Why Are Court Reporters Needed For Legal Proceedings?

Court reporters are often present in legal proceedings. As guardians of the record, they take down everything that is said by all parties during the proceedings. This is done using a steno machine to capture words and phrases as they are spoken syllable by syllable. Court reporters are present at legal hearings and motions, depositions, trials, courts martial, settlement conferences, examinations under oath, fact-finding conferences and arbitrations. While is it not usually required by law that a stenographer is present, most lawyers will hire an independent court reporter to make sure that the opposing side has done so. Some court jurisdictions provide one with the courtroom, particularly if it hears criminal cases. There are a number of reasons attorneys prefer to have a court reporter present.


Sometimes people remember things differently. This is often the case with legal testimony. Hiring an impartial, accurate third party to take down the testimony prevents prolonged quibbling later over who said what when. Should the lawyers have a disagreement, the proceedings – or a portion of them – can be transcribed into a certified written record. At this point, counsel can read the true record and decide whether someone made a certain statement or not.


In many cases, an attorney may need to write an order or compile a list of items requested in the legal case. Rather than attempt to make a complete list or take notes during the hearing or deposition, the lawyer can rely on the deposition reporter or court stenographer to produce an accurate excerpt of the proceedings. This will include an exact statement of not only the list, but any stipulations or requirements. For example, the rules agreed upon by both parties in a child custody battle may be typed up by a court reporter. The attorney who is writing an order will have all of the features of the agreement available in the proper terminology. When the order is written based on the court reporting transcription, it will be accurate.


There are several reasons why an attorney might not be present for a deposition, court hearing or other legal proceeding. Absence when something important happened can be detrimental to a lawyer’s case when a court reporter was not there, either. The lawyer may have recently been added or substituted as the party’s attorney. They may need to see everything that has been transcribed in the case to get up to speed with all testimony and agreements. Occasionally, an attorney will work with a number of other lawyers in the same case. Different lawyers will cover different parts of the case, then trade information later.


In the event a trial verdict is appealed by either party, most courts of appeal require the original certified transcript to be filed with the appeal request. Even if it has been quite some time since the original case was heard, the stenographer can produce the transcript. They are required by law to keep their notes for a certain number of years, depending on the city or county jurisdiction, and whether it is a federal or state case.


From time to time, things happen in court or in deposition which are reviewed by higher decision makers regarding specific repercussions of the case. This includes the State Bar, medical malpractice panels and parole review boards. By providing a true context of what took place in the previous trial or hearing, the current panel can better understand how the present circumstances came to be.