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How Does Stenography Adapt to the 21st Century Courtroom?

How Does Stenography Adapt to the 21st Century Courtroom?

The court stenographer is a time-honored tradition, one whose abilities are relied on to impartially record court proceedings. The stenographer’s unique skill-set, along with state-of-the-art equipment, allows them to record word-for-word what transpires in the courtroom. These notes are used for recordkeeping as well as a strategic reference tool of attorneys.

The stenotype machine has, since its introduction in the early 1900s, received numerous updates, complete with computer intelligence and an ergonomically designed keyboard. No longer are individual keystrokes imprinted onto strips of paper. Rather, all data is electronically transferred from stenotype machine directly into the notebook computer, where it is “translated” from machine shorthand into English at dizzying speed.

digital recording deviceIn our always-changing world of technology, the next step (some think) in stenographic development is to replace the human aspect altogether and employ a fully digital system. Courts in several states, in an effort to cut cost, are attempting to implement fully digital transcription systems. Digital systems, in theory, offer a workable alternative to reliance on the official stenographer – until the negatives are considered.

Court proceedings are often filled with great conflict. Mumbling, sobbing, yelling, heavy accents and interruptions are all too common and often unanticipated. It is the court reporter’s responsibility to halt the proceedings when a statement is inaudible or unintelligible. The digital system has no way of clarifying something said under less-than-ideal conditions or in an accent or dialect not commonly used.

There is also the issue of cost. Employing an automated system does not, in itself, reduce cost. The digital systems in use today require an operator to monitor the proceedings, and ultimately a stenographer will be needed to produce a written record of the taped proceedings.

Using a licensed and accredited court reporter, or stenographer, remains the most reliable method of recording the day’s events.

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