Federal Trade Commission

Use tablet computers to replace paper exhibits in depositions

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The federal government is by far the largest single litigator in the U.S. court system. Like other law enforcement agencies, the Federal Trade Commission collects a tremendous amount of documentary evidence. When an investigation reaches litigation, the agency conducts depositions to gather witness testimony. At deposition, a witness is shown copies of and asked questions about documents. The FTC generally uses paper copies of documents in deposition. We expect other agencies follow the same practice.


Paper presents a challenge to litigators, particularly on travel. Most documents received by the FTC are in electronic form. To use them in deposition, they are converted to print and multiple copies are prepared for the witness and counsel. A large case may entail over a dozen boxes of documents per deposition. For travel, these copies must be shipped to the deposition. This process unavoidably consumes valuable government resources including paper, toner, labor to print and copy, and shipping costs. It also exposes documents to risk of loss in shipping. After deposition, paper exhibits are converted back to electronic form to be made part of the deposition record, and paper copies are shipped back and destroyed.


Our proposal is to use tablet computers to eliminate paper exhibits in depositions, thereby improving efficiency and saving resources. Unlike laptops or projectors, tablets are extremely portable and easier for witnesses to use. Our proposal also responds to Executive Order 13514, directing agencies to help create a clean energy economy by, among other things, reducing paper use.


This idea is submitted by an inter-agency team of FTC and GSA Fellows from the Partnership for Public Service’s Excellence in Government Fellows Program. For this program, we designed a proof of concept project to test tablets in deposition and have had initial success in mock settings. Implementation would need to comply with the Federal Information Security Management Act.

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Idea No. 16243