Court reporters are not a given; you can't expect them to be present at every case in every state and county. Because of budget restraints, it is now expected in many areas that you find and pay for your own court reporter.
But you can't just enlist your neighbor—the job requires real skill. And you do need a good court reporter to avoid running into trouble in the event that you have to appeal. Read on to learn a little more about why you must hire a court reporter and what skills he or she should have.
How Court Reporters Can Help
Without a court reporter you will have limited information to reference if you need to appeal. If you bring up something that wasn't recorded, it can be treated as though it never happened. This goes without argument, as established by Protect Our Water v. County of Merced. You may try to scrap together some information afterwards, but an inadequate report with holes and possibly contradictions can be hurtful to an appeal, causing it to be dismissed. Without a reporter's transcript, an appellant's claim has no merit beyond his or her word.
There are alternatives to this scenario. For instance, if you go through a hearing without a reporter, you may be able to get what is called a "settled statement". This statement is a detailed summary of what happened rather than a word-by-word documentation of the hearing. However, this means that only the documented points can legitimately be raised in an appeal. Also, consider how an after-the-fact documentation will not be quite as accurate. Opinion may creep into your statements because you are doing more than strictly transcribing audio. Thus, even a settled statement is not a sufficient substitute for a reporter's transcript.
Skills Of A Proficient Reporter
A court reporter is a stenographer. This means that he or she will transcribe audio into writing using shorthand. This can be done with regular shorthand, machine shorthand, or voice writing equipment. A person could not accurately and completely transcribe proceedings with regular writing. Knowledge of shorthand is necessary in a stenographer.
Additionally, the fast-paced nature of speech—let alone speech in a court room where many specifics are being laid out, emotions can get high, and dialogue can overlap overwhelmingly—requires incredible quick typing. A court reporter or stenographer must also be familiar with legal terminology, for the same reasons.
Find out if a court reporter will be provided for you, and if not, go find your own. Often a directory is available on court websites. Since each hearing only needs one court reporter, you can arrange with the opposing party or parties to hire one and share the expense—a court will not allow two reports. To save even more money, be sure to ask your reporter to paginate your transcript, so that in the case of appeal, you do not have to pay them again to figure out the page numbers.
Never assume you won't have to appeal your case. Call G & M Court Reporters & Video to make sure you have everything you need for your court case.