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Are deposition transcripts considered private information?

As a general rule, transcripts of any courtroom deposition are public record. Unless you specifically request that information be kept confidential, it will be in the transcript and available to the general public.

There are many reasons to seek out confidentiality of a courtroom transcript. If a member of the proceeding has personal information such as an address, phone number, or email address read aloud, he or she could seek to have that information redacted from the transcript for privacy reasons.

In some cases, research and development information for new technology or products could be involved. Perhaps trade secrets are discussed. This is information that an astute business person will not want to be reported on in the public sphere.

The same can go for intellectual property such as logo designs, music, written word, etc. If a piece of intellectual property is revealed in the courtroom, the artist behind it is not going to want the general public to see, hear or read it. Someone’s livelihood could be at stake.

Everything that is said will be recorded by the court reporter in a transcript of court proceedings. These recordings will be given to all legal counsel involved in the case. During a trial or deposition, a lawyer can ask that certain things be struck from the record, which means that they will not be kept in the public transcript of the case. It will still be in the copy given to legal counsel.

If requested in the court room, the judge has the ability to approve or deny the request and ask the court reporter to strike it from the record. This will be noted in the transcript, and those portions will be removed before the transcript is publicized. The public will not hear about it unless someone in the courtroom reports it.

There will be a certain amount of time after the courtroom transcripts are delivered to legal counsel in which they can request confidentiality on portions of the transcript. Legal counsel must file a protection order on the information, which includes what information is to be covered by the protection order and the reasoning to keep it confidential.

Counsel must make a compelling argument for why the information should be private. It is completely at the judge’s discretion whether or not to grant the request. If it is denied, the transcript will be released as it. If it is granted, the court reporter will take out the portions deemed confidential and release the rest to public record. Those portions removed will be sealed in the court’s records, for use only by the judge, the parties involved and their legal counsel.

It is very important for a client to be honest and upfront with their legal counsel about what information they don’t want the public to find out. If counsel goes into the courtroom informed of the items they need to request be redacted from public record, it is much easier to argue the case during proceeding than to file a protection order afterwards.