E-Mail as Evidence


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E-Mail as Evidence

  1. 1. JOHN D. GREGORY DANIEL J. MICHALUK June 11, 2009 Email as Evidence
  2. 2. Email as Evidence <ul><li>Outline </li></ul><ul><li>Definitions </li></ul><ul><li>Relevance </li></ul><ul><li>Access </li></ul><ul><li>Production </li></ul><ul><li>Admissibility and Weight </li></ul><ul><li>Case studies </li></ul>
  3. 3. Definitions <ul><li>Email and e-messages </li></ul><ul><li>1970s </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Classic email (SMTP) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>1980s </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Bulletin boards, MUD </li></ul></ul><ul><li>1990s </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Web mail, ICQ, computer-generated or –received faxes </li></ul></ul><ul><li>2000s </li></ul><ul><ul><li>IM, Social networks, Twitter </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Remix of all of the above </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>VOIP? (Skype = voice + image + IM) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Multiplication of carriers : e-messages in the cloud </li></ul></ul>
  4. 4. Relevance <ul><li>Why focus on email issues? </li></ul><ul><li>It’s still the killer app </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Everybody uses email and (more or less) understands it </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Can be particularly potent evidence – Gates, Black, Poindexter </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Information in transit: special issues </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Multiplicity of repositories </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Jurisdiction </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Communications/speech issues with content </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Impermanence </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Paradigm case </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Raises many issues in strong ways that appear elsewhere </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Evolves quickly – the answers keep changing </li></ul></ul>
  5. 5. Access <ul><li>Law </li></ul><ul><ul><li>The traditional “no expectation of privacy” view </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The balancing of interests approach </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The beyond control approach </li></ul></ul><ul><li>And practice </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What employers should do </li></ul></ul>
  6. 6. Access <ul><li>No expectation of privacy view </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Notification does count </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The employer owns the medium and has lots of good reasons to look </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>E-mail communication is too insecure to expect privacy </li></ul></ul>
  7. 7. Access <ul><li>The balancing of interests view </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Lethbridge Community College (2007) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>MS Hotmail e-mails retrieved through forensic analysis </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>First case to impose a reasonable grounds requirement for investigation </li></ul></ul>
  8. 8. Access <ul><li>The beyond control view </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Who controls non-work related records? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Beyond control view </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Johnson v. Bell Canada (September 2008) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>University of Ottawa (December 2008) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Back to reality </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>MO-2048, City of Ottawa (April 2009) </li></ul></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Access <ul><li>Practical options for employers </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Do something! </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Option #1 – Try harder to control expectations despite personal use </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>But how far will notice take you? </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Option #2 – Give in, and implement privacy controls </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Proportional audit/surveillance framework </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Investigation standards (reasonable suspicion) </li></ul></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Access <ul><li>Emerging challenges </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Email may be overtaken by other means of communication </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>So…how are you going to deal with employees who conduct business in the “cloud” </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Businesses should set policy to ensure business is done on business systems only </li></ul></ul>
  11. 11. Production <ul><li>E-mail retention </li></ul><ul><li>Volume and spread of email is both practical and legal challenge </li></ul><ul><li>So: retention policies = destruction policies </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Email is often on a ‘short’ list for retention </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>At least pressure to move off server, sometimes auto-delete unless actively saved </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Maybe some relevance test applied as well </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Limit: reasonably likely to need it in litigation </li></ul></ul><ul><li>This can be an e-discovery issue or a trial issue </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Remington case (1998) – is retention policy reasonable? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Broccoli v Echostar (2005) – 21-day retention of emails </li></ul></ul>
  12. 12. Production <ul><li>Privilege waiver – the internal counsel problem </li></ul><ul><li>Generally one does not produce privileged information. </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What is privileged, in-house? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>If you copy counsel on all internal emails, all the emails do not become privileged. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Separate business advice from legal advice </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>There is no deemed undertaking rule for evidence led at trial. </li></ul></ul>
  13. 13. Production <ul><li>Privilege waiver – employee emails on employer systems </li></ul><ul><ul><li>A practical problem for employer counsel among others </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Case law on privilege is different from case law on investigations, audits and surveillance </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>What must you do to shield yourself from a “poisoned client”? </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Admissibility and Weight <ul><li>Proving a digital object is different </li></ul><ul><li>Vulnerability of information composed of presence or absence of electric current </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What happens when the power goes off? When the system crashes? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Malleability of information </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Easy to change undetectably </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Presentation in the courtroom </li></ul><ul><li>Mobility multiplies the issues </li></ul>
  15. 15. Admissibility and Weight <ul><li>The elements of documentary evidence : dealing with the differences </li></ul><ul><li>Authentication </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Is this record what it purports to me? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Admissibility if foundation laid to support that conclusion </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>The cutting edge of e-evidence including email evidence today </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Best evidence rule </li></ul><ul><ul><li>What is an original electronic document? </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Hearsay </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Does the medium matter? </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Exceptions wide (reliability) or focused (business records?) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>It’s not always hearsay (e.g. mechanical evidence) </li></ul></ul>
  16. 16. Admissibility and Weight <ul><li>The Uniform Electronic Evidence Act (where enacted) </li></ul><ul><li>“ Solutions” to electronic application of these rules </li></ul><ul><li>Authentication: codify </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Count on the witness under oath (not saying who) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Challenge is in responding to challenges (expertise, availability of foundation evidence) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Best evidence: system not document </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Presumptions in aid: it matters whose system it is </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Standards in aid </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Hearsay: do nothing </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Possible spillover effect of other rules </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Case law <ul><li>Not much of interest on UEEA </li></ul><ul><ul><li>R. v. Bellingham (AB) needed evidence of what printouts were </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Leoppky v Meston (AB) – demonstrates several things : </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Court looks behind computer to actual sender </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>A series of emails can satisfy Statute of Frauds </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Still had missing link i.e. legal rules still apply </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Nad Business Solutions (ON) – email as course of conduct </li></ul><ul><li>Singapore vs England: email headers OK or not OK as evidence capable of supporting Statute of Frauds </li></ul><ul><li>Lorraine v Markel (NJ) – extreme demands (all obiter) </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Prove lots about system, manner of production, etc </li></ul></ul>
  18. 18. An extreme case? <ul><li>“ The focus is not on the … creation of the record, but rather on the … preservation of the record during the time it is in the file” </li></ul><ul><li>“ The entity’s policies and procedures for the use of the equipment, database and programs are important. How access to the … database [and to the specific program are] controlled is important. How changes in the database are logged, as well as the structure and implementation of backup systems and audit procedures for assuring the continued integrity of the database, are pertinent.” </li></ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><ul><li>In re Vee Vinhee, US appeal court, 2005. </li></ul></ul></ul></ul></ul>
  19. 19. CGSB Standard <ul><li>Canadian General Standards Board: Standard on electronic records as documentary evidence </li></ul><ul><li>The key rule of the Standard: think about it! </li></ul><ul><li>  In other words: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Make a policy about how e-records are managed </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Communicate the policy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Implement the policy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Monitor compliance with the policy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Adjust the policy as required by circumstances </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Have a policy manual that you can point to. </li></ul><ul><li>Have someone responsible (CRO) (+ witness) </li></ul>
  20. 20. New e-messages: Challenges <ul><li>Webmail, Facebook/MySpace, Twitter </li></ul><ul><li>As you go into the cloud, it is harder to: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Authenticate (go to ISP not ASP) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Figure out and prove the ‘system’ whose reliability one would like to count on (or at least appreciate) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>No standardization – every application is different (not like SMTP) </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Consumer oriented – so less rigorous than business systems </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Proprietary – so codes etc are not readily available </li></ul></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Are clouds third party providers in ordinary course of business, i.e. should they be considered reliable? </li></ul></ul>
  21. 21. Admissibility and Weight <ul><li>Email problem #1 – You didn’t send that </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Employee alleges termination on basis of pregnancy </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Email pre-dates her pregnancy by two months showing bona fide intent to terminate </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Proponent can testify </li></ul></ul>
  22. 22. Admissibility and Weight <ul><li>Email problem #2 – I didn’t send that </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Agreement to arbitrate executed through employer’s intranet </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Execution by entering SSN or employee ID number plus password </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Supervisors could reset passwords </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Supervisor resets password to help employee get access </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Email confirmation sent to employee </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Employee claims supervisor executed agreement and denies reading confirmation email </li></ul></ul>
  23. 23. JOHN D. GREGORY DANIEL J. MICHALUK Email as Evidence