E-Documents and Public Records

E-Documents and Public Records

RW&G's E-documents and public records lawyers, through the combined expertise of its Public Law and Litigation Departments, enables its clients to meet the challenges posed by Public Records Act requests and litigation document demands in this age of electronically-stored information.

RW&G's E-Documents and Public Records Practice Group is available to work proactively with clients so they can meet their document disclosure obligations efficiently and economically, and in a manner designed to best position the client in the event of a lawsuit or other legal proceeding. The Practice Group also has a breadth of experience in handling unique and complex Public Records Act requests-both e-document and traditional paper requests-and is available to help public agencies handle a specific question, as well as advise on an on-going basis.

The Problem

Courts and administrative agencies expect parties to respond quickly and comprehensively to demands for electronic documents, and will impose sanctions when those responses are incomplete or behind schedule. The Public Records Act also imposes tight response times on public entities.

Yet almost every request for electronically-stored data gives rise to complex issues, such as the format in which e-documents will be provided and who should bear the costs of retrieval from difficult-to-access locations, such as backup tapes and legacy systems. To complicate matters even more, the unique structure of an organization's computer system, including remote devices such as cell phones and laptops, along with retention policies, the actual habits and training of its employees, and the formats in which e-documents are stored, all affect how quickly and effectively an organization responds to disclosure and production of e-documents.

Additionally, an organization's document retention policies may not be appropriate in the context of laws on electronic document production, and can result in major disruption and expense in the event of a large-scale document request.

The Solution

The E-Documents and Public Records Practice Group works with clients to create an advance plan to deal strategically with both their Public Records Act and litigation discovery requests, with a particular emphasis on the challenges associated with electronic document production. A comprehensive plan reduces frustration and confusion as employees respond to a request.

The Practice Group is available to assist clients with any of the following goals:

Disclosure of Electronic Documents

  • Identify key personnel to form the electronic data team
  • Establish a defensible e-document policy to comply with applicable law
  • Create a litigation response plan appropriate to e-document production
  • Create a Public Records Act request response plan appropriate to e-document production
  • Establish effective policies to deal with metadata
  • Protect original content from manipulation and forgery

Storage and Formatting

  • Develop policies on e-mail usage, retention, and confidentiality
  • Establish legally sufficient authentication of signatures in electronic permits, forms and e-mail
  • Analyze storage methodologies for document archiving, security and retrievability

City and Agency Web Sites

  • Comply with accessibility requirements under the Americans with Disabilities Act
  • Adhere to limitations on posting of campaign advocacy materials
  • Develop policies regarding First Amendment implications of message boards
  • Outline requirements for election postings

Related Practice Areas:

At RW&G we draw upon legal experience in multiple practice areas to build the best team for each of our clients. To learn more about related practice areas, please select from the links below:

RW&G e-ALERTS