E-discovery – redacting electronic documents

More information is coming soon on New Zealand’s e-discovery solution – the electronic discovery solution developed right here in New Zealand to support the new discovery rules taking effect on 1 February 2012 (see this earlier post).

One feature is the ability to safely redact PDF documents directly in a web browser.

Redaction is increasingly important in New Zealand civil litigation, given the volume of documents and the propensity for sensitive and/or privileged information to be mixed with other discoverable information. The High Court Rules (current and new) allow redaction of certain information on the grounds of confidentiality and/or privilege. Conditions can be proposed by the disclosing party to protect confidential information – for example, the provision of certain documents (redacted or not) may be made on an “attorney’s eyes only” basis (to adopt the US parlance; in practice it often extends to experts too). Other parties can challenge the proposed restrictions, however this requires them to bring an application to do so, and in practice such issues can usually be resolved without the Court’s intervention.

The new High Court Rules will generally mean that documents must be redacted electronically, in PDF format. In practice, there are 3 key challenges to doing so:

  1. Making it easy – ideally, the lawyer will be able to make their own redactions directly on each PDF while viewing it anywhere and any time, without the need to install separate standalone software and without any fuss. In particular, this avoids the  inefficient and obsolete process of printing documents, manually redacting them, and then re-scanning them.
  2. Making the redactions permanent and secure – there are many real-world examples of unsafe, or non-permanent, redactions, where an apparently redacted document still allows the underlying text to be easily retrieved (read about a recent example – by a judge! – here).
  3. Handling duplicates – there is no point redacting one version of a document, only to have a duplicate produced in original form.

Safe and easy PDF redaction (via the browser) is one of the features of the New Zealand developed e-discovery solution that will be announced soon. Stay tuned for more information in coming weeks.