Since the beginning of April 2020, states around the country have issued mass quarantine orders and restrictions on in-person business. Many lawyers have turned to video conferencing technology to comply with new mandates and to conduct essential and time-sensitive legal business matters. While this technology is not new, the rate at which it is being utilized has brought forth questions, specifically, in the case of Alcorn v. City of Chicago. In this case, the question was presented of whether a party can record a deposition using the “Zoom” record functionality without a trained videographer present and only use a court reporter to record and verify the deposition.
The crux of the issue lies in the specific job duties and laws that govern court reporters and videographers. The Plaintiff in this case, requested that the court reporter who is present during the deposition, should be able to both record and certify the validity of the deposition transcript and the Zoom meeting footage. However, the court reporter will not certify a Zoom video recording without the assistance of a videographer.
A court reporter must follow their own set of rules and procedures that ensure that the deposition is an accurate reflection of the witness’s testimony. Using a Zoom video is not within the scope of a court reporter’s job functionality. It is the certified videographer who has the appropriate training and skill to ensure that the deposition is correctly recorded and verified for accuracy. A videographer has established procedures that clarify on or off the record testimony, limit noise and interruptions, address technical glitches, and accurately frame the center the witness’s camera view. Using a Zoom meeting without any modifications could become messy, glitchy, and cause additional “off the record” talk to be unintentionally added into the official testimony. A videographer and court reporter also work together as neutral parties to confirm and compare the validity of the official deposition transcript.
In the case of Alcorn V. City of Chicago, the court ruled that the Plaintiff cannot have it both ways. If a video recording of a deposition is going to be used as evidence, the procedures of Rule 30 and a certified video recording must be obtained (not a Zoom meeting). If the video recording in question is not going to be used as evidence, then the court will allow the Zoom video recording as another way for the attorney to prepare for their trial.
The result from this case is essential for lawyers who are currently using Zoom for depositions with the hopes of submitting the raw Zoom video recordings as official evidence. Before you use a Zoom meeting to record your next deposition, consider the ramifications of this order and how it could adversely affect your case. While a Zoom deposition may be the most convenient option in the current landscape today, this case concludes that the official submittal of video depositions must have a videographer present to be submitted into evidence. Until the law changes to include modifications for remote technology, it may be best practice to always have both a videographer and a court reporter present for all depositions you wish to submit into evidence.