Are court reporters important to the courtroom?

Court reporters play a vital role in the courtroom, as a court reporter Atlanta trusts can attest. Their presence and their important work provide a written representation of everything that goes on, from depositions to trial. However, what happens when a court reporter is not provided? 

This is exactly what is happening in the courtrooms at the San Diego Superior Court. Unless the parties involved in the case chose to pay for a court reporter themselves, there will be no one present to record the proceedings. This can create a disparity between those who can afford the cost and those who cannot.

The changes came September 5, 2017 when the family law courts cut out the court reporter because of reduced funding and downsizing of the court systems in California. The cuts that are happening in California serve to disadvantage lower income residents and those representing themselves. 

If you see a court reporter in a family law or child custody case, it is likely because one of the parties decided to cover the cost themselves. The cost for a court reporter in California can be $80-$125 an hour. Those who are wealthier can afford to pay the fee; however, many cannot.

Having an accurate record of what happens in the courtroom allows judges, jurors and others to make decisions on cases. In some states, such as South Carolina, court reporters are still in the courtroom — but they are hard to find. There are currently about three dozen court reporters short and it is becoming difficult to fill these positions. The state only had one court reporter school and it closed in 2009, leaving potential recruits to get certification out of state or through online programs. South Carolina is researching using recording devices instead of court reporters to see if the electronics are as accurate as the court reporters. 

There are arguments in favor of having court reporters instead of electronic devices. Some of the reasons are:

  • Small details can be missed by electronics, whereas having someone present in the room will be able to capture those details.
  • The digital recordings will not only pick up voices but other sounds in the room which may take the focus away from the proceedings.
  • A court reporter can, if necessary, be called to testify about the accuracy and integrity of the record. This cannot happen with a digital recording, as some of what is recorded could be subjective because of competing noises with voices.
  • A digital recorder cannot differentiate between confidential exchanges between attorneys and their clients. It also cannot handle multiple conversations and will be confusing to whoever is analyzing the electronic recording. A good court reporter is trained to omit confidential conversations that are client/attorney privileges. 
  • Is it easier to go back to prior depositions or any other proceedings to compare testimony with the software used by a court reporter. 

On the surface, it may appear that digital recording may be a more cost-efficient means of court reporting. However, the disparities of the recordings are often not realized until long after the event, causing accuracy and integrity issues. Court reporters are professionals in recording the spoken word.