Submission to Witness: Need to Know Court Rules

Reading and Signing Practices in South Carolina

Deposition rules that govern objections, stipulations, and practices also direct the way a court reporter processes a transcript for submission to witness for review. As South Carolinians, time-honored traditions are embraced and celebrated, but some traditions need to be changed, or at least updated, because court rules and technology have evolved.

While the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure describe one course of action for the officer to follow related to the review process by a witness, the South Carolina Rules of Civil Procedure express another submission to witness practice. A professional court reporter should be cognizant of a deposition’s court venue and act or react accordingly.

Why Didn’t My Court Reporter Ask About Reading and Signing?

Federal Rule 30(e)(1)

Traditionally court reporters have initiated the read-and-sign conversation by asking if the deponent is going to read and sign the transcript. However, in reading the updated rule, the Federal procedure appears to be a reactionary duty.

Rule 30(e), Review by the Witness; Changes, (1) Review; Statement of Changes, states: “On request by the deponent or a party before the deposition is completed, the deponent must be allowed 30 days after being notified by the officer that the transcript or recording is available in which: (A) to review the transcript…”  Reading this, an officer could interpret that at the deposition, and before the deposition has concluded, the deponent or a party must invoke the right to read and sign.

As published by JDSupra, Rosalie Kramm, President of Kramm Court Reporting, asserts this change in the Federal Rules means that “…the reporter can no longer ask whether the witness wants to read and sign the transcript.” She further asserts, “An attorney who is unaware of the rule change and who expects that question from the reporter may well be…waiving a client’s right to read and sign.”

If her assertion is correct, a court reporter who asks the traditional submission to witness question may potentially be running afoul of a well-informed counsel’s strategy at the deposition.

Is South Carolina’s Submission-to-Witness Rule Different?

SC Rule 30(e) Submission to Witness; Changes; Signing

Conversely, South Carolina’s read and sign rule appears to be proactive from a court reporter’s perspective.  “When the testimony is fully transcribed the deposition shall be submitted to the witness for examination and shall be read to or by him unless such examination and reading are waived by the witness and by the parties. Any changes in form or substance which the witness desires to make shall be entered upon the deposition by the officer with a statement of the reasons given by the witness for making them. The deposition shall then be signed by the witness, unless the parties by stipulation waive the signing…”

Deborah Dusseljee, CompuScripts’ President and a certified court reporter, believes when a deposition is taken in a case filed in SC Circuit Court, the court reporter should be practical in fulfilling her obligations as an officer who must state the reason for a deposition transcript not being signed. In Court of Common Pleas litigation, she will ask at the time of the deposition whether the witness is going to read and sign the transcript. Even though the SC Rule has a Note which says, in part, this is similar to the language of the Federal Rule, Deborah references the additional language found under South Carolina Rule 30(e).  She believes that language differentiates the court reporter’s method. “If the deposition is not signed by the witness within 30 days of its submission to him, the officer shall sign it and state on the record the fact of the waiver or of the illness or absence of the witness or the fact of the refusal to sign together with the reason, if any, given therefor…”

Where Does the Transcript Disclose Submission to Witness Information?

Under the Federal Rules, specifically Rule 30(e)(2), the officer must note in the transcript certificate prescribed by Rule 30(f)(1) whether a review was requested and, if so, must attach any changes the deponent makes during the 30-day period. Click here to read more about what should be in a court reporter’s certificate.

As referenced above, South Carolina’s Rule 30(e) Submission to Witness; Changes; Signing, only makes reference to the officer stating on the record the fact of the waiver or absence of the witness or the fact of the refusal to sign together with the reason, if any, given. The rule does not specifically mention at the beginning of a transcript, in the body of the transcript, at the end of the testimony, or on the court reporter’s certificate. With no apparent guidance within the rule, you may have to do a word search within your transcript to actually locate the court reporter’s statement related to the reading and signing of the deposition transcript.