We don’t ask, “What happens if there aren’t any court reporters?” to scare you. We ask because it is the reality in our industry is facing in spite of the fact that there is growing demand for stenographers and real-time court reporters in the legal, business, and political fields. According to Ducker Worldwide, it is estimated that by 2018 there will be a court reporter shortage of more than 5,000, including 80 here in Oklahoma.
Because of the increased demand, some are being recruited from positions in municipalities to more lucrative jobs.
Case in point is Mississippi where each circuit court judge has their own court reporter. Without enough reporters, judges aren’t able to do their job. For many, it has put their courtroom proceedings at a standstill, holding up cases for who knows how long, and creating a backlog for the foreseeable future. While we aren’t seeing that impact in Oklahoma, the reality of where we’re heading is clear, especially if we don’t do what we can to attract new reporters and keep the current ones in state.
There is debate over the effectiveness of digital recording technology and the realization that even if proceedings are recorded, there still needs to be a court reporter to transcribe after the fact.
In some states less serious matters are recorded for the record and later transcribed. While it saves money in the short-term, in the long-term there could be challenges with the quality of the recordings and thus the quality of the transcripts. A court reporter listening to a recording isn’t able to stop the proceeding to ask for clarification or for parties to speak clearly or to speak one at a time. More often than not, the reporter simply makes a notation that what was being said was inaudible and then moves on to the next part of the recording. There’s really nothing else they can do.
While technology can be employed instead of a human, the most serious court cases still require a court reporter present.
This is especially true for cases involving sexual offenses and/or the death penalty or life sentences. If there isn’t an accurate account of what happened in court, it could lead to re-trials or even dangerous criminals walking free. That’s not a reality we want to experience.
As you think about how you can impact your community, we encourage you to share your experience as a court reporter via blogs and social media sites like LinkedIn. Connect with career counselors for high school and college students to share with them the opportunities that are available in our industry. The more we can do as an industry, the less likely we are to see a world without court reporters.