By Charlie Brown

Experienced lawyers always have the contact of a reliable court reporting service on their speed dial. Years of working at the court have taught them the value of the great support the legislative services can bring. The job and responsibility of a stenographer seem easy, but they are the key element in several trials and depositions. Without their transcription notes, it would be quite impossible for the judges, attorneys and other parties involved to recount the witness testimonies, point out the discrepancies and submit the depositions on time.

Present state of finances may have left savvy attorneys without trusted stenographers on their team, but that does not mean the clients or the firms do not face the necessity of having someone capable of taking shorthand notes and transcribing the sessions anymore. People are shifting from dedicated in-house transcription experts to court reporter services that provide the same benefits. The modern court reporters have embraced technology, and they intend on providing real-time reports on hearings and trial sessions. They can also transcribe out of the court client meets and the corporate board meets that require the attorney’s presence. They also make perfect records of the witness questioning and other testimonies.

Since most law firms and corporations now outsource their court reporter needs, there is a rising concern about their code of ethics. All professional reporters need to follow certain codes that the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) outlines. It is mandatory for you to check if the court reporter you will be working with has NCRA accreditation. Here are a few things you should be looking for in your court reporting services –

The court reporter should be unbiased and fair

The reporter needs to be fair and unbiased in service. They should be able to provide equal services to all participants. The stenographer should offer the same expedited service to all parties involved once the attorney or his firm commissions his or her service. This is very necessary since everyone involved in the proceeding has equal right to the transcription record. The American Judges Association discourages the practice of unfair or incomparable pricing of court reporting services to different parties. Over the last few years, insurance companies sign up court reporting companies directly on contract. This prompts special pricing for the same reporting services for one individual or party over another. The law reporter you pick must always offer comparable services to each unless the court orders otherwise.

The court reporter must be vigilant about the appearance of misconduct in court

There is that awkward and rather questionable moment when a judge or a lawyer asks the court reporter about his or her personal opinion on a case. Questions like – “what do you think of the defender’s tattoo?” or “do you think the witness lied?” may seem very banal or rhetorical to the audience, but questions like these coming from the attorney or the judge can disrupt the outcome of the jury’s decision. If the stenographer attempts to answer questions like these, it would definitely be a manipulative move on their part. The NCRA code of ethics ensures that the court reporter must NEVER exchange gifts or anything of value with the attorneys, the staff or people involved in the proceeding. They should also avoid the appearance of being partial at all times. They should maintain their integrity as a neutral official.

The court reporter must be trustworthy

There are times when the court reporter may come across confidential and even incriminating evidence against people involved in the trial. Under no circumstances the court allows them to share that information with outsiders and other parties who might benefit from the same. They must also never utilize the information for their personal financial gain or any other benefit in the future. In the era of social media, it is very easy for any information to become viral. Nonetheless, it is completely unacceptable for any stenographer to share the details of an ongoing litigation on the web or on social media. In fact, they cannot share any kind of details about the case, the people or the jury on their anonymous blog as well. The stenographer canhave the exhibits safely stowed away either in the form of a softcopy or a hardcopy.

They must not facilitate a conflict of interest

In case the court reporter becomes aware of a conflict of interest, he or she has to make that knowledge public in court. This also applies in case of potential conflicts they may spot during a disposition. There might be situations where the parties involved did not send a notice to the reporting firm. This is actually one of the most common cases of conflict of interest. Another very common incident is whereupon arriving the reporter finds a witness or a litigant, with whom he or she shares a close personal connection. It is the duty of the reporter to disclose the relationship in court. The counsel can raise an objection, in the event of which the court reporter can excuse himself or herself due to a potential conflict of interest and arrange for a suitable replacement.

The quality of service your court reporting agency offers will determine a lot more than the accuracy of the transcript. The code of ethics protects the rights of the litigant, defendant, and the witnesses, just like they protect the juries. The stenographer’s adherence to the confidentiality codes and impartiality codes can determine the net outcome of your deposition or litigation. The information a court reporter may share with the public can potentially make or break a case. The flow of the case depends greatly on the hands of a court reporter, who can ensure impartiality during sessions and prevention of impropriety in the case.

How are modern court reporters a class apart from old stenographers?

The modern stenographer does not arm themselves with a pen and sheets of paper only. They have their stenotype machine and transcription devices. The majority of the cases, this device can be a computer or a laptop that connects the stenograph machine with a display unit. As the court reporter files the shorthand version of the transcript, the software application in the PC or laptop translates it to English for the court to see and understand. This is the process of real- time court reporting. The involvement of technology and electronic gadgets does not void any of the expected codes of conduct. In fact, the presence of a network connection and electronic devices require more data security.

Court reporters cannot share the details of their job with the public. The electronics have the sole purpose of mediating the translation. They have no role in sharing information from the transcript via social media. However, this provides the experts with several chances to go over the transcripts and the details of the witness accounts. It also opens a new window for the hearing impaired people present in the court. The presence of a digital screening system allows them to follow the dialogues and proceedings.

How has technology made court reporting accessible for everyone?

Technology has helped the court of law in many ways. There might be a deposition in a remote place, where it is impossible to set up proceedings. In such cases, the court reporters responsible for transcription can do their jobs online. They can connect with the deposition proceedings via online live streaming. The only requirement for this would be reliable sound receivers, a screen, power output and a reliable internet connection. Even with these amenities, the cost would be much lesser than travel expenses. This also saves the time it would take for the team to travel to the remote area(s). Remote court reporting is now possible thanks to the rigorous training procedure most stenographers engaging in real-time reporting have to go through.

Remote accessibility increases the need for code adherence manifold. At no cost can the reporter transcribe the case in a public place. They cannot share the link of live stream with their friends, family or any other person not a part of the case. Security becomes very important when the question of remote assistance arises. Even the Wi-Fi service the court reporter avails should be secure, and it should not allow hackers a chance to access the trial transcript data.

Court reporters are neutral officials of the legal system. It takes several years of training, certification and on-field experience to become a good reporter. Therefore, finding a reliable reporter who can respect your confidence can be a rare thing. Always work with a reporting agency you trust. For any new legislative service provider you go to, always check their service reviews and testimonials to learn about the quality of services you can expect from them. Never pick a court reporting service on the basis of price or glamour. You need a company that provides you wholesome impartial service. So take your time and pick the one best for your interests.

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