What is a Court Reporter?
Table of Contents
A court reporter is someone who uses a stenotype machine to capture verbatim everything that is said during a court proceeding, and who then delivers the transcripts of the proceedings. The purpose of a court reporter is to ensure that everyone's rights are protected during a legal process, whether it be in public hearings, tribunals, inquiry boards, in courts, or in legislative assemblies and committees.
Some court reporters work outside of the legal arena to provide real-time closed/broadcast captioning services to a broadcast network during sporting events, political speeches, live entertainment events, conventions, and conferences. Others specialize in Communications Access Realtime Reporting (CART), which provide services for the deaf and hearing impaired.
How to Become a Court Reporter
What does a Court Reporter do?
A court reporter will record and transcribe spoken or recorded speech during a legal proceeding into written form. By using shorthand or voice writing equipment, he or she will create word-for-word documentation of witness statements, high profile criminal trials, conferences, hearings, pre-trial depositions, meetings, and arbitration sessions.
Lawyers and judges often rely on court reporters to verify testimony, therefore accurate transcriptions are imperative for legal records and documentation. There are some court reporters that are particularly skilled in providing instant transcripts while legal proceedings are still taking place; this is especially helpful to people who are deaf or hearing impaired. A court reporter will often be called upon to read back verbatim statements or evidence during legal proceedings.
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How to Become a Court Reporter
Court reporting programs are available in community colleges or dedicated court reporter schools, and will result in an associate’s degree or professional diploma or certificate after two years. Entrance exams need to be taken before acceptance into the court reporter program, and are usually in typing and english. Students should have an excellent grasp of the english language before applying to a court reporter program. Look for programs that are accredited through the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA), which ensures that the program meets the required standards.
There are a few paths within court reporting that one can take, therefore it is advisable to look at the path that interests you the most before beginning a court reporter program. The most popular programs are:
- court reporting/stenography
- court reporting/voice writing
- closed/broadcast captioning
- CART (Communications Access Realtime Reporting)
What is the workplace of a Court Reporter like?
Court reporters can work in a variety of places, such as in courts or legislatures for local or state governments. Some do freelance work outside the courtroom for things that require official legal transcript.
Court reporters are also employed by television stations and producers in order to provide real time closed captioning for the deaf and hearing impaired. Those working in broadcast captioning may work out of a central office or their home.
CART providers (Communication Access Realtime Transcription or Computer-Assisted Real-Time) and court reporters both use the same equipment and software, but CART providers always work in realtime for a primarily deaf and hard of hearing clientele, whereas court reporters work for attorneys or judges in courts of law or deposition rooms. They sometimes employ realtime, but their primary responsibility is to take down a full and complete record to be edited, printed, and sold to clients. They are paid a fee per appearance and a somewhat higher fee if they offer realtime feeds, but most of their income comes from transcript sales.
CART providers, on the other hand, work primarily to provide a realtime feed that is as complete and readable as possible, so they charge a higher hourly fee than court reporters, but far less for transcripts, if they choose to provide them. For them, transcripts are a by-product of their work, and their transcripts, unlike those produced by court reporters, are not certified verbatim. Often CART providers will offer complimentary or low-cost transcripts to the students whose classes they transcribe, with the understanding that the student will use the transcripts only to study from, and will not distribute them to anyone else. For reasons of liability, CART providers for large events will generally not offer transcripts; if a transcript is required, it's usually advisable to hire a court reporter in addition to a CART provider.
In an ideal situation, a CART provider's transcript will be 100% verbatim, just like a court reporter's transcript, and both realtime feeds will be identical. When push comes to shove, though, the court reporter will let their realtime feed fill up with sloppy or untranslated steno code to clean up later, rather than risk missing a word in the final transcript. The CART provider will make sure that the realtime feed stays legible, even if that means paraphrasing slightly or omitting redundant words. They're both working toward the same goal, but the court reporter always gives deference to the final edited transcript, and the CART provider to the immediate realtime feed. The National Court Reporters Association offers membership and certification to CART providers and captioners as well as court reporters, and many NCRA members provide both captioning/CART and court reporting services.
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