Use of “Wired” Court Reporter

Use of “Wired” Court Reporter

Use of “Wired” Court Reporter

(The original article below was published in the Milwaukee Law Journal in 2002. The footnotes below are innovative changes in technology and process since the original publication.)

The introduction of computers to the litigation reporting industry in the mid-1970s opened the door to many new reporting products and services and ultimately created greater opportunities for litigants. Computer-assisted transcription (CAT), the process by which a computer converts a reporter’s shorthand notes into English, was the advent of a technology that shaped today’s world of cable reporting. Like all other industries, court reporters are now part of the fast-paced, technologically advanced world of iPads, the Internet, etc. [1]

The following is a brief case scenario involving the many services currently offered by the technology reporting firm, in discovery or evidentiary testimony and at hearing or trial:

Week-long rounds of witness testimony begin after all sides file discovery briefs. Depository transcripts are produced in full-size and abbreviated paper (up to 16 pages per physical page) along with digital PDF versions [2] which have the evidence indexed and linked to each case within the testimony for instant retrieval and inASCII files in the many formats available for searching the text on a computer through case management or trial presentation software.[3] A week later, a lawyer travels to a remote location to depose a witness. In order for the remote reporter to accurately transcribe in real time (an instant live transcription of the spoken word visible on a computer screen), a word list containing the various unique terms from all previous testimony in the case was previously emailed. Several opposing attorneys chose not to attend in person, opting instead to receive a real-time ASCII feed, plus video and audio via remote video conference, live on their desktop computers in their office via a standard internet connection, take personal notes and chat online with co-defendants, make objections if necessary via video conference.[4] One attorney was stranded in a remote location but still attended the deposition via his iPhone. At the conclusion of the deposition, the real-time feed, essentially a rough draft of an ASCII file, is stored on the attorneys’ computers for use in preparation for the next deposition (before a certified transcript is produced). The annotated version was emailed to staff or a colleague to draft a proposal.[5] Video and audio were also stored online for instant review.[6] One attorney was on the flight during the depot and was viewing the real-time text feed on an iPad over the plane’s internet connection, which he was then able to comment on the plane in preparation for the next depot.

Throughout, reporter scheduling was handled through a secure login to the reporting firm’s online schedule manager, creating both electronic and paper confirmations.[7] Counsel used a secure Internet connection to view activity reports, download and view ASCII files and exhibits, and check the adjournment schedule on the reporter’s 24/7 network system. There were several last minute needs for information, deposition locations, past transcripts and evidence that the attorney was able to download to his iPad/iPhone using their mobile app. An exhibit believed to be contained in the big banker’s box disappeared, but the smartphone app gave access to that exhibit and all the others in the box.

A series of three expert witness testimony is now scheduled, two in New York on Monday and Tuesday and one Wednesday in LA. The first two days are to be delivered daily and in real time, with the LA expert (Wednesday’s witness) receiving both days of live testimony via video/audio/text streaming, plus email with the ASCII rough draft in end of each day to prepare for his deposition.[8] Tuesday’s transcript requires extra care in delivery when Wednesday’s witness email is down. The reporting firm has contracted with a local business to receive, print and deliver the transcript within one hour. The trip to Los Angeles could not be made by two of the attorneys, so they received real-time information in their respective offices, where they also watched and participated in the testimony via remote video conference. Remote video conferencing was also used for the LA expert who had to be brought down to his office using a standard computer with a video camera and internet connection.

Video recording services were requested for all three experts with picture-in-picture production so that the witness and referred documents could be viewed simultaneously. The video was later synchronized with the ASCII text file, the exhibits were also hyperlinked to the text, and stored on DVD, portions of which are to be used in a large screen demonstration for impeachment purposes.

All attorneys plan to receive real-time transcript feeds and a certified daily copy of transcripts during trial so they have the necessary tools for witness preparation and impeachment when appropriate. The previous statements of all the witnesses and the previously scanned evidence documents are now with them in court on the lawyers’ computers. If they discover that a transcript or evidence file is missing, it can be instantly retrieved by connecting to the reporting firm’s online access. One of the attorneys requested a portable video file that was compatible with her trial presentation app for her iPad.

At the forefront of all these technologies right now is real-time translation. As described above, this service has provided attorneys with tremendous assistance in immediately tracking testimony at depositions or trials in major cases or any complex litigation where the litigation team must follow events as they unfold. (and to provide the hearing impaired) ).[9] Compared to the cost of a nightly copy or a daily copy, real-time is actually cheaper. You still have the costs associated with a final certified transcript from the reporter, but you would do the same if you ordered a quick transcript; moreover, in real time, the rough version is already in hand when the proceedings are over for the day. More options, time saving and cheaper – worth it!

How does it work in real time? A real-time court reporter connects their computerized stenographer via cable or wirelessly to their laptop computer containing software that translates keystrokes from the stenographer into a global dictionary of words written by the reporter in her shorthand theory.[10] As the reporter presses the transcript keys, the computer quickly references those hits to the reporter’s dictionary and displays matches and “untranslated” (raw transcript for which there is no match) on the computer screen. The same results are exported from the reporter’s computer to software (LiveNote, Summation, CaseViewNet) on the attorney’s computer for observation, annotation, problem coding, and retrieval.

A live feed is unedited and will most likely contain some errors. It is not suitable nor permitted to be used for citation in legal proceedings as it is not a certified transcript.

Complex, technical cases require a reporter to prepare for real-time by inserting the unique terminology of the case into their vocabularies so they can create a more accurate real-time feed. The more experienced and qualified the reporter, the more developed the vocabulary, the more controlled the speakers in the forum and the better the real-time results.

Be sure to ask for a reporter whose real-time skills you already know, or when traveling, ask for a Certified Real Time Reporter which is tested and certified by the National Association of Court Reporters. For more information about real-time reporting services and other services, contact your local court reporting agency.

[1] It took several years for court reporters and the reporting technology industry to realize the benefit of using these new technologies. Today’s court reporter can barely get by without them.

[2] Linked (or hyperlinked) documents — creates a link to an external document, visible immediately when clicked. The attorney can now review the transcript and see each piece of evidence as it appears in the text.

[3] PDF documents are now the dominant, most versatile file format used by computer users around the world to view text and graphics, becoming the standard over the past 10 years.

[4] Remote video conferencing is all the rage for 2012 – the ability to use video conferencing technology between portable computing devices (iPads, laptops, etc.) and standard video conferencing equipment (Polycom, Tandberg) over the Internet. Unlike Skype or Google Hangouts, reporting companies use products that are encrypted for added security and stability.

[5] Legal video and audio of depositions can be stored in the cloud for instant viewing over the Internet.

[6] Products such as TextMap, Summation, and LiveNote export a document containing an attorney’s work product (notes, annotations, etc.) that can be shared with team members.

[7] Tech-savvy reporting firms provide online portals to set and track deposition scheduling, download and review transcripts and exhibits, and access activity reports and a calendar.

[8] Video and text streaming makes it possible to attend the deposition and view the text live in real time from anywhere with an internet connection.

[9] The federal government’s ADA requirement that all network television be closed-captioned by 2006 has drained our pool of real-time court reporters, creating a shortage. There is now competition between reporting firms and captioning companies for real-time writers. This shortage gave the federal government the impetus to pass legislation recently authorizing financial grants for reporting/writing training programs across the country. These schools now offer scholarships to encourage more students to enter these programs so that the ADA closed captioning mandates can be implemented.

[10] It is now standard practice to receive live feeds via a wireless Bluetooth connection as an alternative to a wired connection.

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