Court Reporting Agency Takes Center Stage in Bill Cosby Case

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You might say that a court reporting agency should be seen but not heard. When court reporters do their jobs right, you shouldn’t notice them at all. And yet, one court reporting agency is at the center of a bizarre twist in a high profile case.

Since 2000, about 60 women have accused comedian Bill Cosby of sexual assault and defamation. But in an unusual turn of events, the headlines have turned away from Cosby himself and onto a court reporting agency.

About a decade ago, Cosby’s legal team helped settle a case filed by a woman. As in many cases, one or more of the country’s 21,200 court reporters recorded a transcript of the court proceedings and depositions. But despite the settlement’s confidentiality, seven other women suing the entertainer in the present day have obtained depositions from the aforementioned case.

Instead of obtaining the depositions through certified legal officials in court, the women’s lawyers contacted the court reporting agency directly to obtain the unsealed, official documents.

Cosby’s lawyer is now saying that the plaintiffs obtained these documents improperly.

The argument that Cosby’s legal team is moving forth with is that the counsel of Tamara Green, who sued Cosby in the state of Massachusetts, is guilty of misconduct by obtaining the transcript from the Andrea Constand sexual assault lawsuit filed in Pennsylvania.

Green responded to Cosby’s counsel with a motion rejecting the subpoena issued to the court reporting firm in question. A federal judge in Massachusetts ruled that Green’s lawyer did nothing wrong by obtaining the court reporting service’s documents, but the ruling has been disputed due to Cosby’s claims that certain legal questions remain unanswered.

Cosby’s motion stated:

“Despite Mr. Cosby’s and the [Constand] trial court’s repeated warning that the Constand information and deposition were protected by a confidentiality agreement, and while a stay of discovery in Green was in effect, plaintiffs apparently procured the transcript from its unlawful and improper disclosure by the court reporter instead. Plaintiffs have refused to provide details of how they obtained the transcript: they have not provided the date they ordered or received the transcript.”

Since the transcripts were obtained from a case filed in Pennsylvania, a Pennsylvania court originally handled this dispute. Cosby requested to transfer the issue back to Massachusetts, which was granted.

“The ruling itself is opaque on this matter and does not explicitly resolve this dispute,” said U.S. District Judge Eduardo C. Robreno of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. “Because the Massachusetts court is in a far better position to interpret its own ruling, the court will grant Cosby’s motion to transfer the motion to quash to the District of Massachusetts.”

If that sounds confusing, it’s because court reporters don’t usually figure into legal disputes like this. Despite the unusual circumstances of this high-profile case, court reporters play a vital role in the U.S. legal system.

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