Three state legislatures — Texas, Massachusetts, and Missouri — are considering legislation this year to adopt the Uniform Interstate Depositions and Discovery Act, a law that creates a standardized and efficient procedure to obtain deposition testimony from witnesses outside the reach of local state courts.
If UIDDA is adopted during these states’ current legislative sessions, New Hampshire will stand alone as the sole state that has not adopted the popular interstate deposition procedure.
In Texas, House Bill 3929, which calls on the Texas Supreme Court to issue court rules adopting UIDDA before Sept. 1, 2025, was introduced on March 7.
And in Missouri, UIDDA legislation (House Bill 84) was introduced on Jan. 4. A hearing on H.B. 84 was held by the House Judiciary Committee on Feb. 6.
Recently, Oklahoma and Nebraska adopted UIDDA in 2021, and Connecticut did so in 2022, bringing the total number of UIDDA states to 46, plus the District of Columbia.
The near-total adoption of UIDDA across the country is an indication that the measure, approved by the Uniform Law Commission in 2007, meets an acute need within state court civil justice systems. By creating a streamlined procedure for obtaining out-of-state discovery subpoenas without the involvement of a trial judge, UIDDA lowers the cost of pretrial discovery for litigants and eases administrative burdens on trial courts.
UIDDA in Operation
UIDDA’s approach to the out-of-state subpoena process is similar to the process for obtaining subpoenas in the federal courts under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 45. In states that have adopted UIDDA, the process for obtaining a subpoena for deposition testimony from a witness residing in another state goes something like this:
- The lawyer prepares a subpoena according to the procedures applicable in the state in which the action was filed.
- The lawyer obtains a copy of the subpoena form from the clerk in the state where the intended deposition witness resides.
- The lawyer prepares the out-of-state subpoena so that it has the same terms as the subpoena obtained from the state in which the action was filed.
- The lawyer hires a process server to take both subpoenas to the clerk of the local court where the witness resides.
- The clerk of court issues the local subpoena, which can then be lawfully served on the deponent.
Involvement by the local court is necessary only if the subpoena attracts a legal challenge from a party or the deposition witness.
Because of UIDDA’s reciprocity requirement, lawyers practicing in states that have not enacted UIDDA are unable to take advantage of UIDDA’s streamlined process for obtaining out-of-state subpoenas. Out-of-state subpoenas directed to witnesses residing in non-UIDDA states require the lawyer to obtain a commission or letter rogatory from a trial court in the jurisdiction where the witness resides.
When seeking deposition testimony from a witness residing in a non-UIDDA state, a lawyer must also either request to be admitted pro hac vice in that state or seek local counsel to handle the subpoena. The act of directing a UIDDA subpoena to an out-of-state witness does not constitute a court appearance, so the lawyer seeking discovery under UIDDA is not required to be licensed in the state where the witness resides.
The appeal of UIDDA to both attorneys and courts is clear: It provides an efficient process for obtaining deposition subpoenas for out-of-state witnesses with no involvement from the trial court, no need for hiring additional local counsel, and no need to navigate the time-consuming procedure for obtaining a letter rogatory or commission.
The passage of UIDDA adoptions in Texas, Massachusetts, and Missouri is likely but by no means guaranteed. The process for obtaining depositions across state lines doesn’t excite voters, and it’s not uncommon for UIDDA legislation to languish over several legislative sessions before it’s eventually adopted. In Missouri, for example, UIDDA legislation proposed in 2021 failed to advance.
This year the Missouri legislature’s regular session adjourns on May 30. The Texas legislature’s regular session wraps up on May 29. So, in those two states, action on UIDDA can be expected by early summer.
Litigators watching Massachusetts will have to wait a bit longer. In Massachusetts, the legislature meets in two-year sessions, each session beginning in an odd-numbered year. Bills that are not passed by the end of the first year carry over to the second year of the session, meaning, in effect, that Massachusetts legislators have until the end of 2024 to consider and act on UIDDA legislation.