Defendant Donald Trump is charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States, among other felonies related to Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

One aspect of the case that made headlines recently was that of Special Counsel Jack Smith and Trump’s legal team Controversy over when next trial to be scheduled, The prosecution has proposed a trial date of January 2, 2024. Trump’s legal team has opposed the April 2026 hearing date. US District Judge Tanya Chutkan will ultimately decide.

Trump’s legal team argues in part that they needed years to review the massive amount of information filed by Smith’s team. Well, I’m here to convince you that the January 2nd hearing date is absolutely appropriate, and I am well qualified to make that decision.

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As the Associated Press reports, Team Trump argues that

[the] The delay of years has been necessary due both to the unprecedented nature of the case and the “enormous” amount of information – 11.5 million pages – that they have to review. He said he would have to review about 100,000 pages a day to meet the Justice Department’s proposed hearing date.

“If we printed and stacked 11.5 million pages of documents at a rate of 200 pages per inch, with no gaps between the pages, the result would be a tower of paper stretching almost 5,000 feet into the sky. This is the Washington Monument. is even taller than it is, stacked on itself eight times, with about a million pages remaining,”

Although my (pseudonymous) writing here focuses on the Russian war in Ukraine, I’ve mentioned before that I’m a lawyer. My work swings from extremely hectic 100+ hour weeks to very low intensity – for a lawyer – 40 hour weeks. In those “slow” periods, I find time to write articles for Daily Kos, where I am now a community contributor.

When you read this particular story it matters who I am because I am not just a lawyer, I am a very special lawyer. My expertise is very relevant to the Trump case In D.C., I work as Senior Manager of the Search Services Operations Division for a highly specialized legal services vendor focused on foreign language electronic discovery.

“Discovery” is a legal process in which each side of a lawsuit exchanges evidence with the other. It is a process that is almost unique to the United States. In most countries, lawyers must have a very clear idea of ​​what kind of evidence they want from the other side, and issue a subpoena requesting the other side to present that evidence.

In the United States, it is allowed to ask broad broad questions, requesting the presentation of anything related to the case.

search process often cited With the Enron prosecution in 2001, entered the electronic discovery era, also known as e-discovery. Enron executives infamously destroyed many of their paper records in hopes of avoiding prosecution for SEC violations. To compensate for the lost paper documents, Enron investigators made extensive requests for the production of electronic records: emails, computer files, and other electronic records related to alleged violations by Enron executives.

electronic search gradually transformed What massive litigious discovery looked like. While litigation evidence rooms may have been filled with bankers’ boxes filled with documents (such as the Nuremberg Trials documents pictured above), the focus of the investigation has shifted to the electronic realm. Emails, text messages, WhatsApp chat logs, standalone computer files and notes: this is what modern search is focused on today.

Special Counsel Jack Smith speaks about the impeachment of former President Donald Trump at his Justice Department office on Tuesday, Aug. 1, 2023, in Washington.  (AP Photo/Jacqueline Martin)
Special Counsel Jack Smith announced a second federal indictment of Donald Trump on August 1.

and thus increased the amount of evidence available for review in major litigation.

Example: A plaintiff in a class-action lawsuit against a car company alleging a defective design may request all communications and documentation related to the design of that vehicle from the relevant engineering division. These requests often go on for years—even decades.

This can include millions of emails or standalone files—and that’s before text messages or app communications.

The largest US law firms have thousands of lawyers. However, he also has a client list to match; Thus as the labor requirements for evidence review became more onerous, the labor requirements for evidence review also became more onerous.

In the mid to late 2000s, a legal services industry emerged, serving the electronic discovery (e-discovery) needs of major law firms. These companies were providing technical services to host, sort and organize the data as well as assist in its production. This is a model where low cost contract attorney teams review documentation and are subcontracted to them by major law firms.

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My employer focuses on foreign language e-search. Imagine a major lawsuit involving a German, Thai or Japanese company: a large amount of e-discovery data will be in a foreign language. Translating each document is cost-prohibitive, but when tens or hundreds of millions of dollars (or more) are at stake, companies rarely want to rely on machine translation. Thus they need foreign language speaking lawyer teams to help them analyze the data.

And so we are a specialized field of specialized experts who work primarily on major antitrust cases or federal international bribery cases—complex financial crimes.

As head of the Foreign Language Service e-Discovery Division, my days are spent in comprehensive analysis of multilingual electronic evidence. At e-discovery conferences, I teach other attorneys and corporate legal departments about e-discovery processes, and I often talk about the roles of artificial intelligence and technology-assisted review when analyzing large amounts of data. .

All of this is to say that I do not believe that I am exaggerating when I say that I am probably one of only a handful of distinguished lawyers in the United States who labor in analyzing vast amounts of evidence in litigation. Most qualified to talk about the requirements. ,

still with me?

FILE - As footage from January 6, 2021, of the uprising at the US Capitol is displayed in the background, former President Donald Trump stands singing a song,
Trump pays tribute to the January 6th insurrection at a March 2023 Waco rally.

When Trump’s lawyers are talking about the need to review 11.5 million pages of evidence, Trump’s legal team is not, or should not be, the only team reviewing the evidence. No major law firm would ever approach such a huge case in this way. They will absolutely subcontract the review of the evidence to an e-discovery vendor like my employer, who will then assemble a team of attorneys to review the evidence on their behalf, compiling the most important evidence into a report .

Also, this is not an extraordinary amount of data for such a large trial. In a case I’m currently working on, we started with over 10 million electronic files. files, Not pages—and many files are 15-20 pages long. Traditionally assuming that each file was five pages or so long, I think we’re looking at about 50 million pages of evidence.

My company will analyze these files and report back to the law firm in six weeks. Not six years. Not six months. six weeks. We have 54 lawyers working on this case, spread across three languages. Speed ​​is simply a function of committed resources—it’s not rocket science.

In an average, typical case, one can expect an average lawyer to review approximately 40 documents/electronic files per hour. Assuming five pages per document, that’s about 200 pages per hour, and about 1,600 pages per eight-hour day (and we don’t often work eight-hour days).

Yet even assuming an eight-hour day, a team of 50 lawyers can read 80,000 pages per day, or 2.4 million in a month. This can be scaled up to 3-4 million pages per month through more hours.

Particularly for large-scale litigation, review counsel teams become even larger. In a major class-action lawsuit, I was part of a team of nearly 200 attorneys and translators. Even large litigation search teams have been assembled.

Furthermore, it is not necessary to look at every page of evidence. Documents are regularly scanned, making them electronically searchable. Even at the most basic and unsophisticated level, these scanned documents can be keyword-searched, rapidly narrowing down what is needed for review.

Important documents can be frontloaded.

Artificial intelligence can also be used. An intelligent learning process called TAR 2.0 can identify documents that are similar to other documents previously deemed unimportant. This can often reduce the amount of documents that need to be reviewed manually by 20-30%.

This undated photo provided by the Administrative Office of the US Courts shows US District Judge Tanya Chutkan.  Chutkan is initially assigned the election fraud case against former President Donald Trump.  (Administrative Office of the US Courts via AP)
Judge Tanya Chutkan won’t be fooled by this trick.

Even without using such tools, the 11.5 million pages of evidence don’t add up to the overwhelming amount suggested by Trump’s legal team. E-discovery vendors routinely handle such cases in a few months or less.

Undoubtedly, Chutkan is aware of the common practices of handling large volumes of evidence in major litigation. I think he is unlikely to be sympathetic For Team Trump’s claims of needing to delay for years.

Trump’s legal team to suggest that such a volume requires years of review likely implies complete ignorance of modern major litigation practices. More likely, when his request is denied, it is an insidious ploy to undermine the credibility of the court in the eyes of the public. Trumpworld is almost certain to fall for it—but I know you won’t.

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