Office of House Bill AnalysisH.B. 176
By: Luna, Vilma
Civil Practices


Prior to the 77th Legislature, state law provided that telecommunications
technology only be used in criminal trials.  For example, some counties
conduct arraignments through the use of closed-circuit telecommunications.
State law also permits closed-circuit television to be used in court cases
in which the victim is a child.  The rapidly growing changes in electronic
communication technology can help expedite trial proceedings in a timely
and efficient manner.  House Bill 176 extends the use of electronic
communication technology for certain civil proceedings subject to the order
of a judge.  


It is the opinion of the Office of House Bill Analysis that this bill does
not expressly delegate any additional rulemaking authority to a state
officer, department, agency, or institution. 


House Bill 176 amends the Civil Practice and Remedies Code to provide that
with the agreement of the parties and after a witness is deposed, a trial
judge is authorized to order that a hearing of a preliminary matter or
witness testimony at trial be conducted by electronic means, including
satellite transmission, closed circuit television transmission, or any
other method of two-way electronic communication available to the parties,
approved by the court, and capable of visually and audibly recording the
proceedings.  The bill provides that witness testimony at trial may be
conducted by electronic means only if the witness is deposed before the
trial begins.  The bill requires a court that allows a transmission to
consider it accurate and include it in the record of the case, unless the
court determines otherwise.  The bill requires a party to a transmission
that is not in court to provide equipment that is compatible with the
equipment used in court and authorizes the party to record the proceedings
at the party's own expense.  

The bill provides that a copy of a  videotaped proceeding may be obtained
from the clerk of the court on payment of a reasonable amount to cover the
cost of producing the copy and that expenses incurred by a court in
conducting a proceeding or recording a transmission shall be assessed and
collected as court costs. 

The bill amends the Code of Criminal Procedure to authorize a deposition or
testimony of an inmate in the custody of the Texas Department of Criminal
Justice to be conducted by electronic means in a proceeding in the
prosecution of a criminal offense in which the inmate is required to
testify as a witness. 


June 14, 2001.