U.S. Legal Support announces new article about the basics of remote depositions

In a press release issued March 30, U.S. Legal Support, based in Houston, Texas, announced the publication of a new article by James Drimmer, Esq. The title is A Litigator’s Guide to Remote Depositions.

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Has the time finally come for increased reliance on remote hearings and depositions?

An article posted on March 30 by The National Law Review addresses the increased reliance on remote hearings and depositions in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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How to conduct depositions remotely

An article posted by Law360 on March 30 offers tips for conducting depositions remotely including setup, presentation of exhibits, and accessing realtime.

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Top legal trends going into the new decade

A blog by Kramm Court Reporting, posted March 25 on JD Supra, outlines the top legal trends going into the new decade.

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What states allow remote and/or online notarization?

This page is no longer being updated. For the most current information NCRA has available, NCRA members can visit the Remote Notarization section on NCRA.org/SONAR.

Please note that each state’s notarization laws are different and may only apply to specific proceedings. Please check with your State Notary, Secretary of State, or other regulatory agency for your state’s specific remote notarization or oath administration laws. Lastly, the information provided is not intended, nor should it be construed, to be legal advice. Members with particular needs concerning the specific issues mentioned should seek the guidance or retention of competent counsel. If you have any additional updates or changes to this information, please contact NCRA Director of State Government Relations Jocelynn Moore at jmoore@ncra.org.

Faced with both the need to practice safety in this health crisis and yet the need to allow justice to continue its work, many court reporters are attempting to make the remote office accessible for courtrooms and depositions. Keep in mind that for some states and for some officials, their ability to swear in a witness is embedded within their licenses or within their official duties as a court reporter.

According to the National Notary Association, “remote notarization” happens when a signer personally appears before the Notary at the time of the notarization using audio-visual technology over the internet instead of being physically present in the same room. Remote online notarization is also called webcam notarization, online notarization, or virtual notarization.

Congress is currently considering a bill, the “Securing and Enabling Commerce Using Remote and Electronic Notarization Act of 2020,” that was introduced by U.S. Senators Mark Warner of Virginia and Kevin Cramer of North Dakota on March 18, 2020. If enacted, the bill will authorize remote online notarizations nationally. For information, please visit: https://www.congress.gov/bill/116th-congress/senate-bill/3533/text.

Several states have implemented changes to laws in the past few months which allow for remote notarization, and we have attempted to gather that information for you here:

Alabama – Effective March 24, 2020, through April 16, 2020, official court reporters, special roving court reporters, special court reporters, supernumerary court reporters, and freelance court reporters qualified to administer an oath in the state of Alabama to a witness in a deposition or court proceeding or trial may swear a witness remotely by audio-video communication technology if the deposition or court proceeding or trial is conducted by audio-video communication equipment that allows the court reporter and the witness simultaneously to view and orally communicate with each other, provided that the court reporter can positively identify the witness.

Alaska – Can swear witnesses telephonically since the 1990s. 

California — Effective March 27, 2020, the following statute is suspended: Code of Civil Procedure section 2025.310, subdivision (b), to the extent that subdivision limits a court’s authority to provide that a party deponent may appear at a deposition by telephone.

Colorado — Effective March 27, 2020, until 30 days from March 27, 2020, unless extended further by Executive Order. The Executive Order temporarily suspends the requirement that the individual making a statement or executing a signature appear personally before a notarial officer, as set forth in C.R.S. § 24-21-506. This temporary suspension does not apply to any notarial act required by Title 1 of Colorado Revised Statutes. Governor Polis authorized the Colorado Secretary of State, consistent with the Secretary of State’s rulemaking authority under C.R.S. § 24-21-527(1)(a)-(f), to promulgate and issue temporary emergency rules to:

  1. Authorize notarial officers to perform notarizations where a person appears before a notarial officer remotely, by real-time audio-video communication; and
  2. Establish the standards and processes necessary to allow remote notarizations, including rules regarding authentication, verification of identity, and audio-video recording.

Connecticut – Effective March 24, 2020, through June 23, 2020, all relevant state laws and regulations are hereby modified to permit any notarial act that is required under Connecticut law to be performed using an electronic device or process that allows a notary public commissioned by the Connecticut Secretary of the State and a remotely located individual to communicate with each other simultaneously by sight and sound (“Communication Technology”), provided that certain conditions are met.

Florida 

Georgia – Currently, there is no clear legal authority expressly barring a court reporter from administering an oath remotely, nor is there authority expressly permitting it. Remote depositions, in general, are permitted by Georgia’s Civil Practice Act. “[A] deposition may be taken by telephone or other remote electronic means only upon the stipulation of the parties or by order of the court. For purposes of the requirements of this chapter, a deposition taken by telephone or other remote electronic means is taken in the state and at the place where the deponent is to answer questions.” OCGA § 9-11-30(b)(4). However, the Act does not address whether a court reporter must be physically present with a witness in order to swear the witness in. No appellate legal authority interpreting this code section to impose a live swearing-in requirement could be located; however, no legal authority interpreting it to bar remote swearing-in was located either.

Idaho 

Illinois — Effective March 26, 2020, Governor Pritzker ordered that during the duration of the Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamation related to the outbreak of COVID-19, the requirement that a person must “appear before” a Notary Public commissioned under the laws of Illinois pursuant to the Illinois Notary Act, 5 ILCS 312/6-102, is satisfied if the Notary Public performs a remote notarization via two-way audio video communication technology, provided that the Notary Public commissioned in Illinois is physically within the State while performing the notarial act and the transaction follows the guidance posted by the Illinois Secretary of State on its website. Additionally, it was ordered that during the duration of the Gubernatorial Disaster Proclamation related to the outbreak of COVID-19, any act of witnessing required by Illinois law may be completed remotely by via two-way audio-video communication technology, provided that certain conditions are met.

Indiana — Effective March 31, 2020, until further order by the Indiana Supreme Court. Notaries and other persons qualified to administer an oath in the State of Indiana may swear a witness remotely by audio-video communication technology, provided they can positively identify the witness. All rules of procedure, court orders, and opinions applicable to remote testimony, depositions, and other legal testimony, that can be read to limit or prohibit the use of audio-video communications equipment to administer oaths remotely, are suspended.

Iowa — Effective March 22, 2020, until 11:59 P.M. on April 16, 2020, unless sooner terminated or extended in writing by Governor Reynolds. The Governor, pursuant to Iowa Code § 29C.6(6) suspended the personal appearance requirement in Iowa Code § 9B.6, but only to the extent that the notarial act complies with the requirements of section 6 of 2019 Iowa Acts chapter 44 (Senate File 475) and communication technology. Additionally, the Governor, pursuant to Iowa Code § 29C.6(d) and Iowa Code § 135.144(3), and in conjunction with the Iowa Department of Public Health, temporarily suspended the regulatory provisions of Iowa Code §§ 144B.3, 633.279, and 633B.105, to the extent that they require the physical presence of a testator, settlor, principal, witness, or other person, if the person is present in a manner in which the witness or other person can see and hear the acts by electronic means, such as video conference, Skype, Facetime, Zoom, or other means, whether or not recorded.

Kentucky — pending legislation

Maine – Effective March 25, 2020 until further ordered by the State of Maine Supreme Judicial Court. An officer or other person before whom a deposition is to be taken is hereby authorized to administer oaths and take testimony remotely, so long as that officer or other person can both see and hear the deponent via audio-video communication equipment or technology for purposes of positively identifying the deponent. In addition, all parties are reminded that, “[u]nless the court orders otherwise, the parties may by written stipulation (1) provide that depositions may be taken before any person, at any time or place, upon any notice, and in any manner and when so taken may be used like other depositions, and (2) modify the procedures provided by these rules for other methods of discovery.” M.R. Civ. P. 29. If the parties so stipulate to the person before whom the deposition is to be taken, that person has the authority to administer oaths.

Maryland — Effective March 30, 2020, until the termination of the state of emergency and the proclamation of the catastrophic health emergency has been rescinded, except as may be rescinded, superseded, amended, or revised by additional orders. The order issues guidance to notaries public on the use of communications technologies that permit the notary to see and hear the person signing a document in realtime.

Michigan — pending implementation

Minnesota – Effective January 1, 2019, the Minnesota Legislature enacted remote online notarization pursuant to Minnesota Statutes 358 and 359, allowing a notary public who is physically located in this state to perform a remote online notarial act as defined in Minnesota Statutes 358.645.

Mississippi – All persons qualified to administer an oath in the State of Mississippi may swear a witness remotely by audio-video communications equipment for purposes of readily identifying the witness until otherwise ordered by the Supreme Court of Mississippi.

Missouri – Effective March 25, 2020, until otherwise further ordered by the Supreme Court of Missouri. The Court hereby suspends any local or Missouri Supreme Court rule that may be interpreted to require administering any oath or affirmation in-person when such oaths or affirmations can be administered remotely by available technologies, including videoconferencing or teleconferencing, and is not otherwise prohibited by any statutory or constitutional provision.

Montana – Effective October 1, 2019, Montana Notaries are permitted to perform remote notarizations for signers outside the state.

Nevada

New Hampshire — Effective March 23, 2020. Governor Sununu in Emergency Order #11, Pursuant to Executive Order 2020-4, has temporarily authorized the authority to perform secure online notarization.

New York – Effective March 7, 2020, through April 18, 2020, any notarial act that is required under New York State law is authorized to be performed utilizing audio-video technology provided that certain requirements are met. As of 2017, the New York Department of State, with regard to CPLR 3113(d), stated that “…with respect to civil depositions, a notary may under the specific provisions of Article 31 of the CPLR and in compliance therewith, swear in a remote witnesses. …” 

North Dakota – The webcam notarization law took effect August 1, 2019. The statute permits the Secretary of State to publish rules for remote notarization, but the Secretary of State is not required to do so.

Ohio – The Ohio Notary Public Modernization Act took effect September 2019. An online notarization is permitted by an Ohio notary public who has been authorized by the Ohio Secretary of State’s office to perform online notarizations. With regard to remote oath administration during depositions, the Ohio Rules of Civil Procedure contemplates the use of remote depositions (See Ohio R. Civ. P. 30(b)(6)). However, the rules do not state that the oath has to be administered in person. The Ohio rules regarding notaries public (see Ohio Revised Code 147) do not address the in-person administration of oaths at a deposition.

Oklahoma 

Pennsylvania – Effective March 21, 2020, the requirement of physical presence of notaries who are court reporters/stenographers participating in criminal, civil, and administrative proceedings is suspended as pertaining to notarial acts and oaths of affirmations and will only last the duration of the declared disaster emergency.

South Dakota – The state’s remote notarizations are currently limited to paper documents only and signers for remote notarizations may only be identified through the Notary’s personal knowledge.

Tennessee

Texas – The Texas Supreme Court issued Emergency Order No. 1 allowing for all participants in a civil or criminal proceeding – including a Texas Certified Shorthand Reporter – to appear remotely until it expires on May 8 or is extended. 

Vermont – Notaries public holding a commission to perform notarial acts in Vermont may perform a Remote Notarial Act while physically located in Vermont and only under specified conditions.

Virginia

Washington — Effective March 24, 2020, until midnight on April 26, 2020, Senate Bill (SB) 5641, An Act Relating to Electronic Notarial Acts by Remotely Located Individuals — which was to initially take effect October 1, 2020 — is to take effect immediately, from March 27, 2020, until midnight on April 26, 2020.

West Virginia – Effective March 25, 2020. The statutory regulation with respect to the provisions of the Code applicable to court reporters and other notaries, the requirements of personal appearance for a notarial act that relates to a statement made in or a signature executed on record is suspended for the duration of the State of Emergency.

Wisconsin – Effective March 25, 2020 until April 30, 2020. Pursuant to the Supreme Court of Wisconsin’s administrative and superintending authority, court reporters qualified to administer an oath in the State of Wisconsin may administer an oath to a witness at a deposition remotely via audio-visual communications technology from a location within the State of Wisconsin, provided the person administering the oath can see and hear the person and can identify the witness. It is further ordered that if a witness is not located within the State of Wisconsin, the witness may consent to being put on oath remotely via audio-visual communication technology by a court reporter qualified to administer an oath in the State of Wisconsin pursuant to this order. It is further oredered that (1) this order does not alter the ability of parties, by written stipulation, to provide that depositions may be taken before any person, at any time or place, upon any notice, and in any manner pursuant to Wis. Stat. § (Rule) 804.04; and (2) the parties to an action or proceeding may, by written stipulation, modify the procedures provided by this order. It is further ordered that the remote administration of an oath at a deposition via audio-visual communications technology pursuant to this order shall constitute the administration of an oath “before” a court reporter under Wis. Stat. §§ (Rules) 804.03(1) and 887.01(1) or any court order authorizing a deposition upon oral examination; and any other rule of procedure, court order, or opinion applicable to remote depositions that can be read to limit or prohibit the use of audio-visual communication equipment to administer oaths at depositions remotely is hereby suspended.

Still to come

A few other states have enacted remote notarization laws, but these have not taken effect. If you work in one of the following states, be sure to check with your State Notary, Secretary of State, or other regulatory agency for your state’s specific remote notarization or oath administration laws.

Arizona, effective July 1, 2020.

Iowa, effective July 1, 2020.

Maryland, effective October 1, 2020.

Nebraska, effective July 1, 2020.

Washington, effective October 1, 2020.

As a final reminder, if any of your licenses are set to expire in the next few months, taking action early could help you keep working in case the situation worsens.

Please note that the information provided includes condensed summarizations, descriptions, and opinions regarding recently enacted statutes. The information is not intended, nor should it be construed, to be legal advice. Members with particular needs concerning the specific issues mentioned should seek the guidance or retention of competent counsel.

Stay in the know: NCRA event updates, webinars, and more

The webinar is full!

As NCRA, like the rest of the world, continues to adjust to how daily life and the ability to conduct business is being impacted by the constant efforts to halt the spread of the coronavirus, we encourage all members to be patient as your Board and staff reassess the status of scheduled and future planned events.

In light of the most recent recommendations by the Centers for Disease Control and other federal health agencies that the public avoid large gatherings and practice social distancing, NCRA has opted to postpone and possibly reschedule all events that were planned through May, including the 2020 Leadership & Legislative Boot Camp that was scheduled for May 17-19 at the Embassy Suites by Hilton in Alexandria, Va. NCRA will be contacting those who have already registered for the event with information about the reimbursement of registration fees. Information about new dates for this event will be announced in the JCR Weekly and by emails to members at a future date.

NCRA has also canceled the spring CLVS hands-on training and production exam that was scheduled to take place March 27 and 28 at headquarters in Reston, Va. NCRA will hold the training and testing again in the fall with dates to be announced at a later date.

Members who have already booked flights to these and other events are advised to contact their airlines directly to find out more about cancellation and rescheduling procedures.

Staff liaisons will also be contacting members of NCRA committees who planned to attend meetings scheduled to take place at NCRA’s headquarters in Reston, Va. Options could include conducting those meetings via online conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Microsoft Teams, or Skype.

To learn more about these online conferencing platforms, NCRA Immediate Past President Sue Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, and Director Keith Lemons, FAPR, RPR, CRR, are leading a special webinar Thursday, March 19.

The webinar is now full!

If you purchased the webinar, please check your email confirmation. Because of demand, there are now two sessions, one at 7 p.m. and one at 8:30 p.m. Eastern. Once members or non-members register, they will be emailed a link to Zoom with information about how to sign into the meeting. We are trying to schedule additional sessions, and we will send out the information when we can. Thank you for your patience.

NCRA members are also encouraged to tune into the next NCRA Town Hall happening March 21 at 10 a.m. Eastern. Conversation will address the coronavirus and how reporters,  captioners, videographers, and associate members can empower and sustain themselves and their families through these rough waters we face as an industry, along with the rest of the world. The NCRA virtual Town Hall meetings also offer members the opportunity to ask questions via the Q&A feature. Questions can also be submitted in advance to lbutler@ncra.org. Register here.

Finally, NCRA members are encouraged to begin checking the Association’s website where the latest developments regarding the status of events, helpful webinars, and links to ensure the most current information is available and accessible about the constantly changing health landscape, will be posted. Watch for updates on the homepage of NCRA.org.

NCRA webinar free for Members: Doing business in today’s environment

The NCRA Board of Directors, staff, and I — like many of you — are troubled by the events of the last two weeks with the changing environment caused by the coronavirus. I assure you that we as NCRA leadership and staff are diligently and actively working our way through the issues as they affect our industry, and we will communicate with membership as solutions are put in place.
The most important thing is to stay calm; listen to the information that has been shared by the CDC, WHO, and other health organizations.  

NCRA Board and staff have already made a number of decisions to aid members:

UPDATE: THE WEBINAR IS FULL!

1)     NCRA Director Keith Lemons, FAPR, RPR, CRR, and Immediate Past President Sue Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, will be hosting a webinar on using Zoom and other online videoconference/teleconference platforms, on Thursday, March 19, at 7 p.m. (Eastern). These two tech-savvy members will share how reporters and captioners can use videoconferencing tools to assist clients, courts, and consumers in conducting depositions, hearings, and other court proceedings, as well as provide captioning or realtime via streaming technology through the Internet or through platforms such as Zoom. Many of us already know how to utilize these platforms and have been doing so for years. For those of you who haven’t, we will help you get there together! The March 19 seminar regarding use of video conference platforms will be one hour in length and earn participants 0.1 CEU at no cost to NCRA members. NCRA member value is hard at work by providing empowering solutions. Non-members can pay a minimal fee of $30 for the webinar.

2)     The NCRA Board and staff plans additional in-depth webinars regarding online video conference platforms in the next few weeks. These webinars will deal with the more complicated issues of videoconferencing, such as exhibit scanning and document sharing, streaming of realtime over the Internet via video conference feed, etc. 

3)     On Saturday, March 21, at 10 a.m. (Eastern), please join me for the NCRA Town Hall. We will be addressing how reporters, captioners, videographers, and associate members can empower and sustain themselves and their families through this pandemic, which we must face with the rest of the world. Register here.

We are going to get through this together and be stronger for having weathered the storm. Stay safe and adhere to the medical advice offered by experts. My prayers and best wishes, as well as those of the NCRA Board and staff, are with each of you in the days and weeks to come.

Max Curry, RPR, CRI
NCRA President

Helpful how-tos for remote depositions

By Lynette Mueller

I was supposed to be at the Arkansas Court Reporters Association convention the first weekend in April delivering a seminar on gadgets and apps. Instead of preparing my PowerPoint for the presentation, I’m settling into a writing session by my fireplace. Of course, that is a result of the coronavirus cancellations. This pandemic is very real, and we all need to be vigilant for our own health and the health of our colleagues and loved ones.

See NCRA President Max Curry’s message here regarding coronavirus.

First and foremost, I am personally trying to keep everything in perspective. The days ahead are uncharted waters and will be challenging. We court reporters are forces to be reckoned with. Some adjectives that come to mind about my reporter friends and colleagues: optimistic, curious, resourceful and, most importantly, resilient! This pandemic isn’t the first challenge we’ve faced, and it certainly won’t be our last.

Over the next few weeks, we all will be experiencing our “new normal.” We cannot control the cancellations of depositions and hearings; all we can do is respond to it.

The number one question colleagues have asked me: “What alternative solutions can I offer to my clients?” Others may wonder: “How can we leverage the additional time to improve my skills and my work life?”

As Chair of the NCRA Tech Committee, I tasked our members last fall to publish an article about their tools of choice for web conferencing, a.k.a. remote depositions.

In addition to all the points enumerated in the web conferencing tools article, I will mention some additional options/tools to consider for remote depositions.

  1. Know your notary laws in your specific state regarding witness oaths before you accept a remote assignment.

2. Consider using an external speaker for telephonic or web conference proceedings. I purchased a Beats Pill portable speaker several years ago, and it works beautifully! There are many products available. Be sure to read reviews online and get recommendations from fellow court reporters before making your final purchase.

3. Dana Hayden, CCR, RMR, CRR, CRC, recommends using a great set of headphones/earbuds for your telephonic depositions. My headphones of choice? Bose noise-cancelling over-the-ear headphones. In addition, Dana advises using a splitter. A speaker and headphone splitter allow you to connect two headsets or speakers to one jack. Here are some specific products she recommends.

Here’s an example of a splitter.

Then, you plug an auxiliary cable from one of the jacks into your computer microphone jack.

If you don’t have a microphone jack on your computer, use another setup such as this USB microphone that has a headphone and a microphone jack.

Last, plug the auxiliary cable from your cell to the microphone jack of the USB sound card and plug in your headphones to the headphone jack of the USB sound card. 

4. So many people around the country, including court reporters and captioners, have cut the cord. But you can still be successful offering your services for remote depositions and proceedings if you don’t have a landline. You may use your cellphone as a viable option, if you have great cell service.

When great cell service is not available, you may turn on WiFi calling. Be sure your internet service has a strong signal. Once you have enabled the WiFi calling and connected to your home network, the next step is to enable Airplane Mode. Trust me, this works! You’ll get a much better experience with these settings. Also remember to disable incoming text messages and incoming calls. You don’t want those pesky distractions during important testimony.

5. Handling of exhibits remotely can go smoothly if you educate your clients. By far, the most common method when I work with my remote clients is that they will email or send a secure link to exhibits requesting that I print and have them available for the witness. Easy; right? There are other tools and apps available to counsel for handling of exhibits, but that’s a topic for another article or upcoming webinar coming soon.

6. Should you clean your smartphone and iPads? Everyone knows the smartphone is jam-packed with germs. If you choose to clean your device, check out this article from the Wall Street Journal. The author included the following in the article:

“My phone is the least of my concerns,” says Alex Berezow, a microbiologist and vice president at the American Council on Science and Health. “Worry about touching door handles that thousands of other people touch.”

7. Here’s a great blog post from Cindi Lynch of Stenograph about tools for working during COVID-19.

Finally, just a few words about how to take advantage of this time of social distancing.

  1. Ensure you have a well-organized and dedicated workspace at home, if you don’t already have one. Productivity is paramount here. Those transcript backlogs won’t take care of themselves.
  2. Continue to maintain your working hours routine. Sure, the cancellations have already begun; but there may be a pop-up call that comes your way. You don’t want to miss out on any potential work.
  3. Consider dressing for work. Yes, pajamas and bunny slippers seem like a logical and comfy choice; but, again, it’s important to maintain your routine.
  4. Another option for our forced downtime is to take advantage of online CEU opportunities. NCRA has a plethora of webinars and e-seminars — earn those CEUs in the comfort of your home! This is a great time to take care of those learning obligations. This way, when the pandemic normalizes, you will be ready to go full-throttle work mode when the bookings return.
  5. Dictionary maintenance and speedbuilding should be top of mind and useful endeavors to embark upon. Hone those skills and stay high-speed ready!
  6. Last, but not least, join an NCRA committee. Volunteering your expertise can impact and improve our profession, and so much of it is done via calls or email, you can participate from your home. We need you!

Remember, court reporters: We should keep in mind that in order to be effective and stay relevant, we must keep abreast of technology, embrace it, and never be skeptical of the newest innovations.

Lynette Mueller, FAPR, RDR, CRR, is a freelance court reporter based in Memphis, Tenn., and chair of NCRA’s Technology Committee. She can be reached at lynette@omegareporting.com.

Stenograph blogs about work tools

Stenograph posted a blog on March 13 about “Tools for Working During COVID-19.”

Read more.

Phipps Reporting appoints new CFO

In a press release issued March 12, Phipps Reporting, based in West Palm Beach, Fla., announced that Seth Asofsky has been named the firm’s chief financial officer.

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