U.S. District Court in Wisconsin Compels Production of Unredacted Documents with Unilateral “Nonresponsiveness” Redactions

In What's New in E-Discovery and Spoliation?, What's New in the Courts by gravierhouseLeave a Comment

Plaintiff brought motion to compel on the basis that over 600 out of the approximately 6,000 documents produced by the defendant had been unilaterally redacted, based on the defendant’s determination that the materials were not relevant to the case.

Initially, the Court noted that the redactions in question went far beyond the “line-item” redactions of personal information or account numbers referenced in Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 5.2, blocking out “large chunks of information on documents that, by virtue of producing them, they admit are discoverable.”

Then, quoting a District of Minnesota decision from 2013, the Court observed that “the practice of redacting for nonresponsiveness or irrelevance finds no explicit support in the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, and the only bases for prohibiting a party from seeing a portion of a document in the Rules are claims of privilege and work-product protections…. Parties making such redactions unilaterally decide that information within a discoverable document need not be disclosed to their opponents, thereby depriving their opponents of the opportunity to see information in its full context and fueling mistrust about the redactions’ propriety. And if the Court were to allow such a practice it would improperly incentivize parties to hide as much as they dare…. None of this is intended to imply that the redacting party or its counsel attempted to hide the ball here. But because these types of redactions find no support in the Rules and are fraught with the potential for abuse, the Court will not permit them unless the circumstances provide an exceedingly justification to do so.”

The Court then concluded that such potential for abuse existed here. “The defendants do not assert any privilege protecting the information they redacted, and object to disclosing the information on a blanket assertion that the redacted information does not apply to the plaintiff. The plaintiffs may disagree with the defendants’ relevance determination…. The court does not agree that the plaintiff must take the defendants’ word for it that the redacted portions of the documents are not relevant to the plaintiff’s claim.

“More important, the defendants have not provided a compelling reason for the court to allow the extensive redactions.” While the defendants contend that the redactions are necessary to protect business information that is wholly unrelated to IDC’s ratings data, there has been no explanation as to why the currently-existing Protective Order is insufficient. As is fairly typical, the order provides that “documents or other information marked as Confidential Information may be used only in connection with the above-captioned litigation and shall not be disclosed, displayed, shown, made available, or communicated in any way to anyone,” other than the specifically delineated exceptions.”

Hence, the motion to compel was granted.

 

IDC Financial Publishing v. Bonddesk Group, No.15-1085, 2017 WL 4863202 (E.D.Wis. Oct. 26, 2017).

 

See also: Burris v. Versa Products, No.07–3938, 2013 WL 608742 (D.Minn. Feb. 19, 2013).

See also, e.g., EEOC v. Dolgencorp, No.13–04307, 2015 WL 2148394 at *5 (N.D.Ill. May 5, 2015) (“What constitutes relevant information is often a matter of judgment, and even irrelevant information within a document that contains relevant information may be highly useful to providing context for the relevant information”).

 

Leave a Comment