years. "Reporters are seldom used anymore here," said Donald Taylor, court administrator of the Fayette County Circuit Court, which includes Lexington.
Reporters in Kentucky Circuit Courts were mainly phased out through attrition and reassignment over a period of years. No figures were available on the savings, but the court doesn't have to pay reporter salary and benefits. And records, usually owned and sold to the court by the reporter who created them, are now owned outright by the court.
"It could cost thousands of dollars for a transcript" made by a reporter in a courtroom, Taylor said, depending on its length. "Now we just send a copy of a tape to the court of appeals."
With Kentucky's videotape record, attorneys can go across the street and have a copy made for about $10, then have someone make a paper transcript from the tape. Tapes sent to appeals by trial courts are usually transcribed, depending on the judge's preference of tape or paper. Lawyers filing legal briefs on appeals cases reference the tape rather than page numbers of a transcription.
Reporters no longer employed by the Kentucky courts found other work, mainly doing depositions and other freelance work. They also get work creating a paper record of trials for attorneys who don't want to use a videotape to review a case.
Generally, it costs about $1,000 to transcribe a day's worth of court proceedings from videotape, said Ann Le Roy, president of An-Dor Reporting Service Inc. in Lexington, Ky. A transcript sold to lawyers after a hearing when the reporter is in the courtroom for a day costs around $600, she said.
Attorneys, meanwhile, generally prefer to work with a transcript
rather than a video recording when preparing briefs, said Joe Savage, a plaintiff's attorney in Lexington. "Most attorneys like a transcript before trial," he said. "I can read a transcript in 30 minutes while it would take two hours with video."
What all this means is that clients have to pay more for legal representation when a tape is the official transcript because counsel will likely have it transcribed. Meanwhile, the public saves money because the courts don't have to hire reporters for trials.
WHAT REPORTERS WANT
Reporters, Cramer said, see opportunity as courtrooms are increasingly computerized. Computer-integrated courtrooms need people to run them, he said, and reporters using real-time transcription or CAT could produce quick transcripts for the court.
The optimum situation, Cramer said, is for a court reporter with real-time readouts to be used in conjunction with videotape. CAT machines cost between $15,000 and $20,000 excluding a stenograph, depending on the sophistication desired by the reporter who usually must buy his or her own equipment. Stenographs, which now come with connected notebook computers, run about $3,000 to $4,000.
A reporter using CAT equipment types the proceedings into a steno machine as they occur, and the language is immediately translated to English and displayed on monitors. Judges and attorneys can get a record on a floppy disk at the end of each court day, rather than waiting for an overnight translation from stenography to English. And because the proceedings are displayed immediately, judges and counsel can mark testimony or make notes to themselves for later use in the case.
"It makes the reporter more productive," said Laws. With CAT, the reporter can get a rough draft
to attorneys at the end of a court day,
and have an official transcript
available soon after because there is less editing required than with traditional stenograph machines.
More common are steno machines with a laptop computer attached. Unofficial transcripts are translated by software and made available to attorneys and judges at the end of the day on floppy disks. It is still not unusual, however, for reporters to have to provide