Case Study

Stroz Friedberg acts as neutral expert

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Stroz Friedberg acts as neutral expert

On May 20, 2006, Federal law enforcement officials executed a search warrant on the Capitol Hill offices of a sitting Member of the United States Congress. See In Re: Search of the Rayburn House Office Building Room Number 2113, Case No. 06-231M01 (D.D.C.).

Challenging the validity of the search, Representative William Jefferson argued that information seized by the FBI during the raid was protected by the Speech or Debate Clause of the U.S. Constitution. When a three-judge appellate panel unanimously ruled that Federal prosecutors would not be permitted to review Rep. Jefferson’s files until he could determine which of those pertained to his work as a legislator, all three branches of government found themselves at an impasse: If the search warrant permitted prosecutors to review some, but not all, files on the Congressman’s computers, how could the investigation continue without violating the sanctity of the legislative privilege?

When the resolution of this issue was assigned to Magistrate Judge John M. Facciola, he ordered Stroz Friedberg to act as a neutral special expert in the matter. A series of consent orders set forth Stroz Friedberg’s role and responsibilities as well as a process to avoid conflict and expedite review. All parties agreed that a manual review of all of the seized electronic data would have delayed the investigation and substantially increased the costs for both sides.

Stroz Friedberg supervised the transfer of custody of electronic media seized by the FBI and developed a preservation and harvesting protocol that was approved by the parties and the Court. After making forensic copies of the voluminous electronic media, Stroz Friedberg assisted the parties and the Court in the identification of appropriate keywords and other criteria to be used for the searches; evaluated whether certain search terms would result in a disproportionately high number of “false positives,” and counseled all parties regarding the specifics of certain forensic processes and their results.

Stroz Friedberg then produced both printed and electronic data to Rep. Jefferson’s attorneys for privilege review according to a schedule set by the court. Upon receipt of each ex parte motion asserting privilege as to selected documents in each delivery, Stroz Friedberg removed any privileged documents from both the electronic and hard copy versions of the data. Each such redacted data set was delivered to the Office of the U.S. Attorney. The documents as to which Rep. Jefferson asserted privilege remained in Stroz Friedberg’s possession in the event they are required by the court.

Stroz Friedberg

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