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More From Texas on the Need for Court Reporters (Versus Video Equipment)

In June, I discussed an interesting article from the Austin Statesman that raised the question of whether, in a digital world, the job of court reporter was starting to resemble a "system of medieval scribes" that might not be long for this world. In the year 2011, I wondered, must the responsibility of recording exactly what is stated at trial or a deposition be filled by a human? That is, "couldn't some combination of 21st century audio and video equipment adequately and accurately capture what is said during a proceeding?"

Earlier this year, the Texas Conference of State Court Administrators issued a report questioning the state's reliance on human court reporters to create transcripts, and called the current system inefficient, costly and, in some ways, "completely baffling." Recently, however, a Texas organization called the Court Reporters Certification Board sought to fight back a bit on behalf of court reporters. In a letter dated Aug. 31, 2011, CRCB asked the state Attorney General to opine on whether an oral deposition meant for use in litigation in the courts of Texas can be recorded solely by non-stenographic means (i.e., by video camera), or whether doing so would violate Texas Government Code §52.021(f), which requires that an oral deposition be recorded by a certified shorthand reporter. The CRCB mentioned in its request that its "inclination" is ... wait for it... for the AG to conclude that all depositions must be recorded by a certified court reporter. 

As discussed by Texas Lawyer's Tex Parte Blog, the CRCB says that there is a conflict between §52.021(f), which requires certified shorthand reporters to record depositions, and Texas Rule of Civil Procedure 199.1, which permits depositions recorded by nonstenographic means such as video. The CRCB asserts that rules such as 199.1 cannot repeal "substantive" law, and it asked the AG to determine whether §52.021(f) is "procedural or substantive." The AG's office says that it expects to issue an opinion by Feb. 29, 2012.

What do you think? Is there a valid reason to require a certified court reporter to record a deposition that will be used in court, or is a video deposition sufficient?

Posted by Bruce Carton on October 4, 2011 at 04:17 PM | Permalink | Comments (6)


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