These days, many depositions are videotaped. If a deposition is being videotaped, is there still a need for a court reporter? Is a stenographic (“hard copy”) transcript necessary? This issue is currently the subject of debate in Texas and across the country, with interest groups taking positions on both sides.
On one hand, hard copy transcripts have practical advantages over video depositions. First, hard copies allow attorneys to take part in their favorite pastime – copious amounts of highlighting and tabbing. Additionally, most cases require careful attention to the facts, and hard copy transcripts make it easier to cite to the record. In short, whether it is due to personal preference or the manner in which people learn, some people will probably always prefer working with hard copies.
At the same time, video depositions have unique advantages over hard copy transcripts. In the era of C.S.I., jurors expect attorneys to use technology. And video evidence is often more compelling and entertaining than a transcript. Video depositions capture mannerisms, body language, and attitudes that would otherwise go unnoticed. Because of this, adverse witnesses and opposing counsel are more likely to mind their manners when being videotaped. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and video footage of a witness losing control can be pure gold. For example, when the witness in the infamous Texas Style Deposition told the examining attorney that he had “a case of incipient verbal diarrhea,” a paper transcript would never have done it justice.
As other commentators have noted, both video depositions and traditional hard copy transcripts have their place. When used correctly, each form of “transcript” compliments the other. Because of the limitations of videotape-only depositions, however, traditional hard copies (and court reporters) are here to stay . . . for now.