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In re Stern, 321 S.W.3d 828 (Tex. App. Houston 1st Dist.)

A court must follow certain rules when authorizing a special master; a special master cannot be granted “carte blanche authorization to sort through electronic storage devices.” In this case, the Court failed to follow the proper Texas procedure in a few regards:

1) The Court of Appeals noted that granting someone access to a party’s electronic storage device is particularly intrusive and should generally be discouraged. Thus, if a court is going to allow access, there MUST be a showing that the responding party has not complied with the original discovery requests or that the original discovery response was inadequate and a further search could produce different results.

2) The information sought on hard drive must be relevant. There has to be a showing of a direction relationship between the search of the hard drive and the issue central to the case.

3) The special master should not be granted to free reign to search the hard drive at his discretion. Specific search terms should be provided as to limit the scope of the search to the relevant materials.

4) The party requesting the data must make a showing that it can actually and reasonably be retrieved.

As a result of the lower court’s failure to comply with these procedures, the Texas Court of Appeals struck down the ruling that authorized the special master and required Stern to turn over his hard drive.