IMPARTIALITY OF COURT REPORTERS AND LEGAL VIDEOGRAPHERS
Court reporters and legal videographers bear the responsibility to create and keep the official record of legal proceedings. The moral authority of court reporters or legal videographers over the record requires impartiality — the official record can’t be entrusted to one having a stake in a proceeding’s outcome.
To protect the authority of court reporters and legal videographers, the National Court Reporters Association publishes rules and advisory opinions to guide professional conduct and ensure that court reporters and legal videographers are impartial. The National Court Reporters Association Code of Ethics requires court reporters to:
- Be fair and impartial toward each participant in all aspects of reported proceedings, and always offer to provide comparable services to all parties in a proceeding.
- Be alert to situations that create a conflict of interest or that may give the appearance of a conflict of interest. If a conflict or a potential conflict arises, the Member shall disclose that conflict or potential conflict.
Likewise, the National Court Reporters Association CLVS Code of Ethics requires legal videographers to:
- Refrain from performing any service under terms or conditions that will compromise, in any way, his or her impartiality or the exercise of good judgment. A CLVS shall not adversely affect the fair and impartial portrayal of the proceeding.
- Refrain from doing anything that that affects the impartiality of the CLVS.
Upon request, the National Court Reporters Association reviews and opines on specific circumstances implicating the impartiality of court reporters and legal videographers. In one request, a court reporter was asked to alter the record of comments by a judge at trial, at the judge’s request, and alter comments by counsel at trial and deposition. The NCRA opined that court reporters could: (1) alter counsel’s statements at trial only upon the parties’ agreement or court order, (2) alter comments in deposition only upon the parties’ agreement, and (3) alter a judge’s statements at trial only upon all parties’ agreement. Otherwise, alteration of the official record would violate the duty of impartiality. NCRA Opinion 4.
Other NCRA advisory opinions have held that:
- Court reporters may not report proceedings in which a spouse is counsel, but may receive a fee for referring the work to other court reporters in the same or a different court reporting agency. Court reporters may report a proceeding in which a spouse’s law partner is counsel only upon disclosure of the relationship and agreement of all parties. NCRA Opinion 2, 3.
- Court reporters may not make fee arrangements that make compensation dependent upon a proceeding’s result. NCRA Opinion 17.
- Court reporters must record or transcribe proceedings at the request of any party, despite another party’s objection. Court reporters may not go “off the record” without all parties’ consent. NCRA Opinion 6, 28.
- Court reporters may not distribute transcripts in advance to one party. NCRA Opinion 15, 16.
These opinions are subject to rules of court and other laws, and they don’t bind court reporters or legal videographers not associated with the National Court Reporters Association. But insofar as possible, the National Court Reporters Association is enforcing general precepts and specific instruction to guarantee the impartiality of officers who create the official court record.