COPE - Guidelines for Professional Practice
- Section I - Court Reporter
- Section II - Realtime Reporter in Legal Proceedings
- Section III: Guidelines On Providing Uncertified Draft Transcripts
- Section IV: Backup Audio Media
The Court Reporter is the official reporter/officer creating the verbatim record of a proceeding. Common sense and professional courtesy should guide the Member in applying the following Guidelines.
In making the official record, a Member should:
- Accept only those assignments when the Member's level of competence will result in the preparation of an accurate transcript. The Member should remove him or herself from an assignment when the Member believes the Member's abilities are inadequate, recommending or assigning another reporter only if that reporter has the qualifications required for such assignment.
- Prepare the record in accordance with the transcript-preparation guidelines established by statute or court order, or by local custom and usage.
- When sending a substitute reporter, ensure that the substitute is qualified to report the proceeding.
- Preserve the shorthand notes in accordance with statute or court order, or otherwise for a period of no less than five (5) years through storage of the original paper notes or an electronic copy of either the shorthand notes or the English transcript of the notes on computer disks, cassettes, backup tape systems, optical or laser disk systems, or other storage media.
- Meet promised delivery dates whenever possible, make timely delivery of transcripts when no date is specified, and provide immediate notification of delays.
- Strive to become and remain proficient in the Member's professional skills.
- Keep abreast of current literature, technological advances and developments, and participate in continuing-education programs.
- Assist in improving the reporting profession by participating in national, state, and local association activities that advance the quality and standards of the reporting profession.
- Cooperate with the bench and bar for the improvement of the administration of justice.
- As part of the reporting profession's commitment to the principle that reporting services should be available to all, members are encouraged to provide pro bono services, when requested through qualified legal assistance organizations providing free legal services to the indigent. Such participation should be in accordance with the basic tenets of the profession: impartiality, competence, and integrity.
A realtime reporter in this setting is a court reporter using realtime skills and equipment to provide verbatim on-screen translation for use in a legal proceeding. A clear explanation and understanding of the realtime reporter's role is necessary among all parties to the proceeding.
The realtime reporter in legal or other proceedings will normally be the official reporter/officer creating the verbatim record and assumes a separate role from that of the CART Provider* who performs realtime translation as an aid to communication for people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing. The realtime reporter must firmly establish the role for which he or she has been engaged.
Common sense and professional courtesy should guide the Member in applying the following Guidelines. In legal proceedings, a Member acting as a realtime reporter should:
- Establish, if possible, before beginning a realtime reporting assignment, a clear understanding of who will require realtime services.
- Accept assignments using discretion with regard to skill, setting, and the consumers involved, and shall accurately represent their qualifications for realtime reporting.
- When possible, acquire information and materials in advance to prepare a job dictionary.
- Know the software and hardware system used and be able to do simple trouble-shooting.
- Strive to further their knowledge and skill through participation in workshops, professional meetings, interaction with professional colleagues and reading of current literature in the field, and to achieve realtime certification on a state or national level.
- A disclaimer and/or order form should be transmitted as a cover sheet or cover sheets with each uncertified draft transcript stating that the uncertified draft transcript cannot be quoted in any pleading or for any other purpose and may not be filed with any court. A copy of the disclaimer and/or order form should be retained by the court reporter.
The National Court Reporters Association realizes that in some cases, court reporters are providing uncertified draft transcripts, in either paper or ASCII form, to parties involved in litigation either in the courtroom or deposition setting. The National Court Reporters Association suggests the following guidelines be used when providing such services. These guidelines are intended to aid a court reporter when providing uncertified draft transcripts. Generally speaking, uncertified draft transcripts are provided by court reporters who use realtime translation, but other court reporters are also providing uncertified draft transcripts as well. These are not mandates, but rather guidelines by which a court reporter may determine the propriety of his or her conduct in relation to the litigants, their counsel, the court, allied professions and the public.
The principal objective when a court reporter provides an uncertified draft transcript of proceedings is to aid in the administration of justice by rendering a valuable service to the litigants, their counsel, and the court.
- It should be noted that when an uncertified transcript is provided, there will be two versions of the transcript for one proceeding – the unofficial, uncertified version and the official, certified version. The uncertified transcript may contain errors, some of which could change the accuracy or meaning of the testimony. An uncertified transcript may not be filed with the court.
- An uncertified transcript may only be distributed to ordering parties to the case. It should not be made available to the public, including news organizations or other non-participants.
- A court reporter providing an uncertified draft transcript should perform the task undertaken by him or her in a professional manner, observing all laws, rules, and orders of the court relating to the proceeding.
- A court reporter providing an uncertified draft transcript should keep informed of technological and other advances and improvements in the skills and methods of his or her profession and strive constantly for self-improvement.
- A court reporter providing an uncertified draft transcript should not perform any service under terms or conditions which will compromise, in any way, his or her impartiality or the exercise of good judgment and skill, or which will adversely affect the fair and impartial portrayal of the proceeding. Court reporters should offer comparable services to all parties in a litigation proceeding.
- A court reporter shall take steps to ensure that no one would mistake the uncertified draft for a final, certified copy of the transcript. An uncertified draft transcript should not include a completed title page, appearance page, certificate page, any mention of the swearing in of a witness by name, footer with firm name or reporter name or CSR #.
- An uncertified draft transcript should include a header or footer on each page stating "uncertified draft transcript only." A brief disclaimer may be included in the body of the text occasionally. Uncertified draft transcripts may be provided in condensed format only. Page numbers may be included.
- A disclaimer and/or order form, such as the one attached, should be transmitted as a cover sheet or cover sheets with each uncertified draft transcript stating that the uncertified draft transcript cannot be quoted for any purpose and may not be filed with any court. A copy of the signed disclaimer and/or order form should be retained by the court reporter.
- Where possible, all untranslated steno strokes and conflicts should be resolved before an uncertified draft transcript is provided to any party.
These are suggested guidelines. If your current writing skills do not meet these guidelines, don't let it stop you. Remember, you have a chance during breaks or on-the-fly to define untranslates and resolve conflicts. It is recommended that you not supply counsel with a draft until these minimum standards are met. However, you may be able to provide the uncertified transcript to them later that day or the next day.
Section IV: Backup Audio Media
Due to the complexities that may arise from the use of different forms of backup audio media, whether analog or digital, NCRA has developed guidelines to aid the court reporter in the use of this technology.
The latest innovation involves technology that has been developed for computer-aided translation (CAT) software, which allows for the simultaneous digital audio recording of judicial proceedings, often referred to as “audio synchronization,” and more commonly known as “backup audio media.”
When using any backup audio medium, the court reporter must comply with any applicable local, state and federal rules and/or laws to ensure the integrity of the record. The court reporter’s duties and responsibilities do not change regarding preservation of the official record and in any respect with regard to: reading back from the stenographic notes (no playback of the recording in lieu of readback); interrupting the proceedings due to the speed of the testimony, unintelligible, and/or simultaneous speakers, etc.
Judicial court reporters frequently use the term “work product” when referring to their backup recordings. “Work product” may be defined as a backup recording made by a court reporter at their discretion, and not otherwise ordered for preservation by any federal, state or local law and/or rule, and is the personal property of the court reporter. There is no public entitlement to these recordings.
The following guidelines address the release of backup audio media.
A. Guidelines for Providing Backup Audio Media at the Request of an Attorney or Party to a Proceeding
- If the backup audio media is made available to any party in a case, it is the responsibility of the reporter to ensure that no confidential or off-the-record discussions are contained in the released recording.
- A reporting firm/agency may not require that a reporter produce the backup audio media (unless ordered to do so by a court).
- If the reporter decides to release the backup audio media, the reporter shall release a copy and not the original (unless ordered otherwise by a court).
- If the reporter makes available a copy of the backup audio media to one party, the same offer must be made to the other party(ies) to the proceeding.
- Reporters should check all applicable local, state and federal laws, rules and regulations to ensure that creating a backup audio media is in compliance with those laws, rules and regulations.
- If a reporter uses backup audio media, it should be preserved upon request by any party to the proceeding for the same period of time for which the reporter’s notes are preserved. The reporter may request that the party seek a court order before making it available.
B. Guidelines for Offering Backup Audio Media to Parties as a Value-Added Service
- If the reporter or member offers backup audio media as a value-added service, all parties should be advised prior to the start of the proceeding.
- If the backup audio media is provided as a value-added service, it is the responsibility of the reporter to ensure that such sound recording technique does not distort the oral proceedings and that no confidential or off-the-record discussions are contained in the released recording.
- If a reporter or member offers backup audio media as a value-added service, the reporter shall provide a copy to the requesting parties and preserve the original.
- If the reporter or member makes available a copy of the backup audio media to one party, the same offer must be made to the other party(ies) to the proceeding.
- Reporters and members should check all applicable local, state and federal laws, rules and regulations to ensure that creating a backup audio media is in compliance with those laws, rules and regulations.