The Lexbe eDiscovery Platform (LEP) can be used to review documents in response to FOIA requests. This Technical Note sets forth a suggested workflow using Federal Exemptions; however, the process can be tailored to fit the specific jurisdictional requirements of your FOIA review.
Step 1: Case Setup
The following describes how to set up a case in LEP to review, redact, and export documents responsive to a FOIA request.
Creating a Case
To create a new case in your account, navigate to Account>Manage Cases and follow the instructions set forth in the Manage Cases Help Page. We recommend naming each case using the associated tracking number assigned to the request by the responding agency.
Creating Custom Fields to Track Exemptions
Oftentimes documents need to be redacted or withheld when some or all of its content falls under any of the nine federal exemptions, also known as B Codes. To track these exemptions, we recommend setting up Custom Doc Fields which can be used to tag documents, create logs, and identify page and document counts. To setup Custom Doc Fields, navigate to Management>Manage Custom Doc Fields, and follow the instructions set forth in our Manage Custom Doc Fields Help Page.
In this instance, we recommend creating a custom section titled "Exemptions" with one custom checkbox field for each exemption as shown below.
Saving Searches to Identify Potential Exemptions
To avoid having to reenter the same search terms, LEP offers the ability to title and save searches for future use. The database automatically records a history of keywords searched by each user and populates them in the Search Quick Links menu on the Search page. To rename and share a search term, expand the Search Quick Links menu on the left side of the Search page, select the most recent search under the Recent heading, rename it and save it as a Shared Search. Here are some example terms based on the above exemptions:
Privilege* OR Work Product
(law enforcement)~10 OR police
SSN OR social security number
Saving an Exemption Log Layout
The Layouts menu is where you can select the fields you wish to display on the Browse page and eventually export to a log. From the Browse page, expand the Layouts menu on the left. Click Select Fields to open the Select Fields window where you can choose which fields to display. For the purposes of an Exemption Log, we suggest selecting the following fields:
All fields under the Exemption section
To save this layout expand the Layout Quick Links menu on the left, click Edit, then rename the most recent layout Exemption Log and share the layout.
When it's time to generate the Exemption Log, use this quick link to easily display the fields to be exported.
If available, custodial information should be memorialized. To setup custodians, go to the Analysis menu and select Custodians. To add a custodian, click the + icon in the upper right corner. Populate the desired fields for that custodian and click Save. For more information on this process, please see the Custodians help page.
Step 2: Processing Documents
The following describes the suggested workflow for uploading documents to Lexbe for review in a FOIA matter.
Exporting from Document Management System
To the extent possible, we recommend that documents exported from the agency's document management system be in native format. Benefits of this practice include the maintaining of document metadata, the ability to run hash based deduplication, and improved filtering capabilities. If unable to export documents in native format, then PDF format is acceptable as is any other supported file type. Please see the Supported File Types link for a list.
Documents can be added to Lexbe by going to the Case menu and selecting Add Case Documents. From this page, users can create upload batches, run deduplication, and add control numbers. To create a new upload batch, click on + New Upload, populate the fields as desired, click Next, and then upload documents via drag and drop into the upload window. For more information on uploading documents to Lexbe, please see our Add Case Documents help page.
Please note, if custodial information is being maintained, then we recommend uploading documents in batches separated by custodian. While custodians can be assigned after documents are uploaded, the most efficient workflow is to assign a custodian to the batch at the time of upload.
Running deduplication can significantly reduce the volume of documents to be reviewed and redacted. If documents were uploaded to the case in native format, then hash based deduplication (i.e. exact deduplication) can be used. If documents were uploaded in another format such as PDFs, then Near Duplication may be more appropriate.
To run near duplication across the data set, please contact the Professional Services team. To run hash based deduplication, go to the Add Case Documents page, click on the vertical ellipses, and select Deduplicate for horizontal deduplication, or Deduplicate by Custodian for vertical deduplication. Horizontal deduplication means that all but one copy of the same document will be marked as a duplicate. Vertical deduplication, or Deduplication by Custodian, means that documents will be marked as duplicates on a per custodian basis. For more information on this topic, please visit our Deduplication help page.
Assigning Control Numbers
Control numbers can be assigned to documents once they've been uploaded to the case. To do this, go to the Add Case Documents page, click on the vertical ellipses in the upper right corner, and select Assign Control Numbers. If additional documents are added at a later date, repeating this process will assign control numbers to the new documents, picking up after the last previously assigned control number.
Step 3: Searching, Tagging, Redacting
Typically, search terms are run within an agency's document management system to identify responsive documents prior to export. As such, this workflow is centered around exemptions, but can easily be tailored to address responsiveness as well.
Users can run basic or complex searches to identify documents that may contain exemptions or to further cull the dataset. To access the search feature, click on Search in the menu. Users can enter terms related to the FOIA request to help identify responsive documents, or they can enter search terms associated with exemptions to identify documents for redaction. If any terms were saved as a Search Quick Link during the initial case setup, then those search terms will be available in the Search Quick Links menu on the left side of the page.
Reviewing and Tagging Documents
Users can open documents in the Doc Viewer directly from the Search page by clicking on the hyperlinked document title. While in the Doc Viewer, users can mark the documents with the applicable exemption codes. To do so, expand the Exemptions section which is located under the DISC menu on the right. Click to mark the checkbox of each applicable exemption for that document, and click Save.
To tag multiple documents simultaneously, use the Multi Doc Edit tool. After running a search, select the desired documents, expand the Multi Doc Edit menu on the left, select the applicable field from the dropdown, mark the checkbox, and that tag will be updated for the selected documents. For more information on the Multi Doc Edit tool, please see our technical note on Tagging Multiple Fields.
Once documents have been reviewed and tagged with the applicable exemptions, then redactions can be made. Documents can be redacted while in the Doc Viewer, or users can run Auto Redaction if appropriate to redact multiple documents simultaneously.
To redact a document from the Doc Viewer, click REDACTION to open the Redaction Editor. From here, do the following:
Click Generate Images
Once the images are generated, the Redaction Editor will display one page of the document at a time.
To create a redaction, left click the mouse and hold, then pull the mouse over the text to redact.
This creates a redaction box which can moved, resized, and/or deleted as desired.
Each redaction made to the document populates in a list on the left with the default redaction text "Redacted."
Update the redaction text for each redaction so it reflects the applicable exemption(s) (e.g. 552(b)(3)).
Once redactions are complete, click Save.
Auto Redaction is an excellent solution for items such as social security numbers, financial account numbers, and email addresses. Lexbe's Auto Redaction feature searches OCR text, so if the documents are of good quality (i.e. clear text, not handwritten), then Auto Redaction may be a helpful tool. To read more about using Lexbe's Auto Redaction feature, please see the Auto Redaction help page.
Step 4: Exporting/Producing Documents
This section describes how to export the final set of documents for delivery and generate an exemption log.
To produce the final set of documents users will need to setup and run a production job. To do this, go to the Discovery menu and select Production Job. Create a new job by clicking the + icon in the upper left corner. We recommend using Lexbe's default settings; however, requirements do vary, so tailor these settings to fit jurisdictional requirements. Default settings include the following:
Stamping Bates numbers on documents. If pages shouldn't be stamped, then uncheck the Bates Stamp Page option.
Not including native versions of emails in the production. While this option can be unchecked, we do not recommend it as emails can sometimes contain attachments that were not selected for production.
Standard production type. Unless a format of single page TIFF images is specified, we recommend leaving this as a Standard production (this will include multipage PDFs, natives, text files, and load files).
Default load file settings. Oftentimes, the deliverable for a FOIA request will not require load files; however, if load files are requested, the fields contained therein can be modified as needed. See our Production Job help page for more information on load file fields.
To add documents to the production job, use the filter on the Browse page to identify the applicable documents. Once identified, select all documents, expand the Production Jobs menu on the left, and select the applicable production job from the dropdown list. Once documents have been added, users will need to navigate back to the Production Jobs page and validate the production.
Once the production has been run, it will need to be downloaded and QC'd. If documents have been requested in PDF format, then only produce the folder titled PDF as this will include a PDF of each document, with redacted versions for those that had exemptions. If documents have been requested in standard eDiscovery format, then the production may be produced in its downloaded form.
Please note the following when producing documents:
To be produced, documents must be marked as Responsive using the built-in Responsive coding field.
Native and PDF versions of documents with redactions are automatically replaced with the redacted PDF when run through a production.
Load file fields can be customized to include custom fields. As such, the exemptions fields could be included in the load files removing the need to generate a separate Exemption Log.
For additional information on any part of the production process, please see Lexbe's Production Job help page.
An Exemption Log is crucial whether it's being maintained for internal purposes, or for production to the requesting party. To export a log of all documents tagged with one or more exemptions, use the Layout Quick Link created during the initial setup of the case. From the Browse page, expand the Layout Quick Links menu on the left side of the page, then click the shared link titled "Exemption Log." This will automatically display the fields to be included on the log. Use the filter to identify all documents tagged with one or more exemptions. Select all documents returned by applying the filter, expand the Export menu on the left, and click Export Log to Excel. Save the log to the desired location.