More About Chevron’s Google Subpoena

Not too long ago we saw the results of Chevron’s Google subpoena that requested information about the gmail account of law professor, blogger, and Chevron critic Kevin Jon Heller. It was clear that there were other targets out there and that Chevron had sought IP logs and other information about other email users from Google and perhaps other email service providers, but details about the others didn’t seem to be readily available. Thanks, however, to a filing in the Northern District of California, we have the subpoena itself—or one of the subpoenas (there’s no way to know if this is the only one, and it is dated back in 2011, so it seems Chevron has been at this for a while). 1 So as not to infringe on people’s electronic privacy, I’m not going to reprint the subpoena itself, though interested readers can find it as Docket No. 23 in case 3:11-mc-80217-CRB in the Northern District of California.

The subpoena is quite broad. it calls for:

ALL DOCUMENTS RELATED TO (A) the identiy of the user of the following email addresses, including but not limited to DOCUMENTS that provide all names, mailing addresses, phone numbers, billing information, date of account creation, account information and all other identifying information associated with the email address under any and all names, aliases, identities or designations RELATED TO the email address; (b) the usage of the following email addresses, including but not limited to DOCUMENTS that provide IP logs, IP address information at time of registration and subsequent usage, computer usage logs, or other means of recording information concerning the email or Internet usage of the email address; and (C) IP address information for the email sent by [redacted] to [Steven Donziger] on April 1, 2008 at 12:15 (likely Eastern or Central Time) with the subject “Fwd: Informe Final.”

I think any email user would have reasonable concerns about the scope of this subpoena, which is not limited in time or by subject matter. Here is what one of the targets, Laura Belanger, an environmental consultant who says she worked on hte case for ETech for just a short time, had to say in her motion to quash the subpoena:

Regarding Rule 26, the Chevron subpoena is unduly burdensome and overly broad. The vast majority of the data that would be divulged by Google is personal and completely unrelated to the Donziger case. The Chevron subpoena is for information related to my gmail account, which was in existence long before and since the brief two month period when I consulted in relation to the Aguinda v. ChevronTexaco case. The subpoena could have, but does not, set limits on the time period for which information is to be provided. Additionally, the subpoena is not limited to direct discovery towards information that is relevant to Chevron’s claim. As such, the subpoena outweighs its likely benefit. Because this is my personal email, the subpoena would result in Google providing information extending far beyond what is relevant in this case. If not quashed, the subpoena should be limited to data associated with subject lines related to the consulting I did for ETech and/or that were sent to or received by individuals listed on the subpoena or associated with the Aguinda v. ChevronTexaco case.

Well, that’s pretty good, I think!

Notes:

  1. It seems that the more recent subpoenas may have been a renewal of subpoenas that were issued before Judge Kaplan stayed the case, and that Chevron has now renewed them, but I’m not really sure about that.

About Ted Folkman

Ted Folkman is a shareholder with Murphy & King, a Boston law firm, where he has a complex business litigation practice. He is the author of International Judicial Assistance (MCLE 2d ed. 2016), a nuts-and-bolts guide to international judicial assistance issues, and of the chapter on service of process in the ABA's forthcoming treatise on International Aspects of US Litigation, and he is the publisher of Letters Blogatory, the Web's first blog devoted to international judicial assistance, which the ABA recognized as one of the best 100 legal blogs in 2012, 2014, and 2015.

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