The presence of an actual person, trained to report official court proceedings, is still superior to an electronic recording or a contracted court reporter.  An official court reporter is not only the ears, but also the eyes, for the official record.

Studies demonstrate several facts that support the NC-AOCR position:

•  Jurisdictions that have switched to electronic or digital recording have seen problems with inaudibles, blank tapes, and overall system failures.

•  Electronic and digitally recorded transcripts generally take up to two times as long to be compiled, edited and returned as a final document; and they require at least five times the data space for storage purposes as a digital official transcript saved in secure, unchangeable digital pdf format.

•  Courts have failed to recognize the hidden costs, such as maintenance fees, long-term secure storage while awaiting possible need for transcription and the actual cost of transcription.

•  While a digital audio record is stored in the form of bits and bytes, it still has to be listened to and manually transcribed for appeal. Additionally, tapes can be easily misplaced or lost, and large digital files can become corrupted easily–particularly when compressed for storage.

•  Court reporters have been ahead of the rest of the legal system in applying digital technology in the workplace.

•  Reporter-based technologies such as realtime enhance the functioning of the judicial system in both headline trials and everyday depositions and provide significant value to the judicial system with the court reporter often covering much of these additional costs.

The NCRA has prepared a report highlighting key considerations that states must weigh if they are to reduce or eliminate court reporters in favor of electronic recording systems.  To view this report, click here.

(For a detailed and colorful flyer, highlighting many more points, click here.  For even more information, check out supporting evidence from the NCRA here.)


Related News:

WRAL News report on Senate’s proposed budget to eliminate court reporters: Click here to watch the video of the story from WRAL.com and Click here to read the story from WRAL.com.

From the Capitol Broadcasting Company, NC Policy Watch, “Silencing the Court Reporters” by Sharon McCloskey


Letters of Support:

Letter from Utah attorney and former law clerk

“…[O]ne of my responsibilities was to respond to requests for audio recordings of hearings….  However, about once a month or every 6 weeks, one of the request (sic) would be ‘unfilled’ as the audio was missing or the audio was incomplete because of some malfunction with the system…. I did experience difficulties filling every request for audio.”

(Read the entire letter here.)


Misleading of Utah Supreme Court Justice in regard to Electronic Recording Systems

A common argument, at least in North Carolina, in favor of electronic recording systems has been the supposed success of the State of Utah switching from official court reporters to electronic recordings.  This report details some fallacies of that argument.


Letter from President of Utah Court Reporters Association

“…[W]hen you don’t have a court reporter, you don’t have a guardian of the record…. You now need someone to monitor the recording every single second.”

(Read more of this letter here.)


Resolution of North Carolina Superior Court Judges

“… Whereas, it is reasonably foreseeable in those instances where a transcript is prepared by one side of the lawsuit that frequent acrimonious and contentious disputes will arise over the accuracy of the record, and that the trial judge will be required to settle the record in such cases at a distinct disadvantage because the judge must resolve the controversy without the benefit of a duly certified transcript by an Official Court Reporter; and that the trial judge would be reduced to reliance upon a transcript prepared by someone who may not have even been been present at the trial, and who may have no firsthand knowledge of what took place at trial…”

(Read the entire resolution here.)


Letter from the Presidents of the North Carolina Bar Association and the North Carolina State Bar

“Those who work day in, day out in our trial courts know that witnesses mumble, slur, speak in accents and near whispers or are otherwise unable to fully articulate due to physical limitations or the stress of the moment. Recurring background noise regularly ‘overrides’ testimony from the witness stand. For ensuring an accurate record, there is no substitute for the live court reporter who observes a witness and asks for a response to be repeated when necessary.”

(Read the entire letter here.)


Letter from the North Carolina Association of Defense Attorneys

“North Carolina’s business community counts on the courts for the efficient resolution of disputes. This community, and our members as its representatives in the courts, depends on court reporters to ensure and control the accuracy of the Court record at each stage of what are often complex and extended legal proceedings, involving multiple appearances before our courts. With the elimination of these critical positions, delays will be inevitable, the costs of litigation will necessarily increase for the parties involved, and justice for all will be sacrificed.”

(Read the full letter here.)


Letter from the Hon. William Z. Wood, Senior Resident Superior Court Judge, Forsyth County

“My own experience with electronic recording equipment has shown that the recording becomes inaudible or garbled when two or more people speak at the same time.  Two or more people frequently speak at the same time during trials.  Lawyers often interrupt each other during arguments over motions.  Lawyers and witnesses constantly interrupt each other during the question and answer process of testimony.  A good, competent Court Reporter can ask that questions, answers and statements be repeated.  Court Reporters have back-up recording capacity that an audio recording system lacks.”

(Read the full letter here.)


Letter from a Mecklenburg County Trial Court Coordinator

“Over the course of the national budget crises, other states have been naively drawn to electronic/digital recording equipment as a cheaper alternative to stenographic reporting. Several of the states that replaced court reporters with alternative technologies have now switched back. States such as New Mexico , New Jersey and Texas all found that the recording systems left much to be desired. Hidden costs and problems with inaudible testimony, blank tapes, equipment failures and, in some instances, resulting re-trials caused these states to return to court reporters.”

(Read more of the letter here.)


Letter by an attorney from Kentucky (a state with no official court reporters)

“It may well be that eliminating court reporters in favor of electronic systems might save money in the budget in the short term. However, I believe from personal experience that there are quantifiable negative consequences, including loss of productivity for judges and lawyers must review the records of court proceedings. As well, there are important access to justice issues that should be explored, as the costs of hiring a private recorder to transcribe a hearing or trial necessarily weigh on the decision to appeal an outcome.”

(Read the full letter here.)


Letter from Nat Smith, Attorney at Law

“It occurs to me that any savings which might result from adopting either contract personnel or electronic replacements for court reporters would be offset, both financially and logistically, by the expenses resulting from having inexperienced folks creating problems that in turn require enormous amounts of time to cure – during which time the judge, the bailiff, the clerk (not to mention the attorneys and litigants) sit around staring at the walls. I suspect the downtime alone would eat up any anticipated cost reduction.”

(Read the full letter here.)


Letter from Tami Smith Keenan, President, National Court Reporters Association

“We have seen counties time and time again make the switch to electronic recording with negative outcomes. For instance, in 2009 in Jefferson County, Ky., it was discovered that due to faulty electronic recording devices, dozens of hearings were not recorded and entire proceedings were lost forever…”

“…Unfortunately, if this legislation passes into law, it will only result in harm for the end consumer, North Carolina’s citizens, who rely on the state court system on a daily basis. A court reporter’s primary focus when working in court is accuracy, impartiality, and confidentiality of the official court record. While the first two speak for themselves, the confidentiality aspect deserves special mention.”

(Read the full letter here.)


If you would like to add your own letter of support, please contact us today!

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