Often times I am asked why Court Reporters are in demand and why a tape recorder isn't replacing my reporting profession. If you've ever wondered why Court Reporters are hired and why attorneys or litigants do not simply run a recording device to preserve the spoken questions and answers given, the simple answers are that Court Reporters are trained to be an officer of the Court. Court Reporters are trained in the legal proceedings, trained on the ethical rules of going on or off the record. Court Reporters observe each speaker, notate the identification of each speaker and their statements so given, as well as punctuating the spoken text. Court Reporters mark and take custody of each exhibit marked to be preserved as evidence. Court Reporters can be asked to read back a portion of the testimony, thus allowing an attorney to formulate the next question and/or possibly even to impeach a witness. Court Reporters are required to preserve the proceedings for up to seven years.
Court Reporters are independent, third party participants who possess no interest, financial or otherwise, in the outcome of the proceedings stenographically recorded.
A recording device may capture most of the audio, but a recording device cannot do the job of the Court Reporter and ask the witness to speak up when a participant coughs or crumples papers louder than the speaker is speaking. The Court Reporter is often required to ask the witness to speak up and to repeat the answer.
A recording device cannot, in any circumstance, provide a written transcript. To provide a written transcript, a Court Reporter acting as an officer of the Court, prepares the steno notes into a written transcript to be used as evidence to prove or disprove a case.
Many articles can be cited nationwide wherein murder convictions have been overturned due to the malfunctioning audio equipment thought to have been preserving the trial proceedings only to be discovered later that weeks of testimony were lost forever.
I hope this article has been helpful in providing the answer to why Court Reporters are necessary in legal proceedings versus using a tape-recording machine.
written by: Dawn Iseminger