Magistrate Judge Peck’s Recent Decision on the Use of Predictive Coding and the Cooperative Obligations Involved
June 03, 2015
A little more than three years ago, federal Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck (SDNY), issued a seminal decision in Da Silva Moore v. Publicis Groupe & MSL Group, 11 Civ. 1279 (February 24, 2012). Indeed, in that ruling, Judge Peck sent a message that predictive coding and computer assisted review is an appropriate tool that should be “seriously considered for use” in large data-volume cases and attorneys “no longer have to worry about being the ‘first’ or ‘guinea pig’ for judicial acceptance of computer-assisted review.” Judge Peck went on to encourage parties to cooperate with one another and to consider disclosing the initial “seed” sets of documents. In doing so, he recognized that sharing of seed sets is often frowned upon by counselors who argue that these sets often contain information wholly unrelated to the action, much of which may be confidential or sensitive. Specifically Judge Peck stated: “This Court highly recommends that counsel in future cases be willing to at least discuss, if not agree to, such transparency [with seed sets] in the computer-assisted review process.”
Since Da Silva, many cases have successfully employed various forms of technology assisted review (“TAR”) to limit the scope of documents actually reviewed by attorneys. It is well-embraced that the upside of utilizing TAR is to make document review a more manageable and affordable task. Moreover, Courts routinely embrace TAR for document review See, e.g., Rio Tinto PLC v. Vale S.A., S.D.N.Y. No. 14 Civ. 3042 (RMB)(AJP) (March 3, 2015) (“the case law has developed to the point that it is now black letter law that where the producing party wants to utilize TAR for document review, courts will permit it”).
In Rio Tinto, Judge Peck revisited his DaSilva decision. And, while most of Rio Tinto discusses the merits of transparency and cooperation in the development of seed sets, Judge Peck notes there is no definitive answer on the extent of transparency and cooperation required. Citing to his opinion in DaSilva and other cases, Judge Peck makes clear that he “generally believe[s] in cooperation” in connection with seed set development. Nevertheless, Judge Peck notes there is no absolute requirement of transparent cooperation. Rather, “requesting parties can insure that training and review was done appropriately by other means, such as statistical estimation of recall at the conclusion of the review as well as by whether there are gaps in the production, and quality control review of samples from the documents categorized as now responsive.” (emphasis added)
The decision goes on to emphasize that courts and litigants should not hold predictive coding to a so-called “higher standard” than keyword searches or linear review. Such a standard could very well dissuade counsel and clients from using predictive coding, which would be a step backward for discovery practice overall.