While the world is going through this difficult time dealing with COVID-19, we wanted to take a moment to thank our clients for their continued support. We really appreciate you!
Remote depositions are becoming the new normal for the legal profession amid the COVID-19 pandemic. One common concern from attorneys is can the witness be sworn in remotely. The Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(4) and similar state rules, such as O.C.G.A. § 9-11-30(4) authorize remote depositions by stipulation of the parties or court order.
Following Governor Brian Kemp’s declaration of a state health emergency in Georgia, Justice Melton issued a statewide judicial emergency limiting court functions and suspended or otherwise granted relief from a number of statutory judicial deadlines.
Currently the order will remain in effect until April 13, 2020. During this time, EGCR is waiving any web or videoconferencing fees as long as EGCR is not required to provide a location or equipment outside of EGCR’s facility. Standard deposition rates will apply.
Our team is working diligently to prepare our staff and our clients for the best experience possible. Below are some helpful links.
We urge our clients if they run into a situation that is unique, to call or email our office so we can provide a solution.
We also have a comprehensive YouTube tutorial on web depositions, along with other tutorials.
We believe remote depositions will continue to be relevant in the future for situations relating to weather. Georgia can shut down for a week at a time due to weather. You no longer have to.
While, during this crisis, the EGCR and Ancillary teams are working remotely to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we are still available to answer your questions or concerns.
Deposing a witness is a headache. There is coordination, fees, preparation, and numerous other things to consider. Deposing an international witness can be even worse. In addition to the standard procedures you have to undertake, there are other things to consider as well. What are the internal laws of the witness’s home country? Do you need an interpreter? Must you first submit a request through the Hague Evidence Convention?
While difficult, international depositions are by no means impossible. Proper preparation, like every other stage of litigation, is the key.
In addition, here are some helpful things to consider:
- What local laws are there where the witness is?
- Do you need a visa for you and the court reporter to perform the work in the foreign country?
- What oath requirements are there?
- Do you have to make travel arrangements for a diplomatic officer from a consulate?
- Can you compel testimony if the witness is unwilling?
- How can you reserve a location? Can this be done by video-conference?
Some countries strictly forbid pre-trial discovery, while others allow it in limited circumstances. Further, if the country is a member of the Hague Convention, that adds another layer of difficulty.
Certain processes can be used to get evidence without a deposition. Things such as letters rogatory and letters of request can be used. Thankfully, if you only need documentation, this is a much easier procedure. But, they can be time consuming and expensive.
However, you can tailor requests to your needs. It is important to talk to an expert in this area to determine what is right for your situation. Preemptively, the client should be warned that a substantial expense is forthcoming. Finally, be careful to not go on a fishing expedition.
Earlier this year, U.S. federal courts sent notices to attorneys across the country urging them not to share login credentials with their vendors. The concern is that vendors could have access to the attorneys’ confidential information. Accordingly, courts have asked lawyers across the nation to exercise caution when providing login credentials to a provider in order to grant them the ability to manage files. This advice coming from federal courts is also a warning to those attorneys who may be sharing login credentials to vendors at the state level.
Numerous federal district courts and bankruptcy courts sent notices out to attorneys regarding these privacy issues. While each message varied, the general warning was the same: Beware when providing login credentials with docket service vendors, as there is a risk of giving them access to sealed or confidential information. Since more and more courts across the United States are using e-filing and other online systems, and many lack the ability to integrate software with the court’s systems, the use of third-party vendors is appealing. While doing so may take a load off of staff, consideration of possible rule and ethics violations should not be looked over. This concern is especially true considering the position taken by federal courts across the nation, with state courts likely to follow.
There are, however, other concerns beyond the sharing of confidential information with third-party vendor include about which attorneys should be concerned.
For one, errors can happen when uploading documents into the court’s docketing system. If the information uploaded to the court e-filing system be incorrect or inaccurate it is not as simple a task as hitting delete to get rid of the information. Indeed, once a document has been uploaded into the court’s docketing system it becomes part of the court’s records. In order to remove the misinformation from the court’s records, a motion to strike must be filed, paid for, and approved by the court. If a third-party vendor uploads incorrect information into the court’s system, the ramifications can be significant if that error goes unnoticed until someone else sees it, like the presiding judge or opposing counsel.
Another real concern is liability. This is because any information provided or entered into the court’s system under a lawyer’s credentials, irrespective of who actually entered and/or uploaded this information, is the ultimate responsibility of that attorney. Simply put, if a document is uploaded into the court’s system and personal identifying or other confidential information has not been redacted, the attorney is responsible for that disclosure. For this reason, the ability to upload and edit documents should be in the hands of very few and trusted individuals.
No matter what you or your law firm decides to do, be sure to protect both the attorneys and clients when handling confidential information.