What’s It Take To Argue a SCOTUS Case? A Lot Of Midnight Oil

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When the chance to argue a case before the U.S. Supreme Court comes up, sleep becomes a distant memory. We got a behind-the-case look from some NCBA members who were there this spring. Find this story and more in the August edition of North Carolina Lawyer magazine.

By Amber Nimocks

Drew Erteschik’s phone buzzed in his pocket like a bug zapper. He first thought the texts were from his wife, suggesting what he might pick up for dinner. But one glance at the text from his law partner, “We have it!! We have cert!!” — the first of approximately 250 messages blowing up his phone — and he knew this was bigger than what was for supper.

It was Jan. 11, and the U.S. Supreme Court had just granted certiorari in N.C. Department of Revenue v. The Kimberley Rice Kaestner 1992 Family Trust. N.C. Solicitor General Matt Sawchak, Sawchak’s colleagues Jim Doggett and Ryan Park, former N.C. Supreme Court Justice Bob Orr, and Erteschik represented the Department of Revenue.

With the cert grant, the clock began ticking. The team had only three months to ready their A games for scrutiny by the U.S. Supreme Court. Sleep would be become a rare luxury for those focused on the case, as comprehensive research and analysis, brief writing, and argument preparation consumed all hours of the day.

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Enduring Tedium: The Future of Fights Over Electronically Stored Information

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By Sean F. Herrmann

“Seeking justice often involves enduring tedium.” It’s fitting that North Carolina’s first substantive legal decision on eDiscovery begins with this pithy observation. Employment litigators often lament the virtual hellscape of discovering electronically stored information (“ESI”). But the era when paper was king is long dead, and the fight is now firmly in the cyber world of custodians, native formats, and keyword searches.

For those in federal court, at least rules and precedent exist to help guide them through the dark ESI forest (especially those that find themselves before Chief Judge Frank Whitney in the Western District of North Carolina). North Carolina state court practitioners haven’t been so lucky. That is until this week. On Aug. 6, 2019, the North Carolina Court of Appeals issued its first substantive decision on ESI in Crosmun v. Trustees of Fayetteville Technical Cmty. Coll. (No. COA18-1054). Judge Lucy Inman, who authored the opinion, put it well: “This appeal presents this Court with our first opportunity to address the contours of eDiscovery within the context of North Carolina common and statutory law regarding the attorney-client privilege and work-product doctrine.” The Court ultimately reversed the trial court’s order granting Plaintiffs’ forensic expert direct access to Defendants’ ESI, but the way the Court got there and its recommendations on remand are far more important than the holding itself.

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The Dark Side of Instant Messaging for Business

By Kevin J. Stanfield

How do companies balance the efficiencies of instant messaging with potential legal risks? Instant messaging applications are increasingly present in today’s corporate world and a popular form of communications both internally, between company employees, and externally with clients and partner organizations. The days of face-to-face meetings between managers and employees in conference rooms or popping into someone’s office to discuss a project are no longer the norm. Today, many modern employees are using instant messaging (“IM”) as a “virtual water cooler” or “virtual conference room” to collaborate and share information and files with co-workers and customers in real time, using platforms such as Skype for Business, Microsoft Teams, Slack and Google’s Hangouts.

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