Section J: Position Statements - Subsection 8: NCRA Statement re Electronic Filing of Court Documents and Transcripts
POLICY: NCRA Statement re Electronic Filing of Court Documents and Transcripts
Adopted: August 2007
Reaffirmed: July 2011
Electronic access to court records is an issue that court reporters have managed for years. As guardians of the record, judicial reporters have the task of maintaining the accuracy and ensuring the security of the official court transcript. Moreover, adhering to the instructions of the court, official reporters manage much of the information distributed to the public. The parties involved often painstakingly scrutinize these documents, and copies are also demanded by legions of journalists and often hotly pursued by members of the public, the legal community, and even collectors.
The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) applauds current efforts on the federal and state level to allow for electronic access to court records and looks forward to the role court reporters can play in facilitating the process. The value court reporters bring to the court system is to provide litigants and participants with accurate, detailed information about the trial in a way that is quick, convenient, and cost-effective. The reporter's computer-based transcripts are a natural fit for today's Web-based court document management systems.
Nevertheless, there are many issues that must be addressed when considering the adoption or implementation of electronic filing as a way to enhance the efficiency of the judicial system and provide public access to court documents.
NCRA believes that ensuring the public’s right to access court records must be balanced against the right to privacy of the parties and public safety. Before an e-filing system is implemented, there must be a process in place to ensure that key information, such as that identified in the United States Judicial Conference’s policy on redaction, is excluded from the publicly accessible document. Moreover, it should be the responsibility of the parties and/or attorneys to identify the information to be redacted, and the responsibility of the court reporter to redact that information from a transcript.
Ensuring the security of the information once filed electronically is also of paramount concern. First, only a certified transcript should be incorporated into an e-filing system. Second, with continuing advances in technology and the ability of outsiders to gain illegal access to protected computer systems, the entity facilitating e-filing access must provide a method to ensure that a certified transcript cannot be altered once it is accessed electronically and that any attempt to alter an electronic document can be easily identified.
In addition, the court’s compensation system must take into account the fact that individuals who wish to obtain a copy of the transcript will no longer be required to go through the reporter, but are now able to obtain the copy electronically. Most official reporter compensation systems are based on the expectation that the reporters’ compensation package includes transcript original and copy sales, as those transcripts are produced with reporter-owned equipment and supplies, often outside of standard work hours. Therefore, NCRA believes that a reporter must either be paid for copies of transcripts accessed through the e-filing system or otherwise compensated for copy sale income lost as a result of electronic filing of transcripts.