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Whose Responsibility Is It?

 

By Deborah Kreigshauser, RMR, CRR, CLVS

Life is grand in a perfect world when we all get along. However, sometimes people seem to overstep their boundaries. If you want to be successful when dealing with videotaped depositions, it’s important to know your respective roles.

The court reporter is generally the one in most cases (not all) who receives the call requesting a court reporter and a videographer to shoot a videotaped deposition. Thus, that court reporting agency, in turn, arranges for contacting and confirming that a legal videographer will be present for the deposition on a particular date (preferably a Certified Legal Video Specialist who has been properly trained by NCRA’s CLVS Council). A good court reporting agency will see to it that the legal videographer receives a copy of the deposition notice as soon as one is available so the videographer has a hard copy of the deponent’s name, correct address and time for the scheduled deposition.

The legal videographer is responsible for knowing their video equipment and the proper set-up of all the cables and audio/video-recording devices. A legal videographer should understand how important it is to arrive early at a videotaped deposition to set up before the designated time of the deposition, particularly when you’re dealing with doctors and expert witnesses who charge some pretty hefty fees per hour. The videographer will perform a test recording prior to the arrival of the deposition participants to ensure the video equipment is working properly. A legal videographer generally supplies the necessary equipment to produce a back-up audio for the court reporter to take at the conclusion of the deposition. There is nothing wrong with requesting the court reporter to return the backup media to the videographer once the transcription of the proceedings is completed.

The court reporter is, likewise, responsible for setting up their court reporting equipment, whether it be just a steno machine or other related equipment, such as a laptop and realtime cabling. If a deposition notice has not been provided ahead of time, a good court reporter will procure the necessary information from the attorneys and share that information with the legal videographer.

The legal videographer will instruct the deposition participants where to sit during the deposition. He or she needs to keep in mind that the court reporter generally prefers to sit between the deponent and the questioning attorney. A videographer has no authority to demand where the court reporter sits. This is something usually worked out ahead of time during equipment set-up before the deposition participants enter the room. The court reporter’s transcript is the official record. Thus, the court reporter will make sure they’re seated in the appropriate location to competently report the deposition proceedings.

The court reporter will be responsible for marking the exhibits used during the deposition either prior to the start of the deposition or during the actual videotaping. The court reporter’s transcript is the official record and, thus, the court reporter is responsible for marking and retaining possession of the marked exhibits if they are to be attached to the deposition transcripts.

The legal videographer will signal the deposition participants that he/she is ready to start recording. The videographer usually has an introduction to read at the beginning of the videotaped deposition, outlining the case style, date, time, parties present, name of the deponent, and the location of the deposition being videotaped.

After the introduction is read at the beginning of the videotaped deposition, if desired, the court reporter will have the duty of swearing or affirming the deponent. The court reporter is responsible for reporting and transcribing the testimony of the attorneys and deponents as well as all of the legal videographer’s statements made during the deposition. Reporting the legal videographer’s statements gives him or her protection for the “unknown” when events happen like the tape running out, recording equipment malfunctioning or comments being recorded that were overheard over the recording microphones after the legal videographer has given several warnings to the counsel present. A legal videographer has a lot more standing when attorneys get really upset because the tape ran out while they were in the midst of very important questioning and ultimately observing through the final deposition transcript that the court reporter had transcribed the videographer’s comments, illustrating that the videographer gave proper notice to counsel of such events possibly occurring of which they chose to ignore.

Another important thing to keep in mind is that even though a legal videographer is videotaping the deposition, the court reporter has every right to interrupt during the videotaping to have testimony repeated that was unintelligible, to slow a witness down, if necessary, and to inform the deposition participants that his/her reporting equipment is malfunctioning. However, if a court reporter needs spellings of terminology or proper names, the court reporter should write a defined steno stroke in the reported testimony that he/she can search for at the conclusion of the deposition to obtain the necessary spellings to assist during transcription.

A court reporter may also be called upon to read back testimony stated earlier during the deposition proceedings. This is normally done utilizing the court reporter’s steno notes or laptop realtime transcription versus rewinding the videotape and playing it back for the deposition participants.

At the conclusion of the videotaped deposition, the legal videographer is responsible for announcing that the deposition is concluded, the present time, how many tapes or media disks were used and that the proceedings are being terminated or “going off the record.” The legal videographer is responsible for determining the custody of the recorded media and instructing the attorneys on the proper handling of that recorded media if counsel choose to take possession of it. The legal videographer is responsible for handling all videotape/media orders received by counsel.

The court reporter is responsible for determining whether signature has been waived or whether the deponent chooses to review and sign the final deposition transcript. The court reporter is also responsible for determining how the exhibits will be handled, whether the court reporter will take possession of them or counsel chooses to do so. The court reporter is responsible for all transcript orders received by counsel.

The legal videographer is responsible for providing audio back-up tapes/media to the court reporter to ensure that the transcript conforms to the videotapes/recording media which may ultimately assist the legal videographer should he or she have to perform synchronization procedures utilizing the court reporter’s transcript for trial presentation software programs. A transcript missing segments of the testimony is of no value to a legal videographer in performing this task.

Contributing Editor Debbie Kriegshauser, RMR, CRR, CLVS, has experience as both a realtime reporter and a legal videographer. She is the chair of the CLVS Council and works as an official reporter in St. Louis, MO.

This article appears as printed in the October 2008 JCR Copyright 2008