Remote Oath Administration: Discovery in Civil Litigation Can Proceed in the Wake of COVID-19 Pandemic
As normalcy in American Society is being redefined daily in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the possibility of discovery in civil litigation coming to a complete halt seems like an inevitable reality. Do we in the industry simply accept this disruption for an indefinite period, or is there something that can be done to create a safe and effective pathway for discovery moving forward?
Over the past several weeks, litigation support firms across the country have been diligently reminding litigators about alternative methods of taking depositions remotely via video and teleconference platforms. However, while videoconferencing has been effective in the industry for over a decade and does eliminate the need for travel to conduct depositions for most, there is still one roadblock that needs to be lifted for remote depositions to continue as our cities move closer to complete shutdown.
ADMINISTRATION OF THE OATH
As stated above, depositions conducted on videoconference platforms do eliminate the need for travel for most, but not all involved. While attorneys and parties can attend from the comforts and safety of their homes or offices, court reporters and deponents must still travel to outside locations where they can be physically present together due to notary laws regarding the administration of the oath.
Notary laws are changing all across the country, and here in Ohio, the Ohio Notary Public Modernization Act has recently been adopted to allow for certain duties of a notary to be conducted via two-way videoconference, such as notarization of legal documents, titles, and contracts. However, when it comes to the certification of depositions and administration of the oath, the court reporter notary and the deponent must still be physically present together for a deposition transcript to be admissible in court.
IMMEDIATE CALL TO ACTION
As major American cities move closer and closer to a complete shutdown in the wake of COVID-19, all the videoconferencing in the world will not stop discovery in civil litigation from also completely shutting down without an emergency change to our notary laws. Now, this would be fine if we were talking a few weeks, or if we actually knew for certain the timeline of this pandemic. But the reality is that we don’t know how long this necessary disruption in our society will last, and each day the projected timeline is being extended further and further into the future.
The time for emergency action is now. I am urging all litigators, litigation support firms, and court reporters to reach out to their State and Federal Courts and push to temporarily lift remote oath restrictions in states where these restrictions exist so that discovery can move forward remotely, and court reporters and deponents can also attend depositions from the safety of their homes without the need for travel.
Discovery in litigation can move forward in these uncertain times by utilizing secure videoconference and electronic exhibit sharing platforms, but only if the oath can be administered remotely as well. Otherwise, we can realistically expect a backup in our civil courts like nothing we have ever seen before.
About the Author:
Todd L. Persson has been serving the Cleveland legal community as a court reporter since 2002 and is a Co-Founder of Cleveland-based litigation support firm Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC. He has spoken on the future of court reporting and technology on the Stenographers World Radio national podcast, has had blogs featured nationally by the National Court Reporters Association and the American Translators Association, and has had articles published in the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Journal. To read Todd’s full bio, visit our Partners page. Connect with him on LinkedIn here.
CRP Blog Editors in Chief:
Grace Hilpert-Roach has been serving the Cleveland legal community as a court reporter since 1992 and is a Co-Founder of Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC. To read Grace’s full bio, visit our Partners Page. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.
Christine Zarife Green has been serving the Cleveland legal community as a court reporter since 2008 and is a Co-Founder of Cleveland Reporting Partners, LLC. To read Christine’s full bio, visit our Partners Page. Connect with her on LinkedIn here.