Category Archives: legal research

Government Can Track Cellphones Without Warrants

Mostly everyone has a cell phone.  A lot of smartphones have GPS capabilities.  This can be handy when you are looking for directions and you are lost.  However, what about being tracked?  For instance, unless you change your privacy settings, your photos will keep track of where you took the picture and what time.

The question the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals decided is whether the government needs a warrant to track you.  In In re: Application of the U.S.A. for Historical Cell Site Data (July 30, 2013 5th Cir. Ct.), the court ruled that obtaining cell-location information without a warrant  did not violate the Fourth Amendment.

When we think of the Fourth Amendment we remember that a search and seizure may require a warrant.  If there is no expectation of privacy, i.e. in a garbage bag we got rid of, then the government wouldn’t need a warrant.  However, if we have an expectation of privacy, i.e. to enter your house, then the government must have a warrant.

An expectation of privacy usually is the crux of a search and seizure case.  Here, the ACLU argued that people have a reasonable expectation of privacy when they are being tracked for a long period of time and the data gathered is collected in great detail.

In this case, this argument was not discussed by the court.

Why would this not be discussed?  The Fourth Amendment deals with government actions.  In other words,  the seizure or search has to be collected by the government.  In a similar case, the Supreme Court had decided that the government must obtain a warrant if it wants to install a GPS tracking device.  See United States v. Jones (2012).

However, this case was found to be different.  The reason for this is because the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals found that the information was collected by a third-party, i.e. the cell phone carrier.  The court explained,

Where a third party collects information in the first instance for its own purposes, the Government claims that it can obtain this information later with a [section] 2703(d) order, just as it can subpoena other records of a private entity.  We agree.

Id. (citations omitted).

Here, the government was not installing a GPS tracking device.  The Government was accessing a business record owned by carriers.  The court stated:

… cell site information is clearly a business record.  The cell service provider collects and stores historical cell site data for its own business purposes, perhaps to monitor or optimize service on its network or to accurately bill its customers for the segments of its network that they use.   The Government does not require service providers to record this information or store it.  The providers control what they record and how long these records are retained.

Consequently, the court found that the Government did not need a warrant.

via Cops Can Track Cellphones Without Warrants, Appeals Court Rules | Threat Level | Wired.com.

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AMA declares obesity a disease

The American Medical Association (AMA) declared that obesity is a disease and not a condition.  AMA board member Patrice Harris stated in a statement,

Recognizing obesity as a disease will help change the way the medical community tackles this complex issue.

As background, the U.S. has been consistently rated as No. 1 in obesity.  Recently, Mexico took the No. 1 spot and the U.S. moved to No. 2.  See Huffington article, Mexico Obesity Rate Surpasses The United States (July 9, 2013).  Mexico was reported to have 32.8% obesity rate while the U.S. has a rate of 31.8%.

This new definition may have an unknown impact in disability claims.  The ABA Journal reports:

Although the AMA’s action was intended to affect medical treatment for the obese, “there’s a high probability it will make it easier for an obese employee to argue that he or she is disabled,” said partner Myra Creighton of Fisher & Phillips.

“It may be easier for employees to prove disability discrimination,” Creighton, who represents employers, told the newspaper. “And, if classified as a disease, it will be difficult for employers to argue that any level of obesity is not an impairment.”

The EmploymentEmployment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) has previously defined a “morbid” obese individual as disabled.  Seee.g.JD Supra, Morbid Obesity as a Covered Disability under the ADA (July 30, 2012)EEOC Press Release (July 24, 2012); EEOC Press Release (Apr. 10, 2012), EEOC Press Release (Sept. 27, 2011).

It would be interesting to see if the EEOC will change its definition of obesity as a disability.

via Obesity is a disease, AMA says, aiding weight-related disability claims – ABA Journal.

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DOL clarifies expansion of FMLA due to ADAAA

The DOL published Administrator’s Interpretation No. 2013-1, which clarifies the expansion of FMLA.  The DOL explained that the ADA Amendments Act (“ADAAA”) expanded more than just employer liability for disability claims, but also expanded the scope of FMLA coverage for children.

The DOL clarified the following.

  • The DOL adopted the ADA’s definition of disability to define “mental or physical disability” for purposes of defining a son or daughter 18 years or older.  See 58 Fed. Reg. 31794, 31799 (June 4, 1993).  The 2008 FMLA Final Rule explicitly adopts the ADAAA’s changes to the ADA’s definition of disability;
  • The definition of a “son or daughter” is defined by the definition of a disability under the ADAAA, which “shall be construed in favor of broad coverage;”
  • The determination of whether an adult son or daughter is incapable of self-care under the FMLA focuses on whether the individual currently needs active assistance or supervision in performing three or more activities of daily living (or ADLs) including “grooming, hygiene, bathing, dressing and eating;” or instrumental activities of daily living (or IADLs) including “cooking, cleaning, shopping, taking public transportation, paying bills, maintaining a residence, using telephones, and using a post-office, etc.;”
  • A serious health condition is an illness, injury impairment, or physical or mental condition that involves inpatient care or continuing treatment by a healthcare provider; and
  • For a parent to take FMLA leave to care for an adult son or daughter, the parent must be “needed to care” for that son or daughter due to the serious health condition.

In the Administrative opinion, the DOL provides examples.

via Department of Labor Clarifies When an Employee May Take FMLA Leave to Care for Adult Children | Orrick – Global Employment Law Group – JDSupra.

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The Sedona Conference®

Electronic discovery and electronic stored information are very important topics for everyone – employes, law firms, lawsuits, etc.  The Sedona Conference should be the first step you take when trying to get a better handle in the area of electronic discovery and electronic stored information.

I bring to your attention the website that lists all of the Sedona Conference’s publications.

Recently, the Sedona Conferenced uploaded its post-comments publication in the area of proportionality of costs.  This is an important publication because the proportionality of costs will influence who pays for the costs of discovery and what is a reasonable request.  In other words, defining what is an undue burden and expense.

Publications | The Sedona Conference®.

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FTC can serve foreign defendants via Facebook

FTC v. PCCARE Inc., 12 civ-7189 (S.D.N.Y. Mar. 3, 2013) is a very strange case because it shows how service of process might be altered and in what circumstances.  In this case, the FTC wanted to be able to serve documents other than the Summons and Complaint via Facebook or e-mail.  The Southern District of New York granted this request.

This is a very strange case.  Generally, the Hague Service Convention has guidelines detailing how abroad defendants may be served.  The Hague Service Convention doesn’t expressly authorize service on foreign defendants by email or social media accounts.

So why could you serve documents a foreign defendant over Facebook?

The court explained that “A court in this district has held that the Hague Service Convention only applies to the initial service of process, not subsequent documents.”  See SEC v. Credit Bankcorp., Ltd., 2001 WL 666158, *4 (S.D.N.Y. Feb 14, 2011).  In addition the court relied on Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 4(f)(3), whereby it stated,

a Court may fashion means of service on an individual in a foreign county, so long as the ordered means of service (1) is not prohibited by international agreement; and (2) comports with constitutional notions of due process.”  SEC c. Anticevix, 2009 WL 361739, at *3 (S.D.N.Y. Fec. 13, 2009).

The court reasoned that federal courts need to keep an open mind about technology.

The court acknowledges that service by Facebook is a relatively novel concept, and that it is conceivable that defendants will not in fact receive notice by this means.  But, as noted, the proposed service by Facebook is intended not as the sole method of service, but instead to backstop the service upon each defendant at his, or its, known email address. And history teaches that, as technology advances and modes of communication progress, courts must be open to considering requests to authorize service via technological means of then-recent vintage, rather than dismissing them out of hand as novel.

via FTC can serve foreign defendants via Facebook, federal judge rules – ABA Journal.

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Zubulake revisited: Shifting standards in e-discovery

InsideCounsel has a very insightful article regarding the changes in Zubulake.  As previously addressed, the Zubulake cases are the leading guide posts of electronic discovery.  Nevertheless, recent case law signals potential departures from Zubulake.

InsideCounsel’s article states as follows:

 

Litigation holds 101

While the American concept of the litigation hold (also known as legal hold) received a passing reference in the advisory notes to the 2006 Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (FRCP) amendments, it was not until Zubulake, and later, Pension Committee, that courts connected the legal hold to the spoliation sanction framework.

Generally, sanctions are warranted when a party with control over discoverable information and under a duty to preserve acted with a culpable state of mind when destroying or losing relevant information. Once a party has established spoliation, a court must assess which sanction (ranging from further discovery to dismissal) aligns with the culpability of the spoliating party and the prejudice caused.

In Pension Committee, the court held that failing to issue a litigation hold is gross negligence per se. The court found that not only can relevance and prejudice be presumed when a spoliating party is grossly negligent, but that an adverse inference instruction was the appropriate sanction in that case.

Departures from Zubulake

In 2012, in Chin v. Port Auth. of New York & New Jersey, 11 plaintiff employees sued the defendant employer for alleged civil rights violations. In discovery, the plaintiffs learned that the defendant failed to implement a document retention policy, which resulted in the spoliation of at least 32 folders used to make promotion decisions from August 1999 to August 2002. The plaintiffs also learned that the defendant failed to issue a litigation hold regarding the promotion folders at any point between 2001 and 2007, and thus argued that this inaction amounted to gross negligence. However, the court rejected the argument that a failure to institute a litigation hold automatically constitutes gross negligence per se, contrary to the rule of Zubulake.

Instead, the court ruled in favor of a case-by-case approach, in which failure to preserve documents is one of multiple factors in the determination of whether to issue sanctions. In the end, the court upheld the district court’s conclusion that an adverse inference instruction was inappropriate in light of the limited role of the destroyed folders in the promotion process, as well as the plaintiffs’ ample evidence regarding their relative qualifications when compared with the officers who were actually promoted.

What does it all mean?

Chin established that, depending on the facts, if a party acts reasonably and in good faith to preserve documents, it may be off the hook for severe sanctions. However, many commentators have argued that this does not change best practices—that parties should still issue a written litigation hold in accordance with Pension Committee.

For large organizations that touch many jurisdictions (many of which still follow Zubulake), corporate counsel should not disband their litigation hold systems just yet—in fact, they probably do not want ever to disband them. The litigation hold is an incredible powerful and defensible means to preservation. Large organizations often must track many custodians storing potentially relevant information on complicated IT systems. Corporations derive substantial benefits from being able to maintain holds, as well as being able to internally track multiple simultaneous preservation obligations.

It is worth noting, however, that not every case, or company, is the same. Should a tight-knit company of a few employees in a non-complex litigation have to issue a written legal hold in order to be safe from sanctions? As case law in 2013 develops, perhaps litigants in these types of cases will take a second look at the role of the litigation hold.

A breath of “reasonable” fresh air

On the topic of preservation, case law developments are not the only item on the horizon for 2013. The discovery subcommittee tasked with developing potential FRCP rule changes has been scrutinizing the preservation topic. In one possible version amending FRCP 37, the drafters adopted a factor-based approach to determining culpability. While one factor looks at the reasonableness of a party’s efforts to preserve the information, “including the use of a litigation hold,” another factor includes “the proportionality of the preservation efforts to any anticipated or ongoing litigation.” On Nov. 2, 2012, when the Advisory Committee voted to adopt the subcommittee’s proposal, a common opinion was that even this minor reference to the litigation hold should be omitted or reverted to the commentary to underscore the factor-based nature of draft Rule 37. As we continue down the road to Federal Rule amendments, it is becoming clear that the gold standard of Zubulake may be shifting in the coming year.

via Zubulake revisited: Shifting standards in e-discovery.

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More on NLRB Recess Appointments

There is much talk on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals’ ruling that the President’s NLRB recess appointments was unconstitutional.

Shortly thereafter, the NLRB released a press release stating:

The Board respectfully disagrees with today’s decision and believes that the President’s position in the matter will ultimately be upheld.  It should be noted that this order applies to only one specific case, Noel Canning, and that similar questions have been raised in more than a dozen cases pending in other court of appeals.

Below is a compilation of pending cases, as put together by SCOTUS Blog by Lyle Denniston:

  • D.C. Circuit — fifteen other challenges pending, most if not all of which will be decided on the basis of last Friday’s ruling.  The cases are either in the briefing stage, or awaiting a briefing schedule.
  • Second Circuit — one case, in briefing.
  • Third Circuit — three cases, one set for argument March 19 NLRB v. New Vista Nursing, docket 11-3440; one case being held for that case, another in briefing.
  • Fourth Circuit — four cases, one set for argument March 22 NLRB v. Enterprise Leasing Co. SE, docket 12-1514; others in briefing.
  • Fifth Circuit — one case, in briefing.Sixth Circuit — one case, in briefing.
  • Seventh Circuit — two cases: one decided, but not on the merits of the appointments power; one in briefing.Ninth Circuit — one case, in briefing.
  • Eleventh Circuit — one case, in briefing.
  • The only federal appeals courts in which no such cases are pending are the First, Eighth, and Tenth.

via Spreading challenge to appointment power UPDATED : SCOTUSblog.

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Arbitration Must-Have Book

Elkouri & Elkouri is the must-have books for attorneys that handle arbitrations in the labor field.

The 7th edition is edited by Kenneth May and is available for $325.  BNAs web site describes this book as follows:

The new Seventh Edition provides additional analysis that enhances the usefulness of the volume and incorporates major points of interest to labor relations practitioners. In-depth coverage of critical topics includes:

  • Arbitrators consideration of external law in labor arbitration
  • Legislation and litigation developing standards for evidentiary privilege as it relates to union shop stewardsArbitrators views on threats and violence
  • Reconsideration of the continued viability of the plain meaning rule
  • New case law on the unauthorized practice of law as it relates to labor arbitration
  • Revision of the discussion of state and local government arbitration and interest arbitration in light of recent changes in state law

via Adjunct Law Prof Blog: Book Review Highlight Elkouri and Elkouri How Arbitration Works 2012.

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