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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Ind. Courts - "Recordings of court proceedings made by court reporters are public records"

Here is an informal opinion from Joseph B. Hoage, Indiana Public Access Counselor, dated Jan. 26, 2012.

The issue involved the Dubois County Circuit Court. Some quotes:

You submitted an inquiry to the Court about obtaining a copy of a transcript for the trial held under Cause No. 19-C01-1108-MI-0298. The court reporter provided that a transcript did not exist, only a digital audio recording. The recording was stored on a computer hard drive, to which a copy of the file existed on CD. Depending on the Court’s schedule, attorneys were allowed to listen to the file; all other individuals were ordinarily not granted access. The estimated cost to obtain a transcript of the trial would be $1125 and would take as long as thirty days to produce. The court reporter advised that it does not make copies of the CDs containing the audio recordings.

You note that one segment of the trial was closed to the public. As a plaintiff, you were allowed under the requirement of confidentiality, to remain and hear the testimony declared confidential. With the possible exception to the segment of the trial declared confidential, you believe that the audio recording of the trial is a public record and should be disclosed in response to an APRA request. You allege that refusal by the Court to provide you with access to or a copy of the audio recording of the trial constituted a violation of the APRA.

The opinion then quotes at length from The Indiana Supreme Court’s Public Access to Court Records Handbook (“Handbook”). The section quoted begins:
Recordings of court proceedings made by court reporters are public records regardless of whether they are produced on magnetic recording tape, compact disk, stenotype, shorthand or digitally recorded upon a computer hard drive unless the specific case type is confidential under Administrative Rule 9. See AR 9(C)(2) regarding the definition of “case record” and AR 9 (D)(4) regarding access to audio and video recordings of proceedings. The public has the right to obtain the record within a reasonable period of time after making the request.
From the conclusion of the 4-page opinion:
The Handbook provides that creating a copy of the audio record is probably the most efficient and least time consuming method to provide public access. The court reporter indicated that a copy of the hearing existed on hard drive and CD. If the Court is able to make a copy of the CD, the recording is not declared confidential, and providing the recording complies with the Court’s management of its audio recording pursuant to AR 9(D)(4) and Indiana Judicial Conduct Rule 2.17, it may do so. The Court may also issue in conjunction with providing a copy of the CD an order specifically limiting its use and barring the recipient from broadcasting the received record in any manner. The Court would further be allowed to charge you a fee pursuant to IC 5-14-3-8.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 26, 2012 09:04 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts