NASCIO: Cross-government collaboration key to e-discovery

State governments looking to embark on e-discovery should first seek collaboration with a range of stakeholders.

That’s the view of a newly published research brief from the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO). The report provides starting points to help CIOs improve states’ ability to handle requests for electronic information. The document follows a September NASCIO issue brief promoting CIOs’ awareness of electronic means of retrieving documents for legal cases.

The reports come at a time when changes in civil litigation promise to heighten the need to produce electronic materials. Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, which went into effect a year ago, specify the types of electronically stored information that an organization could be asked to produce in a lawsuit’s discovery phase.

According to the NASCIO report, state courts are likely to establish similar requirements. The amendments “provide one more reason for states to better manage the information and knowledge assets that are held across the enterprise,” the issue brief states.

For those just starting down that path, NASCIO pointed to the importance of cross-government collaboration. A multidisciplinary team should manage an electronic records management effort, which NASCIO said “can reduce the risks associated with e-discovery.”

Gary Robinson, CIO for Washington state and chairman of NASCIO’s E-Discovery Working Group, said many state entities contribute to records retention and e-discovery. He cited information services groups, agencies responsible for retention schedules, archivists, legal counsel and risk management offices as examples.

According to NASCIO, a state’s electronic records management program will likely follow a progression that includes the following steps:

  • Determining where electronic information is located, whether in state computer systems, employee PCs, printer and fax memory components, or other devices.

  • Determining which state agencies have physical and legal custody of information.

  • Prioritizing electronic information “according to those types of information that may be at the most risk of not being located in response to a discovery request.”

NASCIO also recommends that state agencies review their records-retention schedules to see if they are up-to-date.

“For many states, their original records-retention schedules may have been formulated and implemented when most information was collected and stored in paper form,” the report states.

In Washington, records-retention schedules are prepared in cooperation with the secretary of state’s office, where the state archivist function resides, Robinson said. He added that states vary in the specifics of their records-retentions schedules.

About the Author

John Moore is a freelance writer based in Syracuse, N.Y.


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