TaxProf Blog

Editor: Paul L. Caron, Dean
Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, September 22, 2014

Tax Court Approves Taxpayer's Use of Predictive Coding to Respond to IRS's Discovery Request, Reducing Costs by 80%

In a case of first impression, the Tax Court has approved a taxpayer's use of predictive coding technology to respond to the IRS's discovery demand for tax information.  Dynamo Holdings LP v. Commissioner, 143 T.C. No. 9 (Sept. 17, 2014):

Predictive CodingRespondent requests that petitioners produce the electronically stored information (ESI) contained on two specified backup storage tapes or, alternatively, that they produce the tapes themselves (or copies thereof). Petitioners assert that it will take many months and cost at least $450,000 to fulfill respondent’s request because they would need to review each document on the tapes to identify what is responsive and then withhold privileged or confidential information. Petitioners request that the Court ... let them use predictive coding, a technique prevalent in the technological industry but not yet formally sanctioned by this Court, to efficiently and economically identify the nonprivileged information responsive to respondent’s discovery request [at a cost of $80,000]. ...

Although it is a proper role of the Court to supervise the discovery process and intervene when it is abused by the parties, the Court is not normally in the business of dictating to parties the process that they should use when responding to discovery. If our focus were on paper discovery, we would not (for example) be dictating to a party the manner in which it should review documents for responsiveness or privilege, such as whether that review should be done by a paralegal, a junior attorney, or a senior attorney. Yet that is, in essence, what the parties are asking the Court to consider--whether document review should be done by humans or with the assistance of computers. ...

We find a potential happy medium in petitioners’ proposed use of predictive coding. Predictive coding is an expedited and efficient form of computer-assisted review that allows parties in litigation to avoid the time and costs associated with the traditional, manual review of large volumes of documents. Through the coding of a relatively small sample of documents, computers can predict the relevance of documents to a discovery request and then identify which documents are and are not responsive. ...

Where, as here, petitioners reasonably request to use predictive coding to conserve time and expense, and represent to the Court that they will retain electronic discovery experts to meet with respondent’s counsel or his experts to conduct a search acceptable to respondent, we see no reason petitioners should not be allowed to use predictive coding to respond to respondent’s discovery request. ... Petitioners may use predictive coding in responding to respondent’s discovery request. If, after reviewing the results, respondent believes that the response to the discovery request is incomplete, he may file a motion to compel at that time.

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And folks are saying that the legal industry is not going through structural change . . .

Posted by: HTA | Sep 22, 2014 3:24:33 PM