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Free deposition transcripts denied

A party who wants to review the transcript of his deposition has to buy it, or review it at the court reporter’s office. He can’t force the court reporter to send him a copy, free of charge.

U.S. Magistrate Judge William E. Callahan Jr. on Oct. 7 rejected a motion arguing that Rule 30(e)(1) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure — which requires that a deposition transcript be made “available” — entitles deponents and parties to be mailed copies.

In a lawsuit brought by Parkland Venture LLC against the City of Muskego, among various other parties, numerous depositions of the plaintiffs and their witnesses were conducted.

The plaintiffs then moved the court for an order to compel the defendants to mail copies of the transcripts to the parties and witnesses, so they could review them. However, Magistrate Callahan denied the motion.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 30(e)(1) provides:

“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 or recording; and

(B) if there are changes in form or substance, to sign a statement listing the changes and the reasons for making them.”

Magistrate Callahan noted that the rule is silent about how the court reporter is to make the transcript “available,” and no case law addresses the meaning of the word.

However, a prior version of the rule was interpreted in Johnson v. Alcan Aluminum Corp., 106 F.R.D. 314 (N.D.Ga.1979). At that time, the rule required that the transcript be “submitted” to the witness, rather than made “available.”

The court in Johnson held that the court reporter adequately “submitted” the transcript to the plaintiff by requesting him to review it in her office, even though she refused to mail a copy to his attorney.

Magistrate Callahan agreed with the holding, and further concluded that the change in the rule’s language — from “submitted” to “available” — only bolstered that conclusion.

“In my opinion, if the word ‘submitted’ under the prior rule did not require the deponent to be provided a copy for review outside the offices of the court reporter, the current rule’s language likewise does not,” Callahan concluded. “Indeed, making something ‘available’ connotes taking less affirmative action on the part of the court reporter than does the word ‘submit.'”

Callahan also found this interpretation is more harmonious with the rest of Rule 30.

Rule 30(f)(3) provides that a court reporter is entitled to “reasonable charges” for providing a copy of a transcript to any party or deponent. Requiring a court reporter to mail a free copy would undermine that right, the court found.

“[T]he defendants do not have any obligation to pay for the deponents to receive a copy of their deposition transcripts,” Callahan wrote. “If the witnesses want to purchase a copy from the court reporter, they may do so.”

What the Court Held

Case: Parkland Venture, LLC v. The City of Muskego, No. 09-C-972

Issue: Can a party or deponent compel a court reporter to provide him with a copy of his deposition transcript?

Holding: No. The court reporter can require any deponent to review the transcript in his or her office.

David Ziemer can be reached at david.ziemer@wislawjournal.com

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