Massachusetts Lawyer Reprimanded in Electronic Data Spoliation Case

The Massachusetts Board of Bar Overseers issued a public reprimand for a lawyer that it found had failed to maintain the requisite level of technological competence and appropriate degree of communication with his client thereby impermissibly obstructing the opposing party’s access to evidence in the process.

The dispute involved a complaint by the defendant’s former employer in which the employer alleged that the defendant had taken a laptop from his former employer and downloaded and transferred files onto a laptop provided by his new employer.   The former employer sought to obtain all allegedly transferred information and documents.

The court entered an order allowing the former employer’s expert to examine the laptop at issue. However, based solely upon the representations of his client, the defendant’s lawyer concluded that there was information on the laptop was not germane to the dispute and permitted the defendant to delete significant information from the laptop.

The Massachusetts Board’s public reprimand noted that the lawyer’s lack of experience in electronic discovery resulted in the lawyer’s failure to understand that the court’s order required that the employee’s entire hard drive be preserved for the plaintiff’s expert. The Board found that the lawyer violated Massachusetts Rules of Professional Conduct 1.1 competence, 1.4 communication, and 3.4(a) fairness to opposing party and counsel. In addition to the public reprimand, the lawyer was ordered to attend two CLE programs, one on electronic discovery and one on ethics and law office management.

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