Trial Court May Permit Live Testimony Via Videoconferencing

The First District Court of Appeal has held that a trial court may, under inherent powers, permit live testimony via videoconferencing. However, in the medical malpractice case before it, it found no abuse of discretion in denying use of that technology because, among other circumstances, there had been adequate time to replace an expert medical witness who had become unable to appear in person, owing to health problems, with one who could have come to court to testify. Justice Carin T. Fujisaki of Div. Three wrote the unpublished opinion, filed Thursday. She pointed to Code of Civil Procedure §187 which provides: “When jurisdiction is, by the Constitution or this Code, or by any other statute, conferred on a Court or judicial officer, all the means necessary to carry it into effect are also given;  and in the exercise of this jurisdiction, if the course of proceeding be not specifically pointed out by this Code or the statute, any suitable process or mode of proceeding may be adopted which may appear most conformable to the spirit of this code.” Pursuant to that section, Fujisaki said, allowing testimony through videotelephony “is within the permissible scope of the trial court’s inherent power to control the course of litigation before it,” although there “is no express statutory grant of authority permitting a witness in a civil trial to testify by live videoconference.” Express authority does exist, she noted, in unrelated contexts, such as in child custody proceedings.


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