Yesterday, 12/5/11, I received a pleasant surprise in my email inbox: an email from a fellow ABA E-Discovery and Digital Evidence Committee member informing the group about new e-filling rules in the Southern District of Florida. Effective 1/1/2012, all documents filed in the Southern District must be “text searchable.”[1. Section 3G(5) is a new section that outlines the requirements for all documents filed through CM/ECF. Although PDF documents were required before, they did not have to be a text-searchable format. Click here to access the court’s redlined document.]
Today, the blogosphere exploded after Thompson Reuters reported on a California District Court’s less-than-effective attempt to redact certain text within an order. The “redacted” material is irrelevant for the purpose of this article; what’s important is the method with which it was attempted. From what I can tell, someone selected the text to redact, highlighted it black, and published the document as a PDF. Copying the highlighted text and pasting it in a text editor revealed the masked text. Oops.
Mistakes happen, and those who learn from the mistakes are better off. So as attorneys, business owners, or computer users, let’s turn this into a learning experience.
Many products exist specifically to redact information within documents, and they range in price. Before you go searching the Internet for their names, check the software you already have installed on your computer. You might be surprised what you find.[3. I am happy to email the names of three options to anyone interested, and two of those products are common applications. You can reach me at dwhitehouse at whitehouse-cooper dot com.]
Attorneys practicing in the Southern District of Florida who submit scanned documents will need to invest in good OCR software. (Please don’t buy OCR software if you’re submitting documents created with word processing software on your computer.[4. I was surprised by the number of unsearchable documents I saw while interning for the Middle District of Florida. The tech-saavy user reading this would be surprised by the number as well.] You have the capability at your fingertips already! Contact me if you’re unsure how to publish your text documents as PDFs; I’ll gladly help you with that.) One OCR product stands out in my mind, and I’ve noticed that certain consumer-level scanners are now shipping with scaled-down versions of that product.[5. Contact me at dwhitehouse at thewhitehouselawfirm dot com if you’re curious about the product’s name.] For someone already familiar with creating PDF documents, running the document through an OCR product should not be overly complicated.
Spending a few minutes with your PDF software can prepare attorneys to submit text-searchable documents and, I hope, prevent submitting blundered redactions.
Daniel D. Whitehouse
Attorney & Counselor at Law
Whitehouse & Cooper, PLLC
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