Court Reporting Ethics
Court reporters are crucial to our understanding of the judicial system; they bring us word-for-word transcriptions of what transpires in courtrooms. Furthermore, court reporters participate in depositions, administrative hearings, and other legal proceedings.
Court reporting is an honorable and vital job. Therefore, court reporters must exhibit exceptional ethical conduct in the performance of their responsibilities. Court reporting organizations, such as the National Court Reporters Association, understand this fact. That's why they have Professional Ethical Codes.
The leading players in the justice system, judges, and legal practitioners, also have ethical responsibilities. So, it makes sense that people who record their activities must have ethical standards too.
This article discusses the different court reporting ethics that court reporters must exhibit. Let’s begin.
Ethical Responsibilities of Court Reporters
Every profession has its ethics. However, such ethical responsibilities are primarily dependent on the nature of the job. So, below we explain some of the court reporting ethics for court reporters.
This is the most vital ethical expectation for court reporters. A court reporter's record of legal proceedings can significantly affect a case’s result. Therefore, court reporters must be impartial, unbiased, and fair in reporting. This responsibility exists during and after the proceedings.
Furthermore, a court reporter should be fair to the lawyers, witnesses, and other participants. Conflicts of interest can also affect their jobs. So, they have to disclose such conflicts and allow another court reporter to handle the proceeding.
Lawyers generally owe their clients a duty of confidentiality. Similarly, court reporters owe all parties to proceedings the same duty. Breach of this ethical responsibility will make deponents hesitate to testify. Consequently, a court reporter shouldn't expose transcripts to uninvolved parties.
Suppose third parties need to see a deposition transcript. Then, the concerned parties must consent to such disclosure. Selling transcripts without the permission of the litigants is wrong too.
However, where parties publicize their transcripts, the court reporter can validly share or sell such records. They also wouldn't need further authorization.
Respecting Off-the-Record Statements
Litigants and their attorneys sometimes make off-the-record statements. Notably, these unofficial statements usually have little to no legal value. Therefore, court reporters must exclude off-the-record remarks from the official transcript.
An express instruction from a lawyer isn't sufficient to breach this ethical code. Instead, suppose an attorney wants the court to consider such off-the-record statements. Then, they'll have to subpoena the reporter to testify concerning what they heard.
Refusing Incentives and Gifts
It's an open secret that gifts are sometimes seen as bribes. Therefore, a court reporter shouldn't accept donations from participants in a legal process. This includes lawyers, their firms, and the litigants. In addition, gifts from a party can lead to the preferential treatment of the giver.
So, it's best to reject such gifts and report the offeror. Making such a report ensures that you wouldn't reconsider and take the present. Finally, suppose you're called upon to report proceedings involving a party who's previously been generous to you. Then, it'll be best to reject this employment. Past kindness can quickly lead one into partiality.
Duty of Competence and Skill
Court reporters also owe a duty of competence to their clients. Court reporting is a vital job that requires specific skill sets. Furthermore, there are qualifying processes and certifications. Therefore, court reporters must only accept assignments that match their skills and experience.
Accepting a job above your expertise means that you'll deliver poor services. However, assignments may get tough after you start. It'll be best to inform the presiding officer of the change in circumstances in such cases. This way, they can get the best hands for the court reporting task.
Non-Solicitation and Rewarding of Clients
Soliciting employment with gifts and other overtures occurs in several professions. However, such activities can compromise a court reporter's ethics. Therefore, it'll be best to avoid inducing clients to hire your services with gifts.
In addition, maintaining or rewarding clients should be restricted to providing stellar services. Suppose you want to advertise your court reporting firm or skills. Then, it'll help to avoid misleading or false statements. Do not misrepresent your capacity or service quality.
Cooperation With the Bar and Bench
Finally, court reporters don't operate in a vacuum. Instead, they work with litigants, their lawyers, judges, and witnesses. Cooperation is thus essential. Therefore, a court reporter should cooperate with the bar (lawyers) and bench (judges). Such cooperation prevents hitches in the administration of justice.
Guarding Against the Appearance of Impropriety
Many court reporters focus on prominent examples of unethical conduct like failing to maintain impartiality. However, unethical behavior doesn't involve only overt actions. Instead, the appearance of impropriety is sufficient to cast doubt on a court reporter's ethics.
For example, openly consorting with a party to litigation gives the impression of possible compromise. Therefore, it's best to remain a neutral party without pursuing further relations.
Inaccurate reporting of court activities also raises the presumption of unethical conduct. So, a court reporter must be careful while taking notes.
Ethical Responsibilities for Court Reporting Firms
Court reporting organizations are artificial entities. Therefore, it's possible to assume these ethical codes don't apply to them. However, court reporting firms must also keep the moral standards mentioned above.
Firstly, all court reporters in the organization must observe court reporting ethics. Furthermore, the organization should:
- Instill the importance of professional conduct in its employees
- Maintain neutral positions with its clients to boost impartiality
- Keep a backup of transcripts for verification purposes
- Possibly, keep the same court reporter throughout individual cases
- Change court reporters in instances of conflicts of interest
Finally, lawyers should only choose court reporting firms with excellent ethical records. As a result, they expected to ask crucial questions to determine the firm's ethical leanings before hiring them.
Court reporters are privy to the inner workings of the judicial system. Without ethical codes, they'll likely violate the system and negatively impact ongoing legal proceedings. Therefore, this article has stressed the importance of court reporting ethics. In addition, it highlighted ethical codes every court reporter must adhere to.
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