Case Study: Open Records Consulting

Project Type: Open Records Consulting

Client: Suburban School District

The challenge: School districts answer to the citizens they serve. That’s why the superintendent of a suburban school district engaged ESI Attorneys to assist when it learned that information needed for two open records requests had not been preserved. There was potential backlash and this was unacceptable. More importantly, the superintendent wanted to know how the District could avoid a situation like this in the future.

A sticky situation, for sure. But it’s always possible to turn a reactive situation into a proactive one. We dig those.

How ESI Attorneys addressed the challenge: In addition to evaluating potential exposure for the requests and revamping information retention practices for the future, the superintendent also sought a legal opinion on:

  • Whether the District was in compliance with the preservation of information under the state’s Open Records law, and
  • Guidance on issues to be considered in moving IT services to the cloud, among others.

ESI Attorneys conducted interviews that included the superintendent, current and incoming IT staff, and additional staff members responsible for information management and retention. We also reviewed the policies and procedures at issue, together with the facts and potential liability of the current requests under the state’s Open Records law.

The ESI Attorneys solution:

Following the interviews, review of current policies and procedures, and assessment of all in light of state Open Records laws, ESI Attorneys provided a written legal opinion. The opinion included the District’s current state of compliance with the state’s Open Records law, its obligations for preserving information through legal holds for litigation, and suggested improvements for the District to implement to prevent future noncompliance events.

We also sat down for a comprehensive discussion with the superintendent and his new IT staff, providing advice on specific issues to be addressed as the district moved to revamp its entire IT infrastructure. This included moving email to the cloud, backup procedures, adding video cameras to the school parking lots (and language to be included on notices), addressing information management for exiting employees, and more. Leveraging our relationships with technology providers, we identified favorable solutions and brought in specialists to ensure all issues could be covered while we guided the client through the process.

Outcome:

The school district engaged ESI Attorneys for the entirety of their records retention and associated technology challenges – we handled their ESI questions and education so they could focus on educating students.

Following the opinion, the client engaged ESI Attorneys to consult on two litigation matters and help the school district understand the potential eDiscovery costs relative to the value of the case. ESI Attorneys interviewed outside counsel handling the merits of the litigation and reviewed the current discovery requests and other pertinent information for both cases. By understanding that responsive data lived only on backup tapes along with the process and cost to find the important information, we were able to advise the client on issues that had not even been raised by outside counsel handling the litigation. Our advice provided the basis for the Board of Directors to make a more informed business decision on how to proceed in both matters.