A&A: Are Depositions Public Records and Can We Publish Portions Of Them Legally?

Q: We have depositions from a 1994 California case with selected content we would like to use for a report. I understand that California depositions are not a matter of public record, though some other states make depositions a public record.
The case was dismissed but never settled.

Other than attaching the depositions or portions of the depositions to a court-filed document, is there any other legally accepted strategy to making selected portions of the depositions public for an article of public interest?

A: Depositions are not automatically outside the bounds of public access in California—as an example, Cal. Code of Civ. Proc. § 2025.570 allows third parties to make a request for deposition transcripts for depositions recorded after 1998, subject to certain requirements—but depositions are sometimes protected under other statutes when they are transcribed under seal, deemed confidential or privileged, or subject to a protective order by the court.

We recommend speaking with a local lawyer, who can provide you with legal advice specific to your situation. A good place to start would be the State Bar’s lawyer referral service.

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP is general counsel for the First Amendment Coalition and responds to FAC hotline inquiries. In responding to these inquiries, we can give general information regarding open government and speech issues but cannot provide specific legal advice or representation. No attorney-client relationship has been formed by way of this response.

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