Ask a Federal Judge: The Tradition Continues with a New Twist

by David Horrigan on September 08, 2016

Community , Legal & Industry Education

For the third year in a row, a distinguished group of federal judges will be at Relativity Fest for our annual Judicial Panel—and for 2016, we’ve added a new feature that could make an attendee part of the program next month in Chicago.

US District Judge Nora Barry Fischer (W.D. Pa.), US Magistrate Judge Andrew Peck (S.D.N.Y.), US District Judge Xavier Rodriguez (W.D. Tex.), and US Magistrate Judge David Waxse all return to share their perspectives, and I’ll have the honor of moderating the discussion. The group remains the same, but an Ask the Judges contest, in which contestants submitted questions in advance for a chance to become part of the session, adds a new twist.

As we prepare for the 2016 Judicial Panel, it’s a good time to look back at what we’ve learned from the judges at Relativity Fest. Here’s a quick look at highlights from the last two years.

Judicial Lesson #1: Cooperation is King

Back in 2014, Judge Waxse boiled it down to one simple point: “To get to the end goal—which is saving time and money—you have to cooperate.” Judge Peck agreed, encouraging lawyers to tell their clients: Here’s the cost of your case with cooperation, and here’s the much higher cost without.

The 2015 amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure made the rules a big topic last year, as well. Judge Waxse encouraged attendees to take advantage of Rule 16’s provision that a conference precede all motions for e-discovery orders: “Sit down with opposing counsel and try to resolve which factual issues are actually in dispute. When counsel do that, they discover they don't have problems in all areas, and if you don't have problems with factual disputes, you don't need to do discovery in that area.”

Judicial Lesson #2: “Take Your Geek to Court”

“Even the most experienced lawyers have limits to how much they can know,” said Judge Peck during the 2014 panel. “The worst thing a lawyer can do is agree to something without knowledge.”

The old litigation adage, “At trial, never ask a question to which you don't know the answer," applies here. We lawyers may not know the technical answer. Bring someone who does.

In 2015, Judge Fischer concurred during another session at Relativity Fest: “If you get people who can talk the talk, you can cut through the extraneous and get to the meat of the issue.”

Judicial Lesson #3: Keep a steady eye on technology trends.

The 2014 panel indicated that technology-assisted review (TAR) was becoming more common, but courts still had some reluctance over it. Judge Rodriguez was blunt about the discussion on whether TAR was appropriate for every case: “It takes too long for us to do anything to think that predictive coding will actually be required in five years,” he said.

However, by 2015, there was little debate that TAR could be an effective option in many cases—its acceptance was clear: “Results are infinitely better when TAR is used, but there’s this old notion that eyes-on review is the gold standard, which may be true if you’re reviewing 100 documents—but that’s not realistic,” said Judge Peck during his session.

Drive New Lessons for 2016

This year, everyone—lawyer or litigation support professional, industry veteran or new arrival—was invited to submit questions for the panel’s consideration ahead of this year’s event.

We’ll confer with the judges and select the three most insightful questions to become part of the program. During the session, we’ll recognize those who submit the selected questions and frame parts of the discussion around those topics.

What to Ask?

One of the best parts of Ask the Judges is that contestants got to decide what to ask. There were no restrictions. Granted, a question on the judges’ predictions on the future of the marriage of Kim Kardashian and Kanye West may not fare as well as a question on the judges’ take on e-discovery sanctions, but there's a lot of latitude.

For instance, one excellent question we’ve received asks the judges their opinions on best practices and expert advice on legal holds, while others are more interested in the judges’ career advice. Watch the 2014 Judicial Panel, its follow-up webinar, and the 2015 Judicial Panel for a look at past discussions.

We are excited to welcome questions from folks holding diverse roles, experience, legal knowledge, or technical prowess. Federal judges serve to bring justice to everyone, and we’re proud to bring you another year of their perspectives.

David Horrigan is kCura’s e-discovery counsel and legal content director. An attorney, law school guest lecturer, e-discovery industry analyst, and award-winning journalist, David has served as counsel at the Entertainment Software Association, reporter and assistant editor at The National Law Journal, and analyst and counsel at 451 Research.



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