The role of court reporters is not as complex as most people imagine. Their job is to create official records of court transactions and proceedings. Simply put, court reporters record the things that happen in court. They do not use the regular language but instead use shorthand. They use a special machine called stenograph (commonly known as steno) to capture the shorthand. Shorthand is made up of special symbols, sounds, and phonetic codes that the court reporters have been trained to decode.
Duties of a Court Reporter
The main role of the court reporter is to ensure that everything that is spoken in court is captured and stored for future use. What is captured and written is referred to as the transcript, and it is what people refer to when they want to confirm what was said in court. Some of the duties of a court reporter that make the production of a good transcript possible are:
- To be present during pre-trial questioning and gather all the information on record.
- Use the specialized keyboard in the stenograph to record what is being said in court.
- Use software that is preinstalled in their machine to transcribe what they had captured into English or French, depending on where they are based.
- Read through the entire transcript to see that there is no error and that everything that was said has been captured accurately.
- Give copies to the lawyers, judges, journalists, and anyone who might need the information. There are instances when court reporters charge to give out this information.
How Capturing and Transcription is Done
A while back, before the advent of technology, court reporters had to listen keenly and transcribe as the proceedings went on. Not anymore. These days, the courts have recording systems that will capture what is being said. This does not mean that such recorders have eliminated the need for court reporters to attend sessions. They still go to court to ensure that the recorders are working well, and for them to seek clarification whenever there is a hearing. There are instances where the courts do not have recorders, and the court reporter is required to do live transcripts. These are common in cases that are considered to be less serious.
Importance of Transcripts
After the court reporter has transferred the shorthand work into what can be read and understood by the general public, the final piece of what they produce is called a transcript. Transcripts are important because in case people need to review what was said in court, they have a legally recognized document that they can refer to — the transcript that was done by the court reporter. That is why in Canada, court reporters are made to take a pledge where they promise to deliver accurate transcripts. They are the only ones who are authorized to record what is going on in court.
Who Court Reporters Work For
In Canada, most court reporters are self-employed. In some instances, they get employed by court reporting firms, lawyers, and members of the public.