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Thursday, April 10, 2014

Courts - Lost or unfinished court transcripts issue arises again

The ILB has had many entries over the years on lost or unfinished court transcripts.

Earlier this month the NY Post run a story headed "Rogue alcoholic court reporter kept writing ‘I hate my job.’" The story, by Rebecca Rosenberg, Reuven Fenton and Bruce Golding, began:

An alcoholic Manhattan court stenographer went rogue, channeling his inner “Shining” during a high-profile criminal trial and repeatedly typing, “I hate my job, I hate my job” instead of the trial dialogue, sources told The Post.

The bizarre antics by Daniel Kochanski, who has since been fired, wreaked havoc on some 30 Manhattan court cases, sources said, and now officials are scrambling to repair the damage.

The headline from the more staid NYT was "Stenographer, Fired Over Drinking Problem, Left Headaches for Appellate Courts." From the long story, reported by James C. McKinley Jr.:
The missing records from State Supreme Court in Manhattan, including the 2010 mortgage-fraud trial of Aaron Hand, highlight a major pitfall in relying solely on stenographers to safeguard the official record of trials, as most courts in New York State do, appellate lawyers said.

“Why are we in this 18th-century system where someone is taking it down in their own indecipherable notes?” said Claudia Trupp, a supervising attorney at the Center for Appellate Litigation, which is handling Mr. Hand’s appeal. * * *

The omissions in Mr. Kochanski’s trial records, which were kept on dozens of compact discs, have led the Appellate Division of State Supreme Court to order prosecutors and defense lawyers to hold “reconstruction hearings” in some cases, at which the lawyers, witnesses and judge try to recall what was said in court.

In Mr. Hand’s fraud trial, Mr. Kochanski’s notes omit two days of the jury selection proceedings, and the Appellate Division has ordered a reconstruction, which will take place April 29.

Ms. Trupp said the appeals of Derrick Miller, who was convicted of grand larceny, and Brandon Lewis, who was convicted of assault, were each delayed for more than seven months while lawyers tried to piece together what was said. In Mr. Lewis’s case, the judge’s instructions to the jury were missing, she said.

On April 7th, the NYT ran a debate on its opinion pages, on the question "Are Court Stenographers Necessary?" You may read the various positions here.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on April 10, 2014 10:33 AM
Posted to Courts in general