently updated automatically, such as last-opened dates;
(5) backup data that is substantially duplicative of data that is more accessible elsewhere; and
(6) other forms of ESI whose preservation requires extraordinary affirmative measures that are not utilized in the ordinary course of business.

Sure, that makes sense from the bithead/geek perspective, but it's interesting to see how the courts are adapting to the electronic world.

You can grab your own PDF copy of this guide, or browse the entire FJC catalog.  I'm also reading "Immigration Law: A Primer" and "Federal Courts and the First Amendment: Pillars of the Constitution," so it seems that there's something in the FJC library for any political or current-events junkie.  Enjoy.