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The Benefits of Electronic Discovery: Case Study

NCJ Number
Date Published
February 2018
39 pages
This case study is presented as an excellent example of how a prosecutor's office (The King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office in Seattle, Washington) has created a useful electronic discovery system.
An introductory statement notes that prosecutors are obligated to provide timely and complete discovery to the defense of evidence prosecutors have obtained in the case investigation, particularly exculpatory and impeachment material. Failure to record properly discovery documents provided to the defense can jeopardize cases and put prosecutors at risk of being charged with ethical violations. Prosecutors are increasingly using technology to streamline the discovery process while creating a reliable record of material turned over to the defense and when the transfer occurred. Although the development of an electronic discovery system requires an initial investment of time and funding, it has the benefits of accurate records, a speedier process, and reliable accountability for all parties in the discovery process. The electronic discovery system of the King County Prosecuting Attorney's Office (KCPAO) continues to evolve and improve based on experience and advances in technology. Its short-term costs are reported to be outweighed by the long-term gains. Two of the seven benefits of electronic discovery outlined in this case study are the creation of an electronic record of the discovery material and the creation of an audit trail of who handled the discovery procedure within the prosecutor's office. Of the six challenges of electronic discovery outlined in the case study, two involve funding for the development of the technology needed to collect and send the discovery material, as well as funding for the licenses for the technology used. Two other challenges mentioned are obtaining electronic records from the police and staffing the prosecutor's office for the tasks involved in an electronic discovery system.

Date Published: February 1, 2018