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Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Ind. Courts - "Objections raised as courtrooms go digital"

The Boston Globe today has a story by Michael Levenson (h/t How Appealing) that reports:

Superior Courts across the state have started installing a new digital recording system that does not require a court reporter to take a live transcript of the proceedings, a $5 million project that will eventually encompass 455 courtrooms in 100 courthouses.

The change has stirred deep anxiety among some lawyers, judges, and other officers of the tradition-bound courts, who worry that transcripts will be riddled with errors and inaudible passages if they are not taken by an attentive court reporter witnessing the trial.

But in an era when technology is improving and court budgets are shrinking, legal specialists say that courts across the country are inevitably turning to digital recording systems.

Six states, including New Hampshire and Vermont, already use digital systems to record all or most of their trials, according to the National Center for State Courts.

Massachusetts has already replaced court reporters with recording equipment in most civil trials. The remaining 40 court reporters in the state document criminal trials, in which accurate transcripts are vital because they form the basis of most appeals. * * *

Lewis H. Spence, the state’s trial court administrator, declined to answer questions about the new system.

But in a recent e-mail to judges and staff, Spence wrote, “the transition to digital recording represents a significant change for the court, one that will expand capability and apply technology in important new ways.”

The digital recordings will be uploaded to a central server, making them easier to track and locate, officials said. The system, made by an Australian company called For The Record, is used in 65 countries to record court, government, and law enforcement proceedings, according to the company’s website. * * *

Lee Suskin, a former court administrator in Vermont, said digital recording systems can work if the courts use “courtroom monitors” to ensure that the systems are recording properly and to write down names, unusual terms, and the start and end times of proceedings. That way, a typist listening to the recording can make an accurate and complete transcript, he said.

Massachusetts officials have not indicated whether they plan to hire “courtroom monitors.”

“As far as I know, the states that have put that into effect have been able to make a record successfully, and there have not been any issues in making a transcript,” Suskin said. “If you just turn on the machine and everyone starts talking, you have a problem.”

ILB: Indiana tried this via a pilot project a few years back, designating several trial courts. The project seems to have withered away, with few supporters ...

Here is a quote from a 2012 ILB post quoting an article in Government Technology:

Looking to follow in Kentucky’s footsteps, three courts in Indiana are participating in a yearlong pilot project to make audio tape recordings the official court record. The Indiana courts aren’t looking to cut costs, said David Remondini, chief deputy executive director of Indiana’s division of state court administration. Instead, they want to shorten the time it takes to get a transcript for an appeal, down from the current allotted time of 90 days to nearly no time at all, since the tape recording of the trial is the official record and no transcription is needed.

Remondini stresses that the pilot isn’t designed to put publicly employed court reporters out of work — quite the opposite, actually. “Since courts are under such a tight budget crunch and they’re getting more work with no more staff,” Remondini said, “even if a court reporter never typed another transcript they’d have plenty of work to do.”

Less than one month into the pilot, it’s already producing some unexpected results: in one instance, an attorney used some of the audio from parts of a trial and played it back to the jury as part of his closing arguments.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on January 5, 2016 09:28 AM
Posted to Indiana Courts