A Comprehensive Guide to Modern Methods of Court Reporting

Court reporters have the sole responsibility to create verbatims of legal transcripts, proceedings, conversations, events, and meetings. Every legal procedure needs written records of the exact words spoken and this is where the responsibility of the court reporter steps in. These spoken words become proof that needs to be retained. Court reporters play a vital role and need to be present in every legal proceeding where the spoken words have to be written down exactly to be preserved as written evidence.

These professionals write down and maintain secure written legal records. They are responsible for protecting the record. The words are written down in an organized and precise way. They are useful in the future to legal judges and professionals when they look for information and references for cases. These records assist them in delivering justice in the courtroom. Moreover, this real-time transcript helps people who are deaf and dumb as well. They can be translated for them so that they are aware of administration and procedure conducted in courtrooms.

What are the major methods of court reporting?

The common and most popular method of court reporting is stenographic. Here, the stenographic machine is used so that the court reporter can record all the spoken words accurately used in the courtroom. This machine is unique. It allows the court reporter to press many keys at a single time so that sounds, words, and phrases are accurately recorded. The keys typed in resemble symbols. However, when they are translated and displayed on the screen, they are in words. The technique that aids this process is called computer-aided transcription or CAT.  The machine is linked to computers for real-time captions. The words spoken appear on screen as text.

Electronic court reporting

Electronic reporting is a popular modern method of court reporting. This procedure involves the use of audio equipment for recording the proceedings in court. The court reporter generally monitors the whole process. He or she takes notes to identify the persons are speaking. The recording needs to be listened to so that it is precise and accurate. The quality of the audio needs to be clear so that it is simple to understand. The equipment that is used to record the proceedings of the court involves the analog tape recorder and other digital equipment. The reporters help in producing accurate accounts of the written transcripts.

Voice writing method

Voice writing is the third type of court reporting used in legal proceedings. The court reporter here needs to speak directly to the voice silencer with a hand-held mask with a microphone. The reporter repeats the court testimony into this recorder. The mask helps in preventing the reporter from being heard. These voice writers record every spoken word by attorneys, witnesses, judges and other people that are associated with the court proceedings. The method is very sophisticated. It records emotional reactions and gestures as well. The written transcription of the court recordings is later prepared once the proceedings are over.

Key responsibilities of court reporters

Court reporters are responsible for a number of key responsibilities before and after the events have been transcribed. Both voice and stenographic reporters need to create and maintain the computer dictionary they have used during the transcript. The voice files and the major strokes used have to be translated into written texts. They have the liberty to customize the dictionary if they want. This can be done with whole words, parts of speech or any terminology that is specific to the court event, proceeding or program. For instance, a religious service can be transcribed. The grammar needs corrections and edit. The court reporter should make sure the names and places are in the correct proper nouns. The records must be clear and free from ambiguity. They create accurate records and make copies. They disclose information to the members of the legal community and public on request. They are responsible for effective storage and retrieval of court reports. This must be done in an organized way. The storage might be done in digital or paper format.

Do court reporters work inside the courtroom only?

Court reporters generally work inside courtrooms however they may also work outside the courtrooms as well. For instance, there are court reporters called internet information reporters and webcasters that appear at press conferences, seminars for technical training, meeting, and product launches to capture sales. Court reporter Seattle professionals often speak into telephones or microphones. The words spoken appear on the screen of computers. Court reporters may be present at government agencies as well. This includes US Congress to local and state governing offices. They may also be broadcast captioners for the hearing impaired and appear on a television network. They can work for cable stations, sporting events, emergency broadcasts and more.

CART – An Insight

There is a unique version of the above captioning process known as Communication Access Real-Time Translation or simply CART. This is used to provide customized information for the hearing impaired. These reporters often work with deaf students and people that are learning English as their second language. They are responsible for the captioning in classroom sessions at the school and college levels. Here, the skills of the reporter need to be very good. The deaf person will be able to understand the transcript only if the reporter is good and sincere in his work. The transcripts are generally provided at the end of the sessions. Court reporting in the above field also comes in as a savior in the event of natural calamity and emergencies like in hurricanes and tornadoes. The accuracy of information in captioning helps to save a life.

Computer speech recognition – Understanding how it works for court reporting in the USA

Most of the time voice writers that create a transcript in real-time with the aid of a technology called computer speech recognition. Some, on the other hand, prefer to translate the voice files once the proceeding commences. They often manually transcribe the files. Court reporters in the above field can work as closed captioners or CART reporters for deaf people. They may also find jobs in the field of caption providers and internet text streaming.

How is the work environment like for court reporters?

Most court reporters work in very comfortable settings. They work in courtrooms, attorney offices, conventions, and meetings. Some professionals work in home-based settings as freelancers.

The nature of the job might seem comfortable however like all desk jobs; it does have its share of hazards. You may suffer from neck, back, eye strain, etc. from sitting in the same position for an extended period. The pressure is huge. You must be very fast and precise. Often some professionals develop the carpal tunnel syndrome as there is a lot of repetitive stress. The average work time is 40 hours in a week. However, there is an additional time of preparing the transcripts. Freelancers and other independent contractors however work flexible hours, and they may also include part-time.

What is the training required for you to become a court reporter?

The training for becoming a court reporter depends upon the method of reporting you choose. It generally takes less than a year to become a fresh voice writer and two years to become skilled in real-time writing. Most of the skills are mastered when you are on the job. If you want to become a stenographer court reporter is 33 months. There are over a hundred vocational and other technical schools and colleges in the USA. There are over 60 programs under The National Court Reporters Association, or NCRA provides you with programs that specialize in reporting in real-time and computer-aided stenograph transcription. Students need to capture 225 words per minute to qualify for these certified programs. This is also required for jobs in the Federal Government too.

Electronic court reporters who use the audio technology to capture the spoken words learn their skills when on the job. The students read out manuals and review them with trainers. They observe the reporters while they perform procedures. Along with the above, the professionals are given training on the job that is court specific. This is generally done under the supervision of an experienced professional or firm. With practice, the professional becomes experienced before he or she can perform independently.

When it comes to certifications and license, voice writers have to pass an examination and earn a State License. Instead of a State License, they can go in for certification under The National Verbatim Reporters Association. There are three certificates issued under this body, and they are the Certificate of Merit, The Real-Time Verbatim Reporter and Certified Verbatim Reporter. They are considered to be state licenses and permit a person to become a court reporter in America. There are, however, some states that need the court reporters to be a notary public. Others require the court reporter to pass a state test under a team of examiners.