Advisory Opinion 19
Substituting an agency's certification page for a reporter's page (1995)
Statement of Facts
A freelance reporter has requested the Committee on Professional Ethics to render an advisory opinion regarding the permissibility under the Association's Code of Professional Ethics of an arrangement whereby an out-of-state reporting agency engages the reporter to cover and report several depositions for one of its clients. The agency requests the reporter to send it the deposition transcripts on an ASCII diskette. The agency also instructs the reporter to delete the reporter's certificate page from the transcript because the agency intends to substitute its own certificate in its place. The certification page states that the deponent was sworn in by the reporter and that the transcript is a true and accurate record of the deponent's testimony.
The Committee believes that the practice of substituting the agency's certification page for the certification page of the reporter who actually recorded and reported the deposition undermines the integrity of the reporting profession, creates both the fact and the appearance of impropriety and constitutes the making of a false and inaccurate statement. The typical certification page essentially states that (1) the deponent was duly sworn by the reporter; (2) the transcript is a true and accurate record of the deponent's testimony; and (3) the person whose signature appears on the certificate covered, recorded and reported the deposition. Most jurisdictions require the inclusion of these representations in a certificate page. Who else can make these representations except the reporter who swore in the deponent, recorded the deponent's testimony and created the transcript?
Provision No. 3 of the Code requires a reporter to guard against not only the fact but also the appearance of impropriety. Provision No. 5 mandates that a reporter be truthful and accurate when making public statements. Provision No. 9 requires members to maintain the integrity of the reporting profession. An arrangement between a reporter and an agency whereby a reporter permits the agency to substitute its certification page for the reporter's certification page, constitutes impropriety, as well as the making of a false and inaccurate statement. This impropriety and falsification undermines the integrity of the reporter, as well as that of the reporting profession. It is the duty of the individual reporter to ensure that transcripts that the reporter creates are accompanied by the reporter's certification page, rather than the certification page of an agency or third party who cannot make the required representations. If the agency insists on using its certificate, rather than the reporter's certificate, the reporter should ensure that the agency's certificate conforms to the applicable federal, state or local certification page requirements, and will be properly signed by the reporter taking the deposition. If these requirements are not met, the reporter should decline the engagement.
The Committee on Professional Ethics believes that the arrangement whereby an out-of-state agency substitutes its certification page for that of the reporter who actually took and reported the deposition violates Provisions No. 3, 5, and 9 of the Code, that deal with avoiding the fact and appearance of impropriety, making truthful and accurate public statements, and maintaining the integrity of the reporting profession. The Committee notes that this practice may violate federal, state and local transcript certification requirements, as well. It is the responsibility of the reporter to take reasonable steps to ensure that the reporter's certification page is attached to all hard copies of the transcript, and included on ASCII diskettes of the transcript. If the agency insists on using its certificate, rather than the reporter's certificate, the reporter should ensure that the agency's certificate conforms to applicable federal, state or local certification page requirements and will be properly signed by the reporter taking the deposition. If these requirements are not met, the reporter should decline the engagement.
THIS PUBLIC ADVISORY OPINION REFLECTS THE STATUS OF THE LAW IN MOST JURISDICTIONS. MEMBERS ARE REQUIRED TO CONFORM TO THE ACCEPTED PRACTICES SET FORTH IN THIS PUBLIC ADVISORY OPINION TO THE EXTENT THAT SUCH PRACTICES ARE CONSISTENT WITH THEIR OWN APPLICABLE STATE AND LOCAL LAWS, RULES AND REGULATIONS.