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Advisory Opinions

Advisory Opinion 5

Failing to pay a substitute reporter
(1987)

Statement of Facts

Reporter A is hired by Reporter B to report a day-long hearing before a state regulatory agency. The attendance and transcript fee are to be paid by Reporter B to Reporter A; the time of delivery of the transcript, as well as the time within which Reporter A may expect to receive payment, have been agreed upon in advance of the hearing.

Reporter A reports the hearing and prepares and delivers the transcript to Reporter B within the time specified. Reporter B fails to honor his agreement as to payment for the services rendered. Requests for payment from Reporter A go unanswered.

Is the behavior of Reporter B in this particular situation a violation of the Code of Professional Ethics?

Discussion

Almost from the moment of the organization's founding, reporters have looked to ethics committees of the National Court Reporters Association in the hope that these committees would be willing to act as arbiters in the settlement of disputes between reporters involving the payment of money--only to discover that the Code of Ethics contained no provision to allow the Association to take action on such matters.

When the Association began the process that led to the eventual adoption of the Code of Professional Responsibility in 1979, a number of Association members hoped that somewhere in that Code would be found a provision permitting the Association to play a more active role in disputes arising between reporters over money. In fact, more than half of the complaints filed since the adoption of the Code have dealt with that issue. Settlement of these disputes, however, is no more within the purview of the original Code of Professional Responsibility or the revised Code of Professional Ethics than it was in the former Code of Ethics.

The aggrieved reporter, however, is not without recourse. The first and more obvious option is to file a court action against the offending reporter, either through an attorney or pro se, for the amount due. A complaint as to the conduct of such reporter also may be filed with the Board of Certified Shorthand Reporters or the state reporters association committee on certification where each exists.

It is important that reporters become aware that the original Code of Professional Responsibility and the revised Code of Professional Conduct were created and designed for the specific purpose of providing a set of standards or guidelines to govern relationships between court reporters and their clients, the users of our professional services. This Code of Professional Ethics, the only instrument from which the Committee on Professional Ethics draws its disciplinary authority, was not and is not intended to be applied against business and professional relationships between and among reporters themselves.

The decision of the former Committee on Ethics to refrain from any attempt to create a code designed to govern the conduct of reporters with each other was reached after full consideration of the variety and scope of the innumerable economic and financial relationships that exist between reporters, coupled with a recognition of the virtual impossibility of designing a set of standards in this area having both universal applicability and a realistic chance of adequate and uniform enforcement. For this reason, the Committee on Professional Ethics is without authority to accept jurisdiction in disputes between reporters arising out of the alleged failure of one reporter to pay for the services of another.

Conclusion

It is the Committee's opinion that Reporter B has, in fact, breached his contract or agreement with Reporter A, and that Reporter A is fully justified in taking such legal or related action as required to secure full payment for his professional services.

Were Reporter A to file a complaint, the Committee is without authority to act in matters of business relationships between one reporter and another. The Code of Professional Ethics is limited to the governance of the relationships between reporters, and between reporters and the users of their services, and will entertain complaints that relate solely to the violation of any of the provisions of the Code.

 


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.