The Sedona Conference Database Principles

Monday, April 25, 2011 by Thought Leadership Team


The Sedona Conference Working Group on Electronic Document Retention & Production (WG1) recently released the publication, The Sedona Conference® Database Principles, for public comment. This 47-page publication is intended to address the growing commonality of “disputes over the discovery of electronically stored information in searchable data repositories” and “provide practice guidance and recommendations to both requesting and producing parties.”

This publication provides an overview of how databases differ from other sources of electronic information, in addition to the logistics behind collecting and producing database information, the potential use by a requesting party and how to locate specific database information through queries. Following the introduction is an application of existing Sedona Principles to databases and database information, including Principle 3 (Meet and Confer), Principle 5 (Duty of Preservation), Principle 6 (Responsibilities of Responding Parties) and Principle 12 (Form of Production and Metadata). The publication concludes with a discussion regarding the six principles for the preservation and production of databases and database information.

The six “Database Principals” included in the publication are:

  1. Absent a specific showing of need or relevance, a requesting party is entitled only to database fields that contain relevant information, not the entire database in which the information resides or the underlying database application or database engine.
  2. Due to differences in the way that information is stored or programmed into a database, not all information in a database may be equally accessible, and a party’s request for such information must be analyzed for relevance and proportionality.
  3. Requesting and responding parties should use empirical information, such as that generated from test queries and pilot projects, to ascertain the burden to produce information stored in databases and to reach consensus on the scope of discovery.
  4. A responding party must use reasonable measures to validate ESI collected from database systems to ensure completeness and accuracy of the data acquisition.
  5. Verifying information that has been correctly exported from a larger database or repository is a separate analysis from establishing the accuracy, authenticity, or admissibility of the substantive information contained within the data.
  6. The way in which a requesting party intends to use database information is an important factor in determining an appropriate format of production.