Advisory Opinion 19
Certification of Hard Copy and Electronic Transcripts and Electronic Transmission of Transcripts (No. 19 combined with No. 37 March 2014)
Statement of Facts
The purpose of this opinion is to guide members regarding certification of hard copy and electronic transcripts as well as the electronic transmission of transcripts.
Discussion: Certification of Paper and Electronic Transcripts
Most jurisdictions require the typical certification page to essentially state that (1) the deponent was duly sworn by the reporter; (2) the transcript is a true and accurate record of the proceeding; and (3) the person whose signature appears on the certificate is the one who reported and transcribed the proceeding. These rules apply whether the transcript is produced in paper or electronic form.
Since the reporter can only make these representations as to a specific transcript, generic signed certificate pages should never be provided in advance to an agency for attachment to a paper transcript or incorporation into an electronic transcript. The Committee believes this practice violates Provisions 3, 4, 5 and 9 of the Code of Professional Ethics by failing to guard against not only the fact but also the appearance of impropriety, by failing to preserve the confidentiality and ensure the security of the information, by failing to be truthful and accurate when making public statements and by failing to maintain the integrity of the reporting profession.
Should an agency prefer that its own certificate page be used in place of the reporter’s, the reporter still must sign the certificate page. In addition, the reporter should make all reasonable attempts to ensure that the agency’s certificate conforms to the applicable federal, state, or local certification page requirements. If the reporter is aware that these requirements are not being met, the reporter should decline the engagement. To do otherwise is a violation of 3, 5 and 9 of the Code of Professional Ethics.
The Committee recommends that certificate pages be sequentially numbered and include the deponent’s name, the reporter’s typed signature block and the inclusive transcript pages in order to prevent the certificate page from being attached to a different record or an adulterated record. Though not required, this would comply with the requirements of Provision No. 4 that a member shall preserve the confidentiality and ensure the security of the information, oral or written, entrusted to the Member by any of the parties in a proceeding.
Discussion: Electronic Transmission of Transcripts
It is becoming increasingly common for reporters to submit transcripts electronically to clients or to court reporting firms for final preparation and transmission to clients. The Committee wishes to encourage the use of new technology, but such technology must protect the security of the information with which the reporter has been entrusted. This will ensure compliance with Provision No. 4 of the Code which requires that the member preserve the confidentiality and ensure the security of the information, oral or written, entrusted to the Member by any of the parties in a proceeding.
In addition to the requirements related to certifying the transcript discussed above, it is the opinion of the Committee that authentication of an electronic transcript through encryption and/or electronic or digital technology used to verify the integrity of a transmission where, if changes were to be made to the substance of the transcript, such changes can be detected and/or invalidated, though not required, would comply with the requirements of Provision No. 4 of the Code. It is paramount that any time a reporter submits a transcript electronically, the reporter must make a good faith effort to ensure the security of the information contained in the transcript.
The Public and the legal community must have absolute faith in the reporter’s certification that the record is true and accurate. No act could undermine the profession more than false certification of a record. When a reporter submits a written record of a proceeding electronically or in any other manner and knowingly allows someone to attach or incorporate a generic pre-signed certificate not specifically prepared for that record, the reporter is abdicating the responsibilities mandated by the Code of Professional Ethics Provisions 3, 4, 5 and 9.
The Committee has also determined that in order for a reporter to use the form or wording of an agency’s certificate page, the reporter must ensure that it conforms to applicable federal, state or local requirements and is signed by the reporter. Not to do so is a violation of Provision Nos. 3, 5 and 9 of the Code.
Finally, the Committee concludes that in addition to the above requirements related to certifying a transcript, every reporter must make a good faith effort to ensure the security of the information contained in a transcript that is electronically transmitted by 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.