As litigation attorneys know, many of the courts in Colorado are no longer providing court reporters for civil trials, hearings and conferences. Some courtrooms have audio recording equipment that is considered the “official record.” Though the modern equipment is usually very good and, therefore, the quality of the recording is also good, there are many considerations you should review before relying on the audio recording equipment for your trial.
- Human Error: Sometimes a recorder is mistakenly not turned on after a recess and, therefore, there is NO recorded testimony for a portion of the trial or hearing until that error is noticed and the recorder is subsequently turned on. A court reporter is always ready and waiting to begin writing as the proceedings begin.
- External Noise: An ambulance or fire engine could go by and block out the sound for several seconds. In this instance, a court reporter would interrupt the proceedings and ask the parties to wait for just a few seconds for the sirens to pass.
- Two People Talking at Once: As is very likely the case in a heated trial, more than one person can be talking at a time. A witness anticipates the question and begins answering before the question is completed and, therefore, each distorts the recording of the other. A court reporter, again, would politely interrupt the proceedings and ask that the parties speak one at a time so a complete record of the proceedings can be obtained.
- Documents Being Shuffled: A court reporter can usually understand testimony when documents are being shuffled or handed out to other parties, but if that is done right near or on top of a microphone, the microphone is going to pick up the sound of the shuffling over the sound of the words being spoken. Witnesses even have been known to set documents on top of the microphone, completely blocking out the sound.
- Realtime and Rough Draft Services: Now here’s the real meat of the advantages to a court reporter over an audio recording. Opposing counsel concludes his examination at 5:00 p.m. on Monday and you’ll begin your cross-examination at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesday. You’ve taken great notes, but what was that one- or two-sentence answer the witness gave at 3:22 p.m.? What was the exact wording he used when he perjured himself about those documents? THIS is when you turn to your court reporter and ask for a rough draft of the day’s testimony to be emailed to you before morning, or ask for an expedited final excerpt of specific testimony so you can quote from it and impeach the witness the following morning. No equipment, no matter how well maintained or well run or how pricy, can get you a rough draft or final excerpt on the same day. What if this one advantage might bring an offer of settlement to the table? If so, you’ve probably more than covered the cost of hiring a private court reporter.
Here’s just another example where a rough draft can make a difference to your case. Opposing counsel ends his/her cross-examination at 11:30 and you’re set to give closing arguments after the lunch break, but this last witness threw in some wrenches that you hadn’t prepared for. Again, approach your court reporter, have that last witness’s testimony emailed to you over the lunch hour and revamp your closing while you eat your salad. Again, not available with audio recording.
Do you want to rely on an audio recording with the kinds of deficiencies and inadequacies that they inherently have? A reporter is on the record at all times and can interrupt when appropriate for a clarification or an external interruption when it’s impossible to hear the proceedings clearly. Your transcript will never have an indication of (inaudible) like you so often see in transcripts of audio recordings or have an “Unidentified Speaker” notation when someone doesn’t identify themselves on the audio record.
Your case is important and you only get one shot at a verbatim, complete record, one chance to represent your clients with all the technology available to you. Take advantage of all that a court reporter has to offer you in your next trial.
At Stevens-Koenig Reporting, we work as impartial liaisons for all parties in a case when we’re reporting a trial. Realtime services are offered to the judges as well as to any parties of the case who request it. Rough drafts can be ordered of a full-day’s testimony, one witness’s testimony or even a portion of a witness’s testimony. We’re here to provide the technology that puts your case in your hands when you need it, not in four to six weeks when the audio files can be transcribed.
Call us at 303-988-8470.