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Do Family Courts Need Court Reporters?

Do Family Courts Need Court Reporters?

One of a court reporter’s most important duties is also a very practical one: Make sure the things that are said during a deposition or trial are understood by all interested parties. That’s often easier said than done.

Everyone speaks differently — some people have heavy accents, others mumble or speak too quietly. Still others may talk too quickly or be too loud if they’re upset by the proceedings  It’s a court reporter’s job to transcribe what these people are saying on the fly, which can be a real challenge for even the most experienced pros.

Nowhere is that need for clarity more apparent than in family court, as two recent editorials in The Sacramento Bee point out. 

Electronic records are needed

Court reporters are needed in family courts, some argue (source)

Court reporters are needed in family courts, some argue (source)

Family court cases regularly involve parties in extreme emotional states, often including testimony from young children.

What’s more, family court judges often hear as many as 30 or 40 cases a day and write their decisions in sloppy handwriting or using legal jargon. These difficulties often mean the litigants are unsure of exactly what the judge ordered, argued the editorial board for The Sacramento Bee in a February editorial.

Children's statements can be especially tough to decode if they're upset or mumbling (source)

Children’s statements can be especially tough to decode if they’re upset or mumbling (source)

The board called for electronic recording in family courts to help give parties the opportunity to go back and understand what exactly happened during the proceedings.

In the past, the board wrote, people could pay $10 for recordings of court actions. Since 2004, electronic recording has been banned in California’s family courts. Judges are not even allowed to record proceedings for their own use.

From the op-ed:

“The lack of a record, any record at all has become an issue of simple justice. For too many litigants in family court, no record means no justice.”

Electronic records don’t go far enough

Less than a month later, a superior court judge chimed in with his own editorial in response to the issues raised by the Editorial Board.

His conclusion: Electronic records are no substitute for a skilled court reporter.

Electronic records are no substitute for a skilled court reporter (source)

Electronic records are no substitute for a skilled court reporter (source)

Even before the ban on electronic recording in 2004, too many recordings were difficult to decode, Judge Matthew J. Gary argued. It was hard to hear exactly who was speaking or exactly what that person was saying.

In short, electronic recordings simply aren’t effective at providing a precise, clear and certain official record of proceedings.

From the editorial:

“There should be an official record, but electronic recording is not the solution. In the family law courts and elsewhere, only skilled court reporters can be trusted to create a reliable record of trial court proceedings.”

Looking for a reliable court reporter?

If you are looking for a court reporting agency that is the right fit for your needs, I invite you to contact us. Brusilow+Associates has been serving attorneys and law firms in Philadelphia for over 30 years. Come see the difference that we make for our clients.

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