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The Tel Aviv Magistrates Court has announced that it will soon begin, on a pilot basis, the video-recording of hearings in civil cases. The court’s announcement emphasized that the recording services will be without charge to any of the litigants.
Only six of the dozens of judges on the court will be participating in the pilot program.
Is this news significant to international litigation in Israel? The answer is yes. Of the six judges who will begin to use video-recording, two of them are routinely involved in handling incoming requests for evidence taking under the Hague Evidence Convention.
Although the announcement of the pilot program relates to civil litigation generally and not specifically to Hague Convention matters, it takes little creativity to imagine how the experience of two Tel Aviv judges who handle H.E.C. matters could change the dynamics of international evidence-taking in Israel.
For example, it is not uncommon for a Hague Convention request from the United States to ask that the American lawyers be allowed to participate in the examination of Israeli witnesses via video-conferencing. (Although participation via Zoom is often acceptable for “mere spectators” in a deposition, the standard Zoom hook-up is generally considered insufficient at the venue(s) where the witness and the court reporter are located.)
Up until now, in such situations, the Israeli judiciary has politely informed parties that, in order for lawyers in the US to participate, it is necessary to go to an outside vendor for video-conferencing services. Those vendors obviously charge for their services.
Because of the new pilot program – in which the judges who handle Hague Evidence Convention requests will participate – it is likely that these judges will, in the short term, gain far more experience than their colleagues regarding the use of much of the same equipment needed to carry out remote video-conference testimony.
If so, we might be only a few months away from having Hague Evidence Convention applications handled by judges who tell the parties “feel free to use my courtroom” – for free – for such video-conference depositions.
We will monitor this situation and update.