transcripts on paper, sometimes because the court or attorneys don't have the right equipment to read them electronically.

Reporters want the various courts

to computerize and standardize so

the record can be stored electronically. Ultimately, a trial can be recorded

and stored on a database, then transferred by disk or even modem to an appeals court. "But the trial court computers can't communicate with superior court," said Cramer. "We would like to see court reporter notes stored electronically to improve our ability to save those records" in case of an appeal, he said.


It is unlikely court reporters will disappear altogether. In high-volume courts, cases likely to be appealed, and capital crime cases, reporters will likely be used. Even with the advent of audio and video recording, the profession doesn't seem threatened with extinction. Yet reporter capabilities are evolving with the arrival of computer-integrated courtrooms and CAT.

"We suffer some of the same fear you see in other professions," Cramer said. "But there are a lot of younger people moving into reporting, and they have more of an ability to use more sophisticated machinery."

For more information, contact Linda Walker, technology specialist at the National Center for State Courts at 804/253-2000.





A tape of a secret hearing related to the Oklahoma City bombing was later found to be blank last spring when it was unsealed. The tape was the only record of the hearing.

James Nichols' hearing before a U.S. magistrate judge was closed to the press and public, and an audio tape was sealed by the court when the hearing finished. When the Detroit Free Press won an order to have the record unsealed, the tape was blank.

Court officials said they assume the tape recorder was not properly activated or monitored during the hearing. "This is very embarrassing," Court Administrator John Mayer told the Free Press. "It has happened once or twice before in the past 15 years, but never in a case of this magnitude."

Nichols, who was held in Michigan as a material witness soon after the Oklahoma City bombing, has since been released for reasons unrelated to the non-recorded hearing.


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