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  The National Law Journal

August 13, 2001

Real-time technology saves time, eases research

By William Weber
Special to The National Law Journal

Remote depositions have been showcased at technology trade shows for years, but now that broadband Internet access has become available in nearly every urban area to speed Internet connection times, the remote deposition is poised to become a common practice.

A remote deposition is broadcast over the Internet and provides real-time text, live streaming audio and video from the deposition site. Working through a host company such as I-DEP®, LegalSpan or RealLegal, everyone involved in the deposition uses a computer and an Internet connection to communicate.

As the court reporter takes notes of the deposition, the notes are immediately transmitted to a Web site via a secure, encrypted connection, and all parties can then read the real-time transcript from this site. Some of the services also offer a secure chat feature that allows participants to exchange ideas and suggestions about the deposition as it is occurring. This feedback, sent like e-mail; can be displayed in a split-screen format so that can be compared to the transcript.

Court reporters who work in the courtroom are using real-time technology to make it easier for deaf and hard-of-bearing people to be litigators, judges or members of the jury, which helps the courts meet Americans With Disabilities Act requirements. The concept is similar to closed-captioning television programs: The reporter transmits his or her real-time transcript to a display that can be located anywhere in the courtroom, from laptops set up at the counsel table to a screen built into the judge's bench.

Real-time technology displayed as closed captioning has proved helpful for deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals both hi and out of court. Most of the more than 28 million of such people in the United States developed hearing loss after acquiring language skills.

Many of them find it easier to read real-time text than to use American Sign Language. Court reporters use the same technology that produces real-time text in court settings to produce live captions for television. Real-time can also include systems that convert spoken testimony into Braille or enhanced sound for people who are blind or have vision loss.

Finally, court reporters can also use another type of real-time technology called communication access real-time translation (CART). A CART provider works in tandem with the official court reporter, but he or she assumes an interpretive role. Although the work is similar, the CART provider captures not only the words, but also the spirit of the proceedings. For example, if anyone laughs in the courtroom or the proceedings are disrupted by sounds or other disturbances, CART providers include this in their unofficial transcript. This creates a more inclusive record of the proceedings, providing participants who are deaf and hard-of-bearing with a better understanding of them.

William Weber is president of the National Court Reporters Association and federal official court reporter for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania. He can be reached at weber@icubed.com.

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