DO I GET A FREE TRANSCRIPT TO REVIEW?
Paying Court Reporters for Their Transcripts
by Gregory Keyser, Esq.
Deposition transcripts are the intellectual property of court reporters. Transcript sales represent the
primary source of revenue for most private court reporters – they’re necessary to court reporters’ livelihoods. In view of court reporter’s ownership of transcripts and the work and expertise that generate transcripts, court rules require that parties and witnesses pay reporters if they want a copy of a transcript. For example, the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure provide that:
Upon payment, the (court reporter) shall furnish a copy of the deposition (transcript) to any party or to the deponent. Ohio R. Civ. P. 30(F)(2).
Attorneys may ask deponents to review a deposition transcript before it’s filed with a court or released to other parties, to verify the transcript’s accuracy. The witness’ right to review the transcript is preserved in the same court rules:
When the testimony is fully transcribed, the deposition shall be submitted to the witness for examination and shall be read to or by the witness, unless examination and reading are waived by the witness…. Ohio R. Civ. P. 30(E).
But what if a witness can’t or won’t pay for a copy of the transcript? How can the witness then review a transcript for accuracy? Must the witness be deprived of a right to review? Or must the court reporter waive the right to compensation?
As it turns out, both witnesses and court reporters may fully exercise their rights under court rules; a witness may review a transcript for accuracy even while a court reporter controls the work product.
Rule 30(E) which governs witness review requires that the transcript “…be submitted to the witness for examination,” unless the witness waives review. This language creating a duty to submit a transcript to a witness is different from language describing the court reporter’s duty to parties who pay for a copy of the transcript, to whom a court reporter “…shall furnish a copy…” of the transcript. Ohio R. Civ. P. 30(F)(2). Because the court reporter’s duty is described differently in these rules, the duty to a witness differs from the duty to a paying party.
As Rule 30(E) suggests, and courts have decided, a court reporter’s duty to submit a transcript to a witness is satisfied by making the transcript available temporarily for review. It can be read to a witness, Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(f)(2), or made available at the court reporter’s office at a reasonable time. Johnson v. Alcan Aluminum Corp. (N.D. Ga. 1979), 106 F.R.D. 314; Parkland Venture, LLC v. City of Muskego (E.D. Wis. 2010), 270 F.R.D. 439; Coleman v. Miller (M.D. Tn. 4/6/2010), No. 3-09-0456. The transcript need not be given to the witness.
On rare occasions, attorneys have demanded that a court reporter send a witness a free transcript for review at the attorney’s office. This demand violates court reporters’ rights to control their product and Rule 30(F)(2), which expressly conditions the duty to furnish a deposition upon payment. The common practice among court reporters is to deny such requests, and courts have supported those denials.