The Legal and Ethical Aspects of Remote Testimony

February 28, 2024

In today’s legal landscape, there is a shift in how courts conduct depositions, hearings, and trials. Remote testimony has become a standard tool in the current legal process. While it offers several advantages, it raises crucial questions about legality and ethics.

Continue reading to learn the ethical aspects of remote testimony and explore the best practices.

The Rise of Remote Testimony

There’s been a gradual increase in the adoption of remote testimony after COVID-19. It helps witnesses participate in legal proceedings from virtually anywhere. The process also offers benefits like increased accessibility, cost-effectiveness, and convenience. The approach mainly helps individuals with disabilities and those residing in remote locations. Additionally, it lets courts expedite cases, reduce costs, and increase access to more people.

Ethical Considerations for Remote Testimony

The shift to remote testimony presents unique challenges. Careful consideration is necessary to ensure fairness, witness credibility, and adherence to ethical guidelines. Several ethical principles underpin responsible remote testimony:

  • Fairness: Both sides deserve an equal opportunity to present their case and challenge witness testimony during the process. Therefore, there’s a need for clear technology use protocols, uninterrupted testimony, and cross-examination opportunities.
  • Witness Preparation and Coaching: While reasonable preparation is essential, ethical lines blur when it becomes coaching. Remote settings might create new avenues for subtle coaching, making vigilance from attorneys and courts crucial.
  • Technology Competence: Legal professionals involved in remote proceedings must fully grasp the technology to avoid technical glitches and disruptions. This includes understanding platform features, troubleshooting issues, and ensuring data security.
  • Confidentiality: It’s important to protect sensitive information in a virtual environment. Lawyers should implement secure platforms, encryption protocols, and clear data-handling policies.

Strategies for Ethical Remote Testimony

All stakeholders share responsibilities for ensuring ethical practices in the legal process. Some of the factors to consider include:

  • Guidelines: The American Bar Association’s (ABA) Formal Opinion 508 provides clear ethics recommendations surrounding remote witness testimony. It emphasizes the critical role of witness preparation in maintaining ethical standards. Lawyers should understand these relevant rules and best practices. They should also communicate clearly with opposing counsel and the court regarding technology use and protocols.
  • Witness Coaching: The line between preparation and coaching can be blurry, especially in remote settings. It is unethical to influence or manipulate a witness’s testimony. It undermines the integrity of the legal process. Lawyers can share documents with witnesses but not coach them on how to interpret them.
  • Technology Familiarity: Legal professionals in remote proceedings must be comfortable and competent with the technology. The knowledge should go beyond basic video conferencing skills. It must include platform features, troubleshooting, and data security.
  • Witness Responsibility: Witnesses also have ethical obligations in remote settings. They should provide truthful and complete testimony, regardless of location or pressure. They should also maintain the confidentiality of sensitive information shared during the proceedings. The lawyers and court must address any ethical concerns or disruptions immediately.

Good technology and support play an important role in ethical processes. Any technical disruptions during a remote testimony can cause irreparable harm in the form of ethical doubts. Partnering with a reputed team like Legal Media Experts can impact your success. We provide a range of court reporting services, including remote testimony support. If you want legal media support in Durham, contact us to learn more about our services.