Seventh Circuit Electronic Discovery Pilot Program

The Seventh Circuit Electronic Discovery Pilot Program originated in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois as a response to widespread discussion about the rising burden and cost of electronic discovery. The effort was inspired by the ACTL Task Force and IAALS Final Report, as well as The Sedona Conference® Principles. Under the leadership of Chief Judge James Holderman and Magistrate Judge Nan Nolan, a diverse E-Discovery Committee (Committee) developed Principles Relating to the Discovery of Electronically Stored Information (Principles) intended to incentivize early information exchange and meaningful cooperation on commonly encountered issues relating to evidence preservation and discovery. The Principles are implemented through standing orders issued by individual judges voluntarily participating in the program. The Committee is committed to measuring results along the way, so as to refine the Principles and take into account practical experience.

Phase One included an initial testing period from October 2009 through March 2010. During that phase, five district court judges and eight magistrate judges in Illinois implemented the Principles in 93 civil cases pending on their individual dockets. IAALS then provided assistance to the Committee in creating and administering evaluation surveys for the judges and attorneys in those cases. Although the time frame was too short to draw any definitive conclusions from the Phase One Survey, the response was generally positive.

Phase Two included a longer testing period running from May 2010 to May 2012. During Phase Two, the Committee’s membership tripled, including e-discovery experts from around the country. Several additional Subcommittees were also created during Phase Two, including the Criminal Discovery, National Outreach, Technology, and Web Site Subcommittees, reflecting the broad scope of the Committee’s work. The Committee’s work continues to expand beyond the Seventh Circuit in membership as well as outreach and education. The Phase One Principles were revised in response to the Phase One survey results, and revised Phase Two Principles were promulgated August 1, 2010. During the Phase Two period, the number of participating judges grew to 40 and the number of cases to 296 in which the Pilot Program Principles were tested. In addition to a greater number of participating judges, Phase Two also saw expansion geographically beyond Illinois to include judges in Indiana and Wisconsin. 

Both the Phase One and Phase Two survey results reflect that the Principles are perceived to result in more cooperation, more access to needed information, and more fairness. The results of the Phase One and Phase Two survey results, as well as the results of the August 2010 and March 2012 e-filer Baseline Surveys, are including in the Appendices to the Final Report on Phase Two.

The Committee is now in Phase Three of the Pilot Program. This phase continues the focus on improving e-discovery. The Committee is continuing its efforts to expand the interest in improving e-discovery, including making information available via the website and through continued educational opportunities. In addition, the E-Mediation Subcommittee has created an e-discovery mediation program.

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