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


Currently, telecommunications technology may only be used in criminal
trials.  For example, some counties are conducting arraignments through the
use of closed-circuit telecommunications, as provided by state law. 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
telecommunications technology can help expedite trial proceedings in a
timely and efficient manner.  House Bill 176 extends the use of
telecommunications technology subject to the order of a judge to civil
pretrial and trial proceedings. 


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
subject to the order of the trial or appellate judge, as applicable, a
hearing of a preliminary matter, a deposition, witness testimony at trial,
or any appellate proceeding may be conducted by telecommunication,
including satellite transmission or closed circuit television transmission.
The bill prescribes that telecommunication may be used only by a method
that provides for instantaneous, recordable two-way image and sound
communication among all parties to the proceeding and the court.  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   proceeding that was
videotaped 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. 


On passage, or if the Act does not receive the necessary vote, the Act
takes effect September 1, 2001.