The mission of the United Sates District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania
is to preserve and enhance the rule of law while providing an impartial and accessible forum for the just, timely and economical resolution of legal proceedings within the court’s jurisdiction, so as to protect individual rights and liberties, promote public trust and confidence in the judicial system, and to maintain judicial independence. One critical challenge to achieving this mission is posed by the need to effectively address issues presented by the preservation, collection and production of relevant Electronically Stored Information (“ESI”) during the litigation process.
In 2006, the discovery rules in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were revised. Although the revised Rules provide guidance, issues and disputes related to the preservation, collection and production of ESI have continued to confront litigants and the Court, sometimes threatening to overshadow the substantive issues in dispute. Based on this experience, this Court determined that litigants in this District may benefit from the appointment of Electronic Discovery Special Masters (“EDSMs”) in appropriate cases, in order to assist in addressing ESI issues that may arise during the litigation. Accordingly, on November 16, 2010, the Board of Judges approved the establishment of a list of qualified attorneys to serve as EDSMs.
Chaired by Judge Joy Flowers Conti, the Court’s Alternate Dispute Resolution Implementation Committee (“ADR Committee”) was charged with developing criteria for assessing the qualifications of applicants seeking to be included on the Court’s approved EDSM list. A subcommittee, led by Judge Nora Barry Fischer, and including Court IT personnel and local practitioners with electronic discovery experience, provided recommendations to the ADR Committee, ultimately resulting in approved application and selection criteria. The final set of criteria approved by the ADR Committee includes active bar admission; demonstrated litigation experience, particularly with electronic discovery; demonstrated training and experience with computers and technology; and mediation training and experience.
Having completed the review and acceptance of applicants to the program, the Court has now published its list of approved EDSMs on the Court website. In the event that the Court determines that the appointment of an EDSM is appropriate, the parties and/or the Court can use the information on this site and the links provided at the site to select an EDSM from among the approved candidates. The Court will then set forth the scope of the EDSM’s appointed duties, which may include, by way of example, developing protocols for the preservation, retrieval or search of potentially relevant ESI; developing protective orders to address concerns regarding the protection of privileged or confidential information; monitoring discovery compliance; resolving discovery disputes; etc.
Any findings of fact or conclusions of law reached by the EDSM will be presented to the Court as a report and recommendation, to which the parties will have the opportunity to object, prior to a de novo review by the Court.