Legal Guide

The Importance of Court Reporting For The Justice System

The legal system involves a vast array of complexities and technicalities, many of which the average layman would struggle to understand. This issue is solved by the presence of lawyers, who alongside judges tend to be the most well-known cogs in the machine that facilitates the rule of law. However, there are many other moving parts who are just as essential to justice being served as their more visible counterparts, and one example of these lesser known but still equally important people would be court reporters.

The term court reporter might make you think of journalism, but the actual job that the title entails is quite different from all that. Basically, a court reporter is responsible for logging all of the conversations that occur in a court room as well as detailing the behavior of various individuals involved in the process. One can’t stress the importance of such reporters enough, as without them the record of the courts would be impossible to maintain. These reporters ensure that there is a clear transcript of all that occurred in the court room which can be referred to at a later date especially if foul play or a miscarriage of justice might be suspected.

The main focus during the transcription process would involve noting down witness testimony. Each and every thing that a witness talks about can impact the case in the long term, and most lawyers would want the testimony to be recorded carefully. That way, if there is ever a dispute about what a witness talked about, it would be relatively easy to just refer to the records and see the truth of the matter at hand. This is also a great way to keep a record about evidence that might be displayed in court.

What a lot of people don’t know about the individuals serving in these roles is that there are two different ways in which they can go about doing their job. The oldest and probably best known way to report the goings on in the court would be through the use of a stenotype machine. Reporters that use this method are called stenographers, and the way the machine looks might lead you to believe that it is similar to a typewriter. While there are definitely a few similarities between the two, there are also a few key differences.

The main difference is that a stenotype uses a “chorded keyboard”. This means that you wouldn’t be pressing down one key at a time, rather you would press several keys at once similar to how you might play a chord on the piano hence the name. Those that might be unfamiliar with the typing system of a stenotype might be rather confused at first because it involves more of a phonetic approach. Basically, instead of typing with the actual letters that comprise a word, you would press a combination of keys that would represent the sound that the letters would make.

This facilitates very fast typing, with most stenographers being able to reach speeds of 200 words per minute quite easily. In fact, the record for fastest typing on this kind of machine is 375 words per minute which is several orders of magnitude faster than what a regular keyboard might facilitate. This level of speed is crucial for court reporting because each and every word needs to be logged in real time, and the frenetic nature of the average court room means that several conversations might end up happening at once.

If a layman were to see what a stenographer has written on the steno paper, they might not be able to make heads or tails of it. This is because words like “range” might be written with a “j”, and “friends” will be written with “dz” instead of “ds” due to the phonetic nature of this machine. This means that there is usually someone on the other end who would translate what a stenographer wrote after the fact. This is a complex process that requires quite a bit of teamwork, so it is rather miraculous that records are kept as properly as they currently are.

Now, this is a time honored court reporting methodology, but it is being replaced somewhat by voice writing which makes use of a stenomask. The technology that goes into these types of masks is quite impressive. It involves one or two microphones that are placed inside the mask, as well as materials that serve to dampen the reporter’s voice and preventing them from being heard.

The reporter repeats any testimony that they hear which gets recorded by the mask, and the dampening process makes it so that their voice doesn’t interrupt or distract from court proceedings. It also prevents outside noise from getting in, thereby providing a clear and concise captioning process that is easy to peruse later on.

This is obviously a far more effective method of court reporting, though old school reporters seem to think that it is doing away with a long standing tradition that required a fair bit of skill to be a part of. However, there is a fair amount of skill that goes into using a stenomask as well. Reporters need to be on their toes and there is a specific manner of speaking that they take part in when they are noting things down.

Once the report has been compiled, the stenomask converts the speech into text which can be printed on any kind of paper. The reporter distributes this paper to anyone who might need it. In this manner, the justice system maintains an effective set of records, and this data is often used to conduct research on the inner workings of court cases and the like as well.


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