Philadelphia Courts Going Digital – How Does This Change Court Reporting in Pennsylvania?
The Philadelphia Courts are adopting a system of allowing certain lower-level cases, as well as some appellate matters, to be recorded digitally instead of by an official court-appointed stenographer. Stenographers remain in extremely high demand for a majority of the court docket as well as transcription services. The digital system is designed to help with the busy court docket, not replace the individual court reporters.
The judicial system in Philadelphia is clogged with an overabundance of cases and not enough money or manpower to handle the demand. The first step in handling this legal conundrum was allowing cases to be heard by “masters,” or impartial lawyers who preside over the court instead of actual judges. The cases overheard by masters include child support and alimony hearings, as well as cases involving juvenile delinquency.
The involvement of masters has helped alleviate the pressure from the backlog of court cases, but not necessarily the monetary and scheduling issue of hiring extremely busy court-appointed stenographers, or official court reporters.
The digital recording system was designed to assist the masters in their specific block of cases. An operator is responsible for running the digital recording system. Every digital recording would then be transcribed, if requested, by a professional stenographer. Lawyers involved will then have official transcripts to review.
Digital recording and the use of masters are changing the court system in Philadelphia by freeing up courtroom obligations, including judge availability, stenographer availability, courtroom occupancy, and overall funding. Judges and court reporters, whose time and expertise are in extremely high demand, will be freed up to handle cases in a more expedient manner. In these specific cases, funding only need be extended for the digital recording software and copies of the stenographer’s transcriptions.
Court proceedings for litigation and criminal cases will continue to be handled by judges and official court reporters. The expertise of the official stenographer will continue to be valued in judicial proceedings.
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