Court reporters are known under a few other names: court stenographer; law reporter; shorthand reporter; and, stenotype operator. One of their very important tasks is to produce an official written record or transcript of everything that is said in court trials, depositions and all other legal proceedings. Besides this is a long list of court reporters’ other duties, which include:
- Attending all legal procedures where the production of written transcripts is required
- Capturing all spoken dialogue accurately whether through the use of a stenotype machine, an audio recording device, or a video recorder
- Providing copies of transcripts and recordings to courts, legal counsels, and the parties involved
- Reading or playing back the whole or a segment of the proceedings, when requested by the judge
- Asking speakers to clarify statements or testimonies that were unclear or inaudible
- Preparing transcripts
- Editing transcripts for typographical errors
A (court) transcript contains all decisions made by a judge (his/her exact words and gestures), all arguments by litigants’ lawyers and testimonies made by witnesses. It is also supposed to be an unedited, word-for word record of all things spoken and who said what.
During the recent years many state courts and a number of Superior courts, such as the ones in Los Angeles and San Diego, had to let go of their court reporters due to budget cuts. Thus, some courtroom teams, which always included a silent, though very essential member in the person of a court reporter, now go on with their job without one. This means that litigants who want and need a verbatim transcript of the trial, in case they would be indicted and decide to make an appeal (Appellate Courts review cases that come from trials using transcripts generated by court reporters) will have to hire their own (freelance) court reporter or entrust such to their legal counsel who, of course, knows what court reporters do and just how good ones do their job.
Lawyers and law firms earn client respect if they are able to prove reliability. To be consistently reliable, however, legal representatives should fully understand their client’s case and not be unaware of anything that has been said and done in the courtroom, a field where court reporters also play a very vital role.
Thousands of trials have been won (regardless of which side) not only because of lawyers’ great arguments, but also because of a great team up between lawyers and court reporters – such that lawyers know what part of the transcript to ask for (and when to ask for these) and the court reporter always ready with the needed record that can help them win the case.