Confidential Public Record

Do Depositions Become Public Record? What You Should Know

Do Depositions Become Public Record?

Depositions are intimidating. If you aren’t acquainted with the legal system, you might feel anxious, panicked, or irrationally guilty at the thought of speaking out and being recorded. “Will what I say be seen by people I know?” “What if I say something wrong?” “What happens to my statement after the deposition is over?” 

So, does your deposition become public record after you record your statement? Is it available for people not involved in the case to read? The answer is not usually. Unless the deposition is filed as official evidence for a case, it won’t be made available to the public. Most depositions aren’t used for evidence at trial, but rather to settle out of court.

Your deposition is the legal property of the lawyer who called you in for the deposition, not the court. Because of this, there are protections in place that make it difficult for people not involved in the case to gain access to the transcripts.

What are those protections? Why did depositions from famous cases get leaked if they’re protected? Who can read your deposition? These questions and more will be answered if you keep reading.

 

Who can read your deposition?

Because your deposition is commissioned by a lawyer and not the judge or court, that lawyer owns your statement. The lawyer who called the deposition pays for and receives the deposition transcript from the court reporter, transcription service, or videographer to keep safe.

A copy is available for you, the opposition lawyer, and anyone involved in the discovery process of the case. This can be the law firm(s) on either side and the parties involved in the case. That’s it. Anyone not involved in the case isn’t allowed access to your transcript unless it is filed as evidence in a court case. 

After a case settles out of court, your deposition is sealed away with the other documents. If the case goes to trial, and if your deposition is chosen as evidence, then it is given to the court and can be disclosed to the public. That’s a lot of ifs that need to occur for strangers to be able to read your statement. Should you have any concerns about certain information coming out during your deposition, contact your lawyer.

Deposition meeting

What are the protections for legal depositions?

Your lawyer can file for protections to keep your statement out of the public record in the event your case goes to trial. Lawyers can file stipulations and protective orders before the deposition for cases involving trade secrets or other legally protected information. It is incredibly important to lawyers and their clients to keep confidential information safe. This includes statements that are personal, incriminating, embarrassing, or if they include sensitive information. 

If trade secrets or the like are shared during the deposition that were not anticipated beforehand, there are still measures that can be taken to protect the files after the deposition.

The actual process for obtaining and enforcing these protections varies from state to state. Your lawyer will know the best way to protect your statement. If you have any concerns, talk to them. Honest communication is the best defense.

Why are high-profile depositions available to read online?

We’ve all heard of statements from famous people, like Paula Deen or Michael Jackson, whose depositions were made before trial. However, the only reason we heard them is that those depositions were entered into evidence on a case that made it to trial.

Unless your deposition is used as evidence in a trial or is requested as evidence for a related but separate case, no one can get a copy of your transcript if your lawyer filed for protections properly.

Sharing a deposition that hasn’t been entered into evidence or made public is against the law. People who uploaded depositions to sharing platforms, such as YouTube, have been taken to court because they violated that law. Again, your lawyer is the best person to contact if that happens. You can also speak with them before your deposition to ensure your statement is confidential.

What if I say something wrong during my deposition?

Depositions can be emotional. Tempers can rise. There may even be tears. Of course, you want to answer questions as fully and honestly as possible. So what if you forget a detail, misspeak, or something else when your emotions are high?

The good news is that you can correct yourself during the deposition or call back to revisit a previous question. You can even correct your deposition within a certain time limit, usually thirty days, after the deposition. Talk to your lawyer about changing your deposition after it’s over.

Alternatively, is you say something you did not intend to say before the deposition, you can ask your lawyer to file protections on your deposition after it has concluded. Lawyers usually have a time limit to file protections. The time limits and processes vary by state. If you have more questions, contact your lawyer.

A deposition is a formal meeting with one or more lawyers to record your version of events and find evidence. This is almost always done before a case goes to trial and is often used to push for a settlement. A deposition is your chance to tell your side of the story and have it written out.

This is done so that the details won’t be changed or warped by the passing of time or memory. A deposition can be taken in any number of ways and attended by people from both sides of a case. 

Deposition Academy has a great article here about what you need to know about depositions. Also, it’s a good idea to speak to a lawyer, for your benefit and security, if you haven’t already done so.

Related Questions:

What kind of questions should I expect? You can expect questions regarding the case specifically and questions about your background among others. Deposition Academy has explored this question, as well as provided some tips on answering them.

Can I refuse to participate in a deposition? Generally, you can not refuse a deposition without legal consequences. There are some exceptions that allow you to refuse. These include a request instead of a subpoena to appear, or you physically cannot participate because of illness or distance.

How should I act during the deposition? Since it is a legally binding event, you should dress and act professionally. Five rules of thumb for this are:

  • Prepare before you arrive.
  • Dress like you were going to court that day.
  • Treat all people in the room with respect.
  • Wait for the lawyer to finish asking a question before you answer, and speak clearly and concisely.
  • Avoid strong emotions, like anger, and joking around.