Tips on Conducting Remote Depositions During the COVID-19 Crisis
By Lori L. Bundy, RMR, CRR, FPR
Owner of Naples Court Reporting
Are you like the many others right now that are scrambling to take depositions and attend court hearings remotely? Welcome to our “new normal,” at least for the time being. I am hoping to help navigate you through these rough waters and help settle the waves of uncertainty that are swirling around you and your office staff during these difficult times.
The judicial system can’t come to a complete halt during this time and its participants must learn to work within the constraints of the government orders to limit contact with others. With “stay-at-home” orders in effect, we can still attend proceedings with the help of remote services like Zoom, Avaya, or GoToMeeting. On March 18, 2020, the Florida Supreme Court issued Administrative Order AOSC20-16, entitled COVID19 Emergency Procedures for the Administering of Oaths Via Remote Audio-Video Communication Equipment.
With this new order, court reporters (who are notaries) can swear in witnesses via audio/video equipment after viewing an appropriate form of identification. This new procedure makes it possible for everyone to abide by the stay-at-home directive and to also meet discovery deadlines. Sometimes, we just need to think outside the box a little and be flexible in times like these.
Setting up a remote deposition is as easy as calling your local court reporting agency. Once the remote proceeding is agreed to by all parties and scheduled, the court reporting agency will send out invites to all attendees. It is highly recommended to do a test run if you are unfamiliar with the videoconferencing platform. You may even need to install software or hardware before your meeting.
While it isn’t always possible, if you can connect your computer to your router by an ethernet cable, you can avoid potential Wi-Fi issues. If you’re unable to connect with an ethernet cable, be sure to check your signal strength prior to joining. The stronger the connection, the less likely there will be a disruption.
Without the ability to physically share an exhibit in person, it’s important that exhibits are sent ahead of time to all participants (including your court reporter). Exhibits can be “shared” via your videoconferencing screen to all participants. It is suggested to pre-mark your exhibits before the deposition so that everyone can follow along easily.
Be prepared to place a stipulation on the record that the deposition will be conducted remotely by video conference and the oath will be administered remotely. This can be placed on the record by the court reporter or the attorneys before the proceedings take place. This stipulation may also be placed on the notice to ensure that everyone is aware of the Administrative Order in effect.
One other key thing to remember while attending proceedings via video conferencing is to speak one at a time and articulately. This will ensure that the court reporter gets an accurate record and that all parties hear you clearly. Video conferencing depositions can be challenging, but with everyone working together it can go smoothly and efficiently.
Other things to keep in mind before setting up your virtual proceedings are that you’ll need to use a device with a built-in webcam or use an external webcam. You can use a computer, iPad, or cell phone. Close as many browser windows and programs as possible, while only keeping open the ones you’ll need during the deposition. This will prevent an interruption or lag in your streaming. Be sure to turn off all notifications on the device you are using for the video conference, so your stream isn’t interrupted.
If you have speakerphone capability, use that, but be sure to mute the audio within the video conference program. Remember, video conferencing is only as good as the weakest link. If one of the parties on the conference is having trouble with their connection, it will be disruptive to all.
Obviously, videoconferencing everyone in remotely for a deposition may not be ideal. It certainly brings its own challenges, but with the situation we find ourselves in today, it is a great way to keep your case on track and provide your client with a good alternative to show them their case is moving forward. If you have any further questions about videoconferencing, contact Naples Court Reporting at
or email us at Scheduling@NaplesCRLS.com. We look forward to scheduling your next virtual deposition soon.