On January 4, 2019, the California Court of Appeal, First Appellate District issued an opinion reminding us that under California law, tax returns are privileged and improper disclosure of them can even potentially rise to tortious invasion of privacy claims in overturning a demurrer as to that claim. Strawn v. Morris, Polich & Purdy, LLP, No. A150562, 2019 Cal. App. LEXIS 9 (Ct. App. Jan. 4, 2019).

Federal and state tax returns have been held to be privileged from disclosure under California law. Id at *13; Wilson v. Superior Court, 63 Cal. App. 3rd 825, 828 (1976); Webb v. Standard Oil Co., 49 Cal. 2nd 509, 512-513 (1957).  As highlighted by the opinion, the purpose of the privilege “is to encourage voluntary filing of tax returns and truthful reporting of income, and thus to facilitate tax collection.” Strawn at *13; Weingarten v. Superior Court, 102 Cal. App. 4th 268, 274 (2002); Webb at 513.  Continue Reading The Privileged Nature of Tax Returns in California

Seyfarth Synopsis: Please join us at our Chicago Willis Tower office on Thursday, December 6th, for breakfast along with a Seyfarth Legal Forum and Continuing Legal Education (CLE): 2018 Highlights and a Look Ahead to 2019.

About the Program

Providing our clients with a multidisciplinary overview of Legal Hot Button issues and Best Practice.  Featuring:

  • Biometric Information Privacy Act: What a long, strange year it’s been (and there’s more on the way!)
  • Legalize it: will Illinois go from medical to recreational marijuana and what would that mean to the real estate industry?
  • Affordable Care Act Update & Enforcement Activities, 401(k) Student Loan Repayment Arrangements, Socially Responsible Investments, and HIPAA Privacy & Security Audits
  • Mergers and Acquisitions: Current State of the Market and Post-Merger Integration Strategies
  • The “Cloud”…is in a building?: Data Centers are the newest, and maybe most important, type of real estate
  • Latest Developments in Pregnancy Accommodation (Illinois’ New Lactation Law and Nationwide Trends)
  • Litigation Hot Topics for 2019, including: Developments in trade secret and non-compete law; New laws affecting threshold issues such as forum selection and choice of law; Frontloaded discovery in federal court: Mandatory Initial Discovery Pilot Programs; Best practices for protecting the attorney-client privilege for in-house counsel
  • Welcome to the Future: It arrived yesterday – The intersection of Technology and Legal Services
  • Bots, bits and bytes… Artificial Intelligence and its leading role in recent legal projects

The program will feature a panel of Seyfarth Chicago subject matter experts — with an eye toward preparing for the developments in the coming year. Our overview will be targeted at highlighting issues for the General Counsel, Chief Information Officer, Chief Human Resource Officer, and other members of their teams.

The program will consist of an engaging ninety minute presentation with speakers from each of Seyfarth Chicago’s practice groups: Benefits, Corporate, Labor & Employment, Litigation, and Real Estate, as well as an exciting presentation on the use of technology in law. Then, we will offer 30 minute break-out sessions on hot topics warranting a deeper dive that companies are facing when looking at their legal compliance needs. The break-out sessions will address Privacy/Data Security, Managing in the #metoo Environment, and Blockchain/Cryptocurrency in business.

The program is on Thursday, December 6, 2018, at 8:00 a.m. – 8:30 a.m., for breakfast and registration, 8:30 a.m. – 10:00 a.m., for the panel presentations, and 10:00 a.m. – 10:30 a.m., for the breakout sessions.  Our offices are at 233 S. Wacker Drive, Suite 8000, in Chicago, IL.

While there is no cost to attend, registration is required and space is limited.  If you have any questions, please contact Fiona Carlon at fcarlon@seyfarth.com and reference this event.

Also, for those that need the credits, note that Seyfarth Shaw LLP is an approved provider of Illinois CLE credit. This seminar is approved for 1.5 hours of CLE credit CA, IL, NY, NJ and TX. CLE Credit is pending for GA and VA. HR professionals: please note that the HR Certification Institute accepts CLE credit toward recertification.

Seyfarth Shaw Partner Jordan Vick is on the panel for the “Playing by the Rules: Rule Changes Essential to Your Practice” session on Friday, November 16, at Georgetown Law’s 15th annual Advanced eDiscovery Institute in Washington, D.C.

Session topics include:

  • The 2015 Amendments to the FRCP and their actual impacts on practitioners, including unintended consequence
  • How the changes to Federal Rule of Evidence 902 will change how parties and the court can streamline authentication of ESI and potentially eliminate the need to call a witness at trial
  • What other changes the Rules Committee is discussing that may impact eDiscovery professionals
  • Pilot accelerated disclosures and their impacts in Illinois and Arizona, including the Mandatory Initial Discovery Pilot Program (“MIDP”) in the Northern District of Illinois

For more information, to see the full schedule, or to register, click here.

By now, most litigators should know that they have an affirmative duty to advise their clients about the duty to preserve potentially relevant documents.  Despite this, the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York recently denied an attorney defendant’s motion for summary judgment in part because the record was not clear as to whether the attorney defendant fulfilled its obligations with respect to the duty to preserve.

Industrial Quick Search, Inc., Michael Meiresonne, and Meiresonne & Associates (collectively “Plaintiffs”) sued their law firm Miller, Rosado & Alogis, LLP (“Defendants”) for malpractice.  Neil Miller and Chris Rosado, named partners of the firm, were also individually named as Defendants.  Defendants represented Plaintiffs in an underlying copyright infringement lawsuit in which default judgement was entered against Plaintiffs for misappropriating confidential information, plagiarizing copyrighted material, and for deliberately destroying potentially relevant documents. Continue Reading FAILURE TO ADEQUATELY ADVISE CLIENTS ON THEIR PRESERVATION OBLIGATIONS CAN BE CONSIDERED MALPRACTICE

Eleven years into the court order levied on the NSA to preserve backup tapes containing data about the NSA surveillance efforts, it’s come to light that the NSA failed to take adequate steps to ensure the data was not deleted.  Tapes containing data between 2001-2007 were deleted in 2009, 2011, and 2016, showing a systemic problem with proper data preservation.  For an agency that arguably “saves everything,” this news is rather comical.   The NSA’s deputy director of capabilities apologized for the failure in an October declaration, while another NSA official claimed the tapes were deleted during “housecleaning efforts aimed at making space for incoming information.”  Oddly enough, there was no explanation as to why live incoming information would have been put on backup tapes, adding to the mystery of the real cause of the tape destruction.  Thus far, there have been no discussions of sanctions and no requests on U.S. District Court Judge Jeffrey White to do so, at least yet.  The NSA isn’t in a great position, however, since in May 2014, an NSA official assured the court that the data on the tapes was safe.  The NSA now claims they are using “extraordinary” effort to try and recover the lost data.  However, anyone familiar with how tape rotation works should understand it’s quite likely that the tapes were overwritten with new data, effectively making the old data permanently unreadable.  The facts seem to point to a clear case of spoliation, and this time, it’s by one of the U.S. Government agencies that possessed data storage capabilities unsurpassed by any in the world.

Seyfarth Shaw Offers Data Privacy & Protection in the EU-U.S. Desktop Guide and On-Demand Webinar Series

On May 25, 2018, the EU General Data Protection Regulation (“GDPR”) will impose significant new obligations on all U.S. companies that handle personal data of any EU individual. U.S. companies can be fined up to €20 million or 4% of their global annual revenue for the most egregious violations. What does the future passage of GDPR mean for your business?

Seyfarth’s eDiscovery and Information Governance (eDIG) and Global Privacy and Security (GPS) practitioners are pleased to announce the release of Data Privacy & Protection in the EU-U.S.: What Companies Need to Know Now, which describes GDPR’s unique legal structure and remedies, and includes tips and strategies in light of the future passage of the GDPR.

How to Get Your Desktop Guide:

To request the Data Privacy & Protection in the EU-U.S. Desktop Guide as a pdf or hard copy, please click the button below:

GDPR Webinar Series

Throughout August and October of 2017, Seyfarth Shaw’s attorneys provided high-level discussions on risk assessment tools and remediation strategies to help companies prepare and reduce the cost of EU GDPR compliance. Each segment is one hour long and can be accessed on-demand at Seyfarth’s Carpe Datum Law Blog and The Global Privacy Watch Blog.

For updates and insight on GDPR, we invite you to click here to subscribe to Seyfarth’s Carpe Datum Law Blog and here to subscribe to Seyfarth’s The Global Privacy Watch Blog.

A trial court opinion involving allegations of spoliation of text messages on a mobile phone in the Southern District of New York has gotten attention because of the application of legal preservation standards.  Ronnie Van Zant, Inc. v. Pyle 2017 BL 3018, S.D.N.Y. 17 Civ. 3360 (RWS), 8/23/17) is an interesting read, not just because it involves odd characters, intrigue and drama surrounding one of the greatest Southern Rock bands of all time.  It also includes some instructive information about the application of the “practical ability” test for preservation, and the uphill battle for witnesses who lose credibility in testimony about what they did and did not do in a preservation effort.

Not long after the tragic plane crash that resulted in the deaths of Lynyrd Skynyrd lead singer Ronnie Van Zandt and his co-founding band member Steven Gaines,  Artimus Pyle, the former drummer, entered an agreement with the surviving heirs and other members of the band.  The agreement involved promises to never perform as “Lynyrd Skynyrd,” or to generally profit from the name of the band or the tragic deaths of Van Zant or Gaines without approval of the original parties to the agreement.  Their dramatically named “blood oath” agreement was more concretely memorialized in a Consent Order in 1988, following other litigation, which Pyle signed.

Over 20 years after the 1988 Consent Order, the drama that spawned the litigation began in a story that sounds like it came from a Netflix mini-series.  A film director named Jared Cohn, who worked under contract for an independent record label-turned movie producer, Cleopatra Records, Inc. (“Cleopatra”) reached out to Pyle about making a movie centered around the band and Pyle’s life in it.  Cohn was hired by the founder and co-owner of Cleopatra Records, Brian Perera, who is another interesting character in his own right. Pyle met and consulted with Perera on multiple occasions about ideas for a film generally depicting his life and the plane crash, which Pyle survived.  In their first conversations, Pyle did not mention the 1988 Consent Order, but the Order eventually was delivered to Cleopatra.  The copy of the Order was also eventually followed by a “cease and desist” letter and other correspondence from the Plaintiffs’ counsel.  All the while, Cleopatra’s movie production work continued. Continue Reading Spoliation and Southern Rock

Seyfarth eDiscovery Partner Richard Lutkus, along with William Lederer from Relativity and Patrick Zeller of Gilead Sciences, Inc., will host a panel discussion titled “Brave New Words: Cloud Data Collection, Processing, and Hosting” at this year’s RelativityFest on October 24, 2017.

This session will provide attendees with information about new data collection methods with tools like Heureka and Harvester, along with considerations for working with RelativityOne, data privacy, and security. Additionally, best practices surrounding the General Data Privacy Regulation (GDPR), international data transfer with EU entities, secure management of hosting (wiping cloud data) and SSD wiping technologies will be discussed.

RelativityFest is an annual conference designed to educate and connect the e-discovery community. The three-day festival in Chicago will feature panel discussions, hands-on labs, and breakout sessions to discuss best practices. For more information, or to register to attend, please visit https://relativityfest.com/.

Seyfarth eDiscovery attorneys Jason Priebe and Natalya Northrip will present “A Practical Roadmap for EU Data Protection and Cross-Border Discovery” at this year’s RelativityFest on October 24, 2017.

This presentation will provide attendees with practical tips for leveraging the new Sedona International Principles to help in your compliance with stringent GDPR requirements, and in seeking immediate help under the EU-U.S. Privacy Shield.

RelativityFest is an annual conference designed to educate and connect the eDiscovery community. The three-day festival will feature panel discussions, hands-on labs, and breakout sessions to discuss best practices for eDiscovery, Information Governance, and Data Privacy. For more information, or to register to attend, please visit https://relativityfest.com/.

Court Denies Plaintiff’s Motion to Compel

In Mirmina v. Genpact LLC, 2017 BL 260425, D. Conn., Civil No. 3:16CV00614 (AWT), the Court denied Plaintiff’s motion to compel additional responsive electronic communications despite the fact that an individual directly involved in the underlying claims of the suit “self-identified” potentially responsive emails.  The Court based its decision a number of important  factors:

  • Defendant Genpact’s in-house counsel produced an affidavit outlining the process used to preserve and search potentially responsive emails;
  • Genpact’s in-house counsel supervised the preservation and search process;
  • Plaintiff Mirmina was unable to identify any authority stating that self-identification was improper;
  • Mirmina was also unable to identify any emails that Genpact had not produced and was merely speculating that Genpact’s email production was deficient.

Case Background

Scott Mirmina, a former Genpact recruitment manager, sued his previous employer, a professional services firm, alleging age, race, and gender discrimination.

In May of 2017, Plaintiff Mirmina filed a Motion to Compel additional responses to specific discovery requests.  This motion was denied in June 2017, except for materials described in Genpact’s initial disclosures that had not yet been produced.

In July of 2017, Mirmina filed another Motion to Compel asking the court to force Genpact to produce additional responsive emails.  Mirmina stated that he was “concerned” that Genpact had withheld responsive emails and that Genpact’s search for responsive emails was inadequate because an employee directly involved with the underlying issues in the litigation had self-identified potentially responsive emails.

The Court denied Mirmina’s Motion to Compel after Genpact’s counsel described the process used to identify responsive emails.  Specifically, Genpact’s in-house counsel averred that they:

  • issued a timely and detailed litigation hold to potential ESI custodians;
  • provided instructions to the custodians on how to search for potentially responsive emails;
  • provided custodians with specific search parameters to identify potentially responsive emails;
  • explained importance of thoroughly searching for potentially responsive emails; and
  • provided guidance to custodians when they had questions about the search process.

The Court also determined that Mirmina’s allegations that responsive emails had not been produced was based on mere speculation.  The court held that this speculation was insufficient to require Genpact to conduct additional searches for potentially responsive emails.

Practical Takeaways

Self-identification of potentially responsive documents by custodians is not usually recommended.  There are obvious risks involved, including custodians not wanting to produce documents that could be damaging for themselves or their employer.  Further, there are risks involved in having custodians determine what may or may not be responsive to document requests. However, the Court’s decision in this matter describes a scenario in which self -identification of emails may be defensible.

The Court indicated that the primary driver for denying Mirmina’s Motion to Compel was the affidavit provided by Genpact’s in-house counsel detailing Defendant’s document identification and preservation process.  The most important practical takeaway from the Court’s ruling was that self-identification can be defensible, so long as a rigorous process is followed and documented.  This process includes drafting a timely and detailed litigation hold notice, providing instruction to custodians on how to identify potentially relevant documents, and answering questions that custodians may have throughout the process.

Finally, the Court made clear that purely “speculating” that an opposing party’s production is deficient is not enough to compel additional searches or document productions.  In order to compel an additional search for communications, a moving party must provide evidence to support its claim of a deficient production.