"The authenticity of a found document:

Hmm, interesting problem that can torpedo a case. Does your firm's IT department employ effective document management policies?

"What seems to be the problem? Your IT organization has put in place proper procedures [PDF] for deleting electronic documents, including e-mails. So it is no surprise when as a result of litigation your e-discovery process cannot turn up a particular document. However, to everyone's surprise the document turns up on your CEO's laptop. This is a very possible scenario. You must know whether the document is admissible as evidence in a civil lawsuit.

"What do you need to know? Evidence is admitted in court only if it can be shown that the evidence is authentic. Authentic data must follow a chain-of-custody. So how does this work with a lost document that has now been found?"

Find more key questions for IT in the balance of this article from Storage

Author David Hill is the founder and principal at the Mesabi Group...an industry analyst firm that focuses on networked storage and storage management.


Houston's State-of-the-Art Electronic Data Discovery Lab

Ths news sounds wonderful doesn't it? I'd sure like to take a tour!

"UHY Advisors today announced the opening of its newly constructed electronic data discovery lab, a state-of-the-art facility for processing large volumes of electronic evidence and conducting sophisticated computer forensics investigations, at a secure location in downtown Houston.

"The lab is unique for its flexibility to be used for both high-volume electronic data discovery -- including data processing, culling with search terms, de-duplication and file conversion -- and complex digital forensics activities. The facility is  [PDF] secured with biometric locks and the evidence storage 'vault' is also secured with advanced motion detectors."


"Making Forensics Elementary at Your Firm"

Here's another career choice -- computer-forensics examinaton -- in which a paralegal background can be most helpful:

[snip]

"Attorney and e-discovery expert Tom O'Connor, with the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Legal Electronic Document Institute, says that judges in the cases he consults on are ordering e-discovery and computer-forensics investigation much more frequently than ever before. O'Connor is seeing the effect of this change on all kinds of cases.

[snip]

"For civil domestic cases such as divorce proceedings, there's an enormous amount of forensics investigation occurring. O'Connor says that PCs are being examined to prove or refute claims by one spouse that the other has been engaging in extramarital affairs or hiding financial assets. Forensics experts are trained to search for e-mail exchanges in which the parties are setting dates and carrying on other communications. They can also:

  • Uncover questionable online purchases;
  • Track credit-card transactions; and
  • Detect whether credit cards unknown to one spouse are being used to make illicit purchases.

"Stephanie Simons Neal, litigation-support [PDF] project manager in the New York office of Weil Gotshal & Manges, attests to the burgeoning need for forensics expertise at her firm. Simons Neal's caseload consists of a number of patent cases, along with other corporate-litigation matters.

"'We've definitely noticed an increase in request for forensics, as well as requests for review and production of documents in native form as opposed to paper,' she says, adding that while the requests continue to come in, the expertise to meet those requests is lacking and there is a growing 'disconnect' between what cases actually require and what the law firms are equipped to provide.

[snip]

"Trial attorney and certified computer forensic examiner Craig Ball of Austin, TX, has seen a marked increase in the use of forensically qualified imaging to preserve data prior to litigation rather than in reaction to it."

NOTE: This article also says: "Computer forensics is still a young science that's being shaped by the electronic-discovery rules as they continue to evolve and change. This expanding industry simultaneously presents huge opportunities and great responsibility."


"Still Guilty After All These Years"

Very interesting op-ed in the NY Times from author & lawyer Scott Turow, all about how advances in forensic technology may also impact statutes of limitations. He raises some intriguing questions about changes in law & the passage of time:

"THIS Friday a 33-year-old man named Juan Luna will go on trial here for the murder of seven people in a Brown’s Chicken restaurant in Palatine, Ill., on Jan. 8, 1993. The investigation of the murders, in which the victims’ bloody corpses were discovered in the restaurant freezer, languished for more than a decade until Mr. Luna’s DNA was identified in the saliva found on a chicken bone at the crime scene.

[snip]

"Greater accuracy in the truth-finding process is a laudable development. But I worry that the growing capacity of today’s forensics to reach farther and farther into the past seems likely to undermine the law’s time-ingrained notions, embodied in statutes of limitations, about how long people should be liable to criminal prosecution. As the Brown’s Chicken case illustrates, DNA analysts [PDF] can now examine scant decades-old specimens and produce results of near-certainty in identifying suspects. Nor are the innovations in forensic science limited to the testing of human DNA. Forensic botany can often establish whether plant fragments found on a victim or defendant have a unique origin. Fire-scene investigation has advanced because of new extraction techniques and instrumentation. Fingerprint identification has been revolutionized both by cryogenic processes for lifting latent prints and computer imaging that allows faster and more reliable identification of partial prints. Forensic pathology, ballistics and forensic anthropology have also moved ahead rapidly.

[snip]

"The law is a fluid thing, and there is an inherent unfairness in initiating a prosecution decades later when legal rules and community expectations have changed. If a jury — or the police and prosecutors — now strongly disapprove of conduct to which they would have once turned a blind eye, it’s natural to wonder whether the defendant would have acted the same way in today’s ethical climate.

"Statutes of limitations have also traditionally embodied a moral judgment that if a person has lived blamelessly for a significant time, he should not have the anxiety of potential prosecution hanging over him forever. Violent crimes are usually the province of young men, and it is often the case that one of the principal purposes of the criminal justice system — keeping the criminally inclined off the streets — vanishes with time."