Judge Argues for Court Reporters Over Recording Devices

, New York Law Journal

   |6 Comments

court reporter's hands on stenograph machine

"The Judiciary Law could not be more clear," Hunt wrote. "The statute directs in unmistakable language that each official stenographer 'must take full stenographic notes of the testimony and of all other proceedings in each case tried or heard' and 'complete stenographic notes of each ruling or decision of the presiding judge,'" Hunt wrote. "The authority granted by the Legislature has long since expired, yet the electronic recording of proceedings in some courts of record continues unabated and beyond what the Legislature had authorized."

Hunt urged the state to "meet its obligation to accurately record Family Court proceedings by providing sufficient official court reporters or by obtaining legislative authority to record court proceedings electronically and by providing trained personnel to operate the electronic recording system.

"The children, parents, and others having their rights adjudicated by the Family Court are entitled to nothing less," he continued.

Assistant Corporation Counsel Faith Lovell prosecuted the case. Shannel was represented by Robert Georges of Manhattan.

David Bookstaver, spokesman for the Office of Court Administration, said "there is a practical realistic need for electronic recording in our courts and while we place great value on court reporters, in many areas of the state it is a dying art. Practically, this is of enormous benefit to the court system."

Bookstaver said that the Legislature has never barred electronic recording and, consequently, OCA, views the matter as an administrative prerogative.

What's being said

  • not available

    We have had recording devices in justice courts for 6 years or so now. It is remarkable how good the quality is. However, there are drawbacks including the read back at trial. In the big courts, I suppose I would come down on the side of stenographic recording but for most justice courts, I would say electronic recording is fine.

  • not available

    It is most unfortunate that a "semi-competent stenographer" had to interrupt the flow of questions and answers in order to make a verbatim record. As a certified professional reporter working as an official reporter in a heavy-volume courthouse, I can attest to the fact that many attorneys could use a good refresher course on how to make a record. As a certified reporter, we are tested in Q

  • not available

    Mechanical recording is far less expensive, and in my experience of 32 years superior to the use of stenographers. I have seen so many stenographic transcripts where portions of the script do not remotely match what was said. I have been in numerous proceedings where a semi-competent stenographer interrupts the flow of the questions and answers, because of her/his inability to keep up. I have seen transcripts from mechanically recorded proceedings that were fine. As an aside, I served four years with the National Security Agency intercepting military and diplomatic communications in an Eastern European language, and the old reel to reel did a fine job of getting it all down. It is about time that the court reporters are outed for what they really are--a part of a technologically challenged age that is no more, and a very expensive and inefficient alternative to mechanical recording.

  • not available

    There are a number of problems with audio recording of court proceedings. Questions, and answers to questions, cannot be read back. When 2 people speak at once, what each said cannot be ascertained -- a court reporter will get both down in most cases -- and a judge has to get the speakers to repeat themselves separately for the record to be clear. Current court reporting equipment allows almost instantaneous transcripts, and at most a transcript can be provided within days of trial; a transcript of electronically recorded proceedings take weeks and often contain "inaudible" entries. Testimony by telephone (primarily in child support cases before a support magistrate) is often inaudible.

  • alm

    The Legislature may not have barred electronic recording, but the statute mandates stenographic recording. Logically, that means there is nothing to prevent the use of electronic recording IN ADDITION TO STENOGRAPHIC RECORDING at the same proceeding. It does not mean that electronic recording can be used as a substitute for stenographic recording. Bookstaver needs a course in remedial legislative interpretation.

  • alm

    The Legislature may not have barred electronic recording, but the statute mandates stenographic recording. Logically, that means there is nothing to prevent the use of electronic recording IN ADDITION TO STENOGRAPHIC RECORDING at the same proceeding. It does not mean that electronic recording can be used as a substitute for stenographic recording. Bookstaver needs a course in remedial legislative interpretation.

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