While lawyers may rest easy thinking that depositions in confidential cases remain sealed from the public, this may not be the case. Such transcripts by court reporters may be a matter of public record.
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The New York Times sent shock waves through the legal community when it obtained deposition records of sealed testimony by Bill Cosby from a court reporting service. Cosby had kept the deposition private all these years for good reason.
In 2005, Cosby discussed how he manipulated women for sex acts and hid his philandering from his wife. He did so as part of a deposition for a lawsuit filed by a woman who had accused him of drugging and molesting her.
Legal wrangling by the defense team of a woman who had testified in 2005 claimed that pronouncements made by the Cosby team had violated the confidentiality agreement between Cosby and their client and that it should be made public. This turned out to be unnecessary since the New York Times subsequently learned that the court reporting service that took the deposition considered it to be publicly available.
Georgia trial lawyer John C. Amabile discussed the issue of confidentially agreements in the Daily Report. He considers the Cosby case a lesson that lawyers should consider that they may need to additional measures to protect the confidentiality of an agreement.
He stated that the days of keeping depositions confidential may be over if some court reporting services consider these transcripts to be publicly available. Amabile expects Cosby’s lawyers to litigate whether the term “vendor” includes court reporters. He also advises lawyers to take this case to heart and consider using additional protections to protect the confidentiality of depositions.