PROFESSIONALISM IN COURT REPORTING AND LEGAL VIDEOGRAPHY
Court reporters keep the official record of trial proceedings. It’s a function critical to the fair operation of the American judicial system. The job demands incredible skill, requiring court reporters to discern, record, and transcribe testimony verbatim in an argumentative atmosphere peppered with argument from multiple sources often speaking simultaneously and fast.
Yet, incredibly, the law offers no regulation of professional court reporters, legal videographers, court reporting firms, or others offering court reporting services. Court reporters or legal videographers needn’t obtain any license or certification. They aren’t required to pass a test, secure formal education, follow a code of ethics, or meet any basic standard of competence before undertaking such a demanding and critical role for American courts, governmental bodies, or private court reporting firms.
Absent any legal standards, professional court reporters banded together long ago “to elevate, ennoble, and advance the profession,” forming the National Shorthand Reporters Association, now renamed the National Court Reporters Association.
Through that organization, court reporters and other professionals involved in the court reporting profession – legal videographers, court reporting firm administrators, and court reporting firm owners – developed professional standards for the profession. The National Court Reporters Association established standard objective criteria for certifying different levels of court reporters, legal videographers, and court reporting firm administrators.
The National Court Reporters Association requires its members to continue their professional training through educational courses, and it sponsors conferences and continuing education for enhancement of the court reporting profession. Many government agencies and private law firms now require that the court reporting firms they hire provide professional court reporters certified by the National Court Reporters Association.
In addition, the National Court Reporters Association has established ethical standards to guide actions of professional court reporters, legal videographers, and court reporting firms. Adherence to these standards is mandatory for Association members, and the National Court Reporters Association recognizes “Ethics First” court reporting firms that follow enhanced ethical practices. Like many bar associations, the National Court Reporters Association issues advisory opinions applying its ethical rules to certain factual situations, and enforces its standards through disciplinary action that can impact certification and membership in the organization. Some of these standards have found their way into the law as court systems adopt rules mandating individual ethical behaviors identified by the National Court Reporters Association.
But National Court Reporters Association standards of professionalism and ethical conduct, though widely recognized, don’t have the force of law. Professional court reporters, legal videographers, and the National Court Reporters Association have periodically sought legislative assistance to regulate the court reporting profession, but have found little support for general oversight. Until American legislatures or courts enforce standards of professionalism or ethical behavior through laws, rules, or hiring practices, professionalism in this critical industry will continue to be a voluntary movement by an interested group of professional court reporters.