A Brief History of Court Reporting
Court reporting techniques actually date back to ancient times, when court scribes would document words and deeds. Fortunately, the field has developed immensely since then. Before court reporting became what it is today, methods were much more difficult:
- Marcus Tullius Tiro used shorthand to document the speeches of Cicero and other Roman leaders in the fourth century B.C. In fact, Tiro developed the ampersand (“and”), which is still widely used today.
- In 1588, Timothe Bright published a dissertation of shorthand-writing that was widely used among scholars, ministers, and other people who had to write lengthy pieces of work.
- Thomas Gurney published his own shorthand system in 1750. He was the first official parliamentary debate reporter in England.
- Stenotype machines were introduced in 1913 and became the most reliable methods of keeping record verbatim. This device was the first to use modern shorthand, which we still use in U.S. courtrooms every day. A sort of phonetic code was created by pressing more than one key at a time. Stenotype machines could produce up to 225 words per minute by an advanced stenographer.
- Court reporters stayed ahead of the game, computerizing even before the courts and attorneys themselves. In the 1970s, computer-aided transcription allowed reporters to type even faster by giving them the able to type out each sentence within seconds of it being spoken.
While nothing has come close to being as revolutionary as those early versions of shorthand, the addition of new technologies has completely changed how court reporting firms, and court proceedings in general, work.
Today, email accounts are much easier to hack. Because of this, the federal government has emphasized the importance of HIPAA and other forms of confidentiality in order to prevent these documents from getting into the wrong hands. Now, court reporters no longer send transcripts via email attachments; instead, they’ve switched to sending them via encrypted links and cloud portals.
The addition of video in courtrooms has also created new methods of reporting. Since people can access live streams outside of the courtroom, the court reporter must provide closed captioning to the live streams by transcribing every sentence in next-to-real time.
Remote depositions are also available due to live video conferencing. There is no on-par substitute for being able to make eye-contact with a witness and taking their deposition firsthand, but if that witness is far away and there is no feasible way for a litigator to access them, remote deposition is the way to go.
In order to remain just and ethical, court reporters must continue to use the most advanced technologies possible. By doing so, they are able to come up with a more secure, well-balanced end product.