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CourtDV: Uses and Requirements of Legal Videography
Posted Jun 22, 2007 Print Version     Page 1of 1

Historically, video has been used mostly by trial attorneys; however, it can be used effectively by attorneys in almost every phase of law. One type of video that more and more corporate and government attorneys are using these days is the video recording of major construction projects, which inevitably end up in court for one reason or another. An astute corporate or government attorney will suggest that the developer on the project—be it private or federal, state, or local government-funded—commission a “pre-construction” video recording of the surrounding area to document the condition of the properties in question prior to the time that the first piece of equipment arrives on site. Producing such a video can save the developer from paying thousands of dollars in false claims of damages that the plaintiffs claim was due to construction. An ounce of prevention can save many pounds of grief later.

Video makes possible tremendous savings of time and expense. The attorney should never think of video as an added expense but rather as a cost-saving use of modern technology. The video recording of expert witnesses explaining to the jury the extent of a person’s personal injuries and what the victim had to go through to try to reclaim normal use of her faculties is far more effective than having the plaintiff trying to tell the story herself on the witness stand.

The same equipment that is used to project the attorney’s PowerPoint outline during the trial can also be used to project video evidence for all to see. We find many attorneys are now using their PowerPoint presentations during opening statements, during the body of the trial and during the closing statements reinforcing important facts in the minds of the jurors. The fully equipped professional legal videographer will be able to assist the attorneys from the beginning to the end of the trial with all the equipment needed to project documents, x-rays, photographs, charts, three-dimensional items, and more, saving the client much expense in producing the traditional “blow-ups” used in the nation’s courts today.

The move to digital (NLE and DVD) in legal videography has had an exciting effect on the legal field. Just as all law firms kept a VCR in their offices, now they are equipping themselves with much less expensive DVD players to be able to review video evidence. In addition to the time-savings that come with editing on NLE systems, going digital also allows the attorney instant access to specific parts of the testimony when presenting the evidence in court and doing so at a much higher resolution than in the past.

Properly trained professional legal videographersunderstand the “disinterested third party” role that they must play when taking testimony during depositions. At the same time, they realize that they can also become vital members of the litigating team when producing the remaining video documentaries and visual evidence that will be used prior to or during a trial. When contracting with a professional legal videographer, the attorney needs to seek out a person that is fully qualified in all aspects of legal videography. That is the exact reason that the American Guild of Court Videographers not only trains professional videographers in producing video evidence that cannot be impeached but also certifies” them as Certified Court Video Specialists (CCVS) after they have successfully completed the required training. This is the assurance that an attorney must have when hiring a certified legal videographer as it gives them confidence that they will receive the professional results that they require.

We see video products every day that very well could have been impeached and thrown out of court due to violations in the Federal, State and District Court’s “Rules of Civil Procedure” and “Rules of Evidence.” Even the very storage and delivery of video evidence, the required paperwork that accompanies the video evidence and the proper video shooting techniques are very important and are strictly regulated. Just because a person owns video equipment does not in any way imply that they are fully qualified in the legal arena. As a matter of fact, I will go on to say, if a videographer has not been properly trained in producing video evidence for trial, regardless of the number of years that he has been shooting legal video, he is producing a product that very well could be thrown out of court. The reason it doesn’t happen more often is that properly trained legal videographers know the minutia of legal video evidence and its proper presentation better than attorneys themselves, and attorneys depend on the professional videographer to be the expert on the subject.

When talking about equipment, we must not omit the fact that the legal videographer will also be taking the testimony under oath with an additional audio tape recorder. This is done as a courtesy for the stenographic court reporter, if one is used. If done in stereo, it allows the stenographic court reporter to listen to the deposing attorney on one track and the deponent on a different track, enabling a more accurate transcription.

Another asset that professional certified videographers bring to the courtroom is that most of them are also Notary Publics, which means they can swear in the deponent and take the testimony without a stenographic court reporter being present in any of the 42 states that no longer reauire a court stenographer’s presence. If there is need for a printed transcript, it can be taken directly from the audio or video recording provided by the video court reporter.

Gayle Marquette, Ph.D., CSCV, CLVI is founder/administrator of the American Guild of Court Videographers, LLC, based in Casper, Wyoming.

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