The ever-increasing importance of digital technology in today’s commercial environment has created several serious problems for courts operating under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure’s (FRCP) discovery regime. As the volume of discoverable information has grown exponentially, so too have the opportunities for abuse and misinterpretation of the FRCP’s outdated e-discovery rules. Federal courts are divided over the criteria for imposing the most severe discovery sanctions as well as the practical ramifications of the preservation duty as applied to electronically stored information. As a result, litigants routinely feel pressured to overpreserve potentially discoverable data, often at great expense.

At a conference at the Duke University School of Law in 2010, experts from all sides of the civil-litigation system concluded that the e-discovery rules were in desperate need of updating. The subsequent four years saw a flurry of rulemaking efforts. In 2014, a package of proposed FRCP amendments included a complete overhaul of Rule 37(e), the provision governing spoliation sanctions for electronically stored information. This Note analyzes the proposed Rule and argues that the amendment will fail to accomplish the Advisory Committee’s goals because it focuses too heavily on preserving the trial court’s discretion in imposing sanctions and focuses too little on incentivizing efficient and cooperative pretrial discovery. The Note concludes by offering revisions and enforcement mechanisms that would allow the new Rule 37(e) to better address the e-discovery issues identified at the Duke Conference.

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