Audio-Visual Deposition Summary

When the rights and interests of persons are determined in a court of law, it is important to keep a permanent record of the proceedings. The record serves appellate review. In a common law system, it thus serves as the basis of the decisions which establish the law. The concern for the record is ancient, and the terms of keeping it, carefully husbanded.


Technology has had its effect upon the keeping of the· record in the past. The efficiency of the typewriter overwhelmed the art of the scrivener in the 19th Century. Shorthand has largely given way to the stenotape. However, a new and more pervading revolution has overtaken the keeping of the record. The video­tape and the audiotape now are capable of replacing the human eye and ear, as translated on paper, and of providing new dimen­sions to the keeping of the record. Pictures and voice can now replace the flat, black-and-white countenance of the printed page.


Courts have begun to respond to the new technology. Many courts now permit audio-visual means for taking depositions. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure have permitted recording of depositions by other than stenographic means since 1970. Twelve states have adopted the Federal Rules. Thirteen more states expressly permit videotaping of depositions in their rules. A smattering of decisions expands the list even further. Three states -Nebraska, Ohio and Wisconsin -have enacted provisions actively encouraging audio-and videotaping of depositions.


There are substantial reasons for using the new technology. Video-and audiotape are superior means of presenting depositions at trial. The witness can be seen and heard answering questions. This allows a better appraisal of the witness than a mere read­ing of transcript does. Because of the visual and audio component, greater accuracy than stenographic record is possible. These are substantive advantages. The equipment, also, is readily avail­able. It is portable and may be used in almost any setting. The reasons for permitting audio-visual recording are overwhelming.


The Uniform Audio-Visual Deposition [Act] [Rule] authorizes the use of audio-visual means for the recording of depositions.


The recorded material becomes "an official record of the deposi­tion." The audio-visual deposition can be used for any purpose and in any other circumstances that a stenographic deposition may be used. The audio-visual material is on equal footing with stenographic material.


There is a specified procedure for the audio-visual deposi­tion. The camera has to record an oral or written statement as an introduction to the deposition. This includes identification of the operator, date, time, and, place of the deposition, and name of witness. The introduction, in short, provides necessary pre­liminary information. The deposition then proceeds. At the end, a statement must clearly identify the conclusion. The procedure is much the same as for stenographically recorded depositions.


Each state supreme court has rule-making power, under this Act, for establishing proper standards and guidelines. This Act merely establishes the authority for audio-visual depositions and the minimum of provisions necessary for implementation. The remainder is up to the courts and local practice. The utiliza­tion of audio-visual means of recording should improve and enhance the trial practice extensively, and maximize the value of the deposition in that practice.