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Computers have become weapons of mass discovery. The proliferation of computer technology in the past two decades has brought with it a sharp rise in discovery disputes over which electronic data must be disclosed and which are simply too expensive or burdensome for defendants to produce. The rising chorus urging electronic discovery reform has brought proposed amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that may curtail a lawyer’s ability to read digital jottings over the shoulder of an opponent. The Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure of the Judicial Conference of the United States, the policy-making arm of the courts, wants the new rules to take into account the increasingly paperless world of computer documents without handing either side a club to bludgeon the other. A variety of local rules on electronic discovery have sprung up in a few federal courts in New Jersey, Kansas and Delaware, raising the potential of a welter of differing standards as the concept spreads. Even state courts have begun to get into the act. The Conference of Chief Justices has electronic discovery under review in a special committee. Only Texas, Mississippi and Illinois have approved special electronic discovery rules, while California is monitoring the federal changes with an eye toward following their lead. But sharp differences have emerged. Texas and Mississippi call for shifting the cost to plaintiffs for any extraordinary efforts required by the defense to recreate computer documents. The Illinois rule creates a presumption that electronic data will be turned over in paper form. In San Francisco last week, the Judicial Conference’s Committee on Rules opened the first of three national public hearings to solicit concerns about its four most controversial changes proposed. These changes would:

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