New Committee to Examine Ethical Issues Regarding Metadata
New Jersey Supreme Court Chief Justice Stuart Rabner has announced the creation of a new committee to examine ethical issues regarding metadata. For those of you who do not know what it is, metadata includes any information about the document other than the content, such as when it was created, who created and edited the document and other information. With the ability to scan and email virtually any type of document, it is easy to share information in ways and at speeds that were previously unheard of.
Many lawyers consider themselves to be technological dinosaurs and thus immune to these types of issues; however, the ethical issues involved with metadata can easily affect old school lawyers who still rely heavily or exclusively on paper. For example, paperwork that may start off as a simple word document, may be altered or modified by the recipient after being electronically scanned. This issue is important enough that a diverse committee is being formed to tackle the many ethical issues involved. To say there are gray areas with metadata would be an understatement. The right to discovery for relevant evidence is a fundamental part of the legal process in any jurisdiction.
According to the press release from the New Jersey Judiciary website: "The working group will consider the ethical obligations of attorneys sending and receiving electronic documents that contain metadata and will submit its report to the Supreme Court for review." There will likely be minimal security protocols recommended for the creation, use, storage and sharing of electronic discovery. Those protocols may greatly expand the scope of our obligations as attorneys.
You can find the roster of committee members here: