Federal Evidence Rule 902(14) is Immediately Applicable for ESI Collections

X1 and Reed Smith recently hosted a timely webinar on new Federal Rule of Evidence 902(14) and its expected impact on eDiscovery and computer forensics collection practices. Reed Smith senior partner and eDiscovery practice chair David Cohen led the discussion, providing a substantive and detailed discussion on the new rule, including its nuances and expected practice impact. FRE 902(14) provides that electronic data recovered “by a process of digital identification” is to be self-authenticating, thereby not routinely necessitating the trial testimony of a forensic or technical expert where best practices are employed, as certified through a written affidavit by a “qualified person.” A detailed discussion of Rule 902(14) can be found here.

The webinar, which also provides a detailed overview of the rule, features excellent analysis and insight from David Cohen on how he anticipates the new rule will be applied. In fact, the key takeaway from the webinar is that while FRE 902(14) technically goes into effect on December 1, 2017, Cohen correctly noted that ESI collected in a Rule 902(14) compliant manner any time prior to the rule’s effective date can be subject to the new rule’s provisions once the rule goes into effect. This is important, because digital evidence is routinely collected well in advance of trial. Electronic evidence that an examiner collects today may not be actually introduced at trial until one year or more from now, so practitioners need to understand and account for Rule 902(14) immediately.

Cohen believes that FRE 902(14) will be widely applied and will overall increase the utilization of eDiscovery and computer forensics practitioners. This is because the rule provides a streamlined and very efficient process to establish a foundation for ESI collected in a Rule 902(14) manner. This will increase predictability by eliminating surprise challenges, and will encourage, instead of discourage, the use of forensics and eDiscovery practitioners by allowing written certifications in the place of expensive and burdensome in-person trial testimony. Cohen also noted that while most cases do not proceed to trial, a much higher percentage involve dispositive court motions (such as a motion for summary judgment in civil actions) and he expects FRE 902(14) to be widely used in support of such motions.

I have covered eDiscovery and computer forensics law for over 15 years, and in my opinion, FRE 902(14) is the single most important legal development directly impacting ESI collection practices to date. All eDiscovery and computer forensics professionals have a professional responsibility to keep current with key legal and technological developments in the field. There is no question FRE 902(14) is such a development, and all those involved in ESI preservation and collection from both a technical, legal and managerial perspective need to be fully briefed on the law.

Viewing the video recording of the webinar is a good start, and it can be accessed here.

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