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Are Jefferson County’s Deposition Transcripts a Public Record?

With the days to comment on the Proposed Changes to Jefferson County’s Local Practice Rules quickly coming to a close, I wanted to go back and revisit the proposals and think them through again. I’d already emailed Eric Darnell, Circuit Court Administrator, with my thoughts, but while rereading the Proposed Changes I came away with a question that I think needs to be answered:

Are Jefferson County’s deposition transcripts a public record?

Please consider the following Proposed Changes to Jefferson County’s Local Practice Rules, and particularly what I’ve highlighted:

“CR 30.06 notwithstanding, only the cd/DVD/disc/videotape of a deposition shall be filed with the Clerk. The original hardcopy of the deposition shall be maintained by the party noticing the deposition and shall be made available to any party for inspection and/or copying. Excerpts of relevant portions of any deposition may be offered in support of and attached to any pleading with the Court.”

If you’ve ever looked at the online case docket sheet, you know that you cannot determine whose deposition has been noticed or taken. You cannot determine if a deposition has taken place or been transcribed. You cannot determine who the noticing attorney is, and you cannot determine before whom the deposition was taken (court reporter). Therefore, you cannot easily access what I thought was a public record, the original transcript of a deposition. 

The proposed rules state “The original hard copy of the deposition shall be maintained by the party noticing the deposition.” What if a deposition was taken and not transcribed? There is no way to tell if there is a transcript and if there is no transcript, it would be terribly difficult to determine who the court reporter was so you could call and ask, “Hey, was this deposition transcribed?” What if the transcript is lost or misplaced while being copied or reviewed by the parties? Does that mean there was nothing transcribed?

Are Jefferson County’s deposition transcripts a public record?

In addition to the proposals being problematic for the public, I question the practicality of the wording “shall be made available to any party for inspection and/or copying.”

What is the Court’s definition of “party”?

Is the original transcript a public record? If so, by this language, is the noticing attorney obligated to give or sell the public copies of the original transcript and/or monitor their review of the original transcript and exhibits? If the noticing attorney is obligated to do the above, what is a reasonable charge for preparing an exact copy of the original transcript, and/or what is a reasonable charge for monitoring the handling and review of the original transcript, and what is a reasonable time to produce the original transcript for review and/or copying?

What procedures are required to be followed to protect the integrity of the original transcript and exhibits?

As a court reporter for many years in Jefferson County, KY, I suggest the Court maintain the status quo until all issues concerning the proposed changes are resolved, that is, the noticing attorney maintaining the sealed original transcript until such time as the court deems it necessary to be opened, thereby maintaining its integrity and reducing the chance of mishap.