Electronic/Digital Court Reporting - An Overview
Electronic reporting uses professional-level audio recording systems to register court proceedings. For decades, it has been a successful reporting method in federal, state, and local jurisdictions. Indeed, both the United States Supreme Court and the United Kingdom Supreme Court use E-Reporting exclusively to capture and preserve their historic public records.
E-Reporting includes two elements: first and foremost, the electronic court reporter who oversees the process and who is generally responsible for a subsequent transcript, and secondly, the sound recording process itself.
Its long history began with analog tape recordings. Today, computer-based digital systems not only perform those same recording functions, but now with enhanced features, plus added convenience, flexibility, and economy.
Standard benefits of either E-Reporting system, analog or digital, include:
At all times, electronic recording equipment should be overseen by an experienced reporter, who also takes simultaneous notes regarding the proceedings. In digital systems, these notes can be very extensive, indeed. (Digital annotations are time-linked to the corresponding audio, so one can go instantly to that point in the record to re-listen to the actual testimony or colloquy or review the accuracy of an interpreter's translation.)
Primary participants are assigned to separate, discrete sound channels. In this way, a typical four-channel system individually records the judge, witness, plaintiff's attorney, and defendant's attorney. Thus, when two (or more!) parties overlap and talk at the same time, E-Reporting captures each voice clearly on its own separate sound channel. This voice isolation feature permits a full and accurate transcription of exactly what was said — and who said it — because each channel can be listened to individually.
The reporter rarely, if ever, needs to instruct speakers to slow down their speech, or repeat testimony because of an accent or because complex medical / technical terms are being used. The recording process captures all words exactly as spoken — then in transcription the audio can be replayed as needed to verify verbatim accuracy.
Any portion of a recorded proceeding can be played back when requested by the judge or counsel. The audio, when an integral part of the court's official record, can be replayed for jurors if they wish to review actual spoken testimony during deliberations — a critical element in determining credibility.
Translators / Interpreters
E-Reporting preserves both the English and the foreign-language interpretation, making it possible to confirm the accuracy of translations.
Counsel or interested parties may obtain copies of the actual recorded proceedings from the court. Judges can review the recordings in their chambers without the need for paper transcriptions. With digital annotations directly "hot-linked" to the audio, points of interest are located quickly and efficiently. (Computer software needed to replay digital recordings is generally free, akin to Adobe's Acrobat Reader for viewing PDF documents.)
Digital recording systems include these valuable, specific features:
The reporter's log notes automatically link to their corresponding points in the digital recording, which speeds and simplifies replaying portions of the record when requested.
Judges and attorneys can also take simultaneous audio-linked notes, which give them instant and independent access to critical points in the record or subjects of particular interest.
Both log notes and audio files can be transmitted over the Internet, reducing or eliminating shipping costs and delivery delays.
The sound quality of each digital copy is identical to the original. Courts can retain their original audio files, yet provide exact duplicates for transcribers, eliminating any possible degradation due to the extra step of tape duplication.
Storage and archiving are efficient and compact. When the audio and log notes are saved as computer files, there are no cassettes to store, nor files of reporters' paper notes to maintain.
Digital recording will be the basis for further developments in the areas of speech-to-text, rapid word / phrase audio searches (sometimes called "audio-mining"), transcript links to exhibits or other file documents, and related enhancements.