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What is a Court Reporter?

By Cathy Rogers
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A court reporter creates a written transcript in situations that require a word-for-word account of spoken words. Many of these situations involve judicial proceedings, but they can also involve closed-captioning and real-time translation services for those who have hearing disabilities. A court reporter has the ultimate responsibility to provide an accurate and complete record.

A court reporter might create a transcript of depositions, meetings, speeches or other verbal conversations. In some locations, court reporters also assist judges and attorneys in areas of research or organization. Some states require a court reporter to be a notary public, and some states require testing for state licensure.

Several methods of court reporting exist. Stenographic, the most common method, involves the use of a stenotype machine, which allows the reporter to utilize multiple keys that represent sounds, words, and phrases. The keys produce symbols that are recorded electronically, and then translated and displayed as text. To train for this type of court reporting, a student must attend courses for about two to three years at a vocational or technical school or college.

Real-time court reporting also involves a stenotype machine. However, in real-time reporting, the machine is linked to a computer which instantly displays text on a screen. Courts, classes, meetings, and closed-caption television use this method of court reporting. This area of court reporting is expected to experience a high rate of employment growth.

Electronic reporting is another form of court reporting. It involves the use of analog or digital equipment to record court proceedings. From this audio recording, an electronic court reporter makes notes and ensures that the recording is clear and of high quality, then produces a written transcript from the recording. This type of court reporting is learned on the job.

Voice writing is yet another method of court reporting. Instead of a stenographic machine, this method involves the use of a voice silencer. The court reporter repeats testimony into a hand-held mask that contains a microphone. The court reporter must also verbalize emotional reactions and gestures. The voice silencer prevents other parties in the room from hearing the repeated testimony and commentary. Training to become a voice writer takes approximately one year or less.

A court reporter may work in a courtroom, for an attorney or government agency, for a court reporting agency, or for television networks or cable stations.

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Discussion Comments
By emtbasic — On Jun 29, 2011

@Veruca10 - I have rarely, if ever, seen the masks in the courtroom. The stenotype machine is still the most common. This used to be a really time-consuming way to earn a living, because they had to go home and read the notes the stenotype made, and dictate them onto a tape for a typist. Or, they could type it themselves, which meant they had to type it twice in two different formats.

Nowadays the machines still keep paper notes, but they also have a computer disc or memory card that you can take out and plug into a computer with the appropriate software, and it transcribes it for you. Much easier.

By Veruca10 — On Jun 28, 2011

Has anyone ever heard the raw tapes from the mask used by a voice writer? Hilarious. I'm sure the microphones and noise cancelling equipment is better now, but I heard one years ago and it sounds like an obscene phone call. Every time the reporter took a breath, you could really hear it. I would imagine that got pretty old for them when they had to transcribe it.

By KLR650 — On Jun 28, 2011

@anon25224 - In most cases, yes you can. You may have to pay for it, though. My mother was a court reporter for a long time, and as I remember those transcripts are not cheap, like a few dollars a page in a lot of cases. Mostly lawyers order them after you give a deposition in a case, or people like reporters if it's a big trial.

But generally speaking, the transcript is a matter of public record. Pretty dry stuff, though, unless you have a specific interest in a case.

By anon25224 — On Jan 25, 2009

can you request a copy of of the court stenographic reporters report?

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