Advisory Opinion 25
Releasing paper notes to third parties (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 write several depositions for one of its clients. The agency requests the reporter to send it the deposition transcripts on an ASCII diskette, along with the reporter's paper notes.
The Committee believes that the practice of sending a copy of the reporter's notes on an ASCII diskette to the contracting agency is permissible so long as the reporter maintains the paper notes in the reporter's possession. The retention of these paper notes is essential to ensuring the security of information included in the deposition transcript. Failure to do otherwise makes the transcripts susceptible to unauthorized changes or deletions.
Provision No. 4 of the Code requires the reporter to ensure the security of the information entrusted to the reporter by one or more of the parties to the proceeding. One of the ways in which the security of the information is ensured is through the reporter's maintenance of the reporter's paper notes. Such paper notes then may be used as a benchmark to determine if there are any unauthorized or inappropriate changes or deletions in the transcript. Thus, while a reporter may provide the agency with a copy of the reporter's notes on an ASCII diskette, the reporter must maintain the paper notes in order to comply with the reporter's obligation to ensure the security of the information in the transcript entrusted to the reporter.
The reporter should also be advised that many state and local laws require the reporter to maintain the reporter's paper notes for these very reasons.
While the Committee believes that the reporter may send a copy of the reporter's notes to the agency along with the transcript on the ASCII diskette, Provision No. 4 of the Code of Professional Ethics requires that the reporter maintain the paper notes in the reporter's possession in order to ensure the security of the information in the transcript that has been entrusted to the reporter.
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.