Aguilar v. Immigration & Customs Enforcement Div. of U.S. Dep’t of Homeland Sec., 255 F.R.D. 350 (S.D.N.Y. 2008)
In this class action case alleging unlawful searches and seizures of plaintiffs’ homes, a discovery dispute arose regarding the production of metadata. The court granted in part and denied in part plaintiffs’ request for the production of metadata for several types of electronically stored information (“ESI”) including email, word and excel documents, and databases.
On January 18, 2008, the parties agreed to undertake some discovery despite defendants’ pending motion to dismiss. About that time, defendants began to collect relevant materials from its employees. Plaintiffs served their first requests for production on February 15, 2008 but failed to address the form of production or metadata. The issue was first mentioned by plaintiffs on March 18, 2008 but only “in passing.” By this time, defendants had completed most of their collection efforts. On March 22, 2008 plaintiffs requested the production of emails and other ESI in Tagged Imaged File Format (“TIFF”) with corresponding load files containing metadata fields and extracted text and that spreadsheets and databases be produced in native format. The parties conferred on July 1, 2008 to discuss the format of production of ICE’s hierarchical databases. On July 14, 2008, defendants objected to the production of ESI in the forms requested by plaintiffs on the grounds of relevance and burden, and proposed production in the form of searchable PDF instead. Defendants also stated they would provide metadata for a particular document only where plaintiffs could demonstrate its relevance to their claims. Despite several attempts, the parties were unable to reach agreement. Thus, it fell to the court to address plaintiffs’ requests.