Apple may face penalties over 'unacceptable' court conduct

Apple's handling of document discovery in court has landed the tech giant in hot water.

Credit: James Martin/CNET News

Sanctions may be laid at Apple's feet after a judge scolded the iPad and iPhone maker over its information-sharing practices in court.

As reported by Bloomberg, at a hearing this week in San Jose, California, U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul S. Grewal noted that the tech giant's document production "has more than doubled since the court got involved," and invited plaintiff lawyers to consider pursuing sanctions against Apple.

The judge asked Apple's lawyers why emails and documents turned up only after the court ordered a review of the iPad and iPhone maker's document discovery procedures. Grewal told one of Apple's lawyers, Ashlie Beringer, that it "doesn't sound like you did a lick of work" to determine which documents should have been handed over.

"We've gone through close to a dozen people that should've come up and didn't come up," Grewal said. "In light of that process, how am I to have eany confidence that the procedure now is any better [than before]?"

Beringer responded by saying that the contended documents "absolutely should’ve been collected and they were not," and that "was a failure of management on my part, one that won't happen again." The Apple attorney also commented that the firm had made "herculean efforts" to try and fix the problem.

The suit, which was filed in 2011, alleges that Apple improperly collected location-based data on their iPhones, which in turn meant that even if a user turned off GPS capabilities, their movements were still being tracked. In addition, it is claimed that the iPad and iPhone maker further violated privacy laws by sharing this information with third parties.

Apple has fought against providing certain documents, saying that the sensitive nature of such information could harm not only the firm but its customers. The company attempted to have the court case dismissed earlier this month, and presiding judges Lucy H. Koh and Grewal deemed Apple's conduct "unacceptable" as the firm's defense relied on documents that should have been disclosed to the customer's lawyers -- and were not.