Carnegie Mellon University

Electronic Discovery

When a civil lawsuit is filed, the parties engage in a pre-trial process called "discovery" in which each party to the lawsuit may request documents and other evidence from the other parties or compel the production of evidence using subpoenas or other legal instruments.  Any potentially relevant evidence may be subject to discovery, even if that evidence is not admissible at trial. 

Although Electronically Stored Information (ESI) has been subject to discovery for several decades, until recently there were no rules specific to the discovery of ESI.  In 2006, the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure were amended to include several new provisions specific to the preservation and production of ESI. 

ESI is essentially any electronic information that could serve as evidence in civil litigation.  Local hard drives, e-mail, shared storage, backup systems, mobile devices (e.g. cell phones, PDAs, etc.) and removable media (E.g. CDs, DVDs, flash drives, etc.) are all potential sources of ESI.

When civil litigation is reasonably anticipated, Carnegie Mellon must:

  • preserve historical and prospective ESI from destruction.

If litigation commences, Carnegie Mellon may be required to:

  • provide a description by category and location of all ESI in its control which may be relevant to the case.
  • produce ESI in original format if it is relevant, not privileged and reasonably accessible.

The procedures for handling e-discovery compliance at Carnegie Mellon are managed by the Office of General Counsel (OGC) and the Information Security Office (ISO).  The OGC is responsible for directing the legal process; the ISO assists with using technology to fulfill the e-discovery requirements as directed by the OGC.