The New Jersey Supreme Court recently passed a law to protect court recorders there from unreasonable and illegal demands of their audio files.
The Certified Court Reporters Association (CCRA) reports that even though the state has rules to ensure court recorders’ audio files are deemed “official records,” they weren’t technically considered a “work product.” Under the new law and guidelines, attorneys must have a court order before demanding an audio file.
In 1947, the work product doctrine was created, where the Supreme Court decided that “statements of witnesses obtained by an attorney prior to trial were privileged and thus protected from discovery.” If an item is considered a work product (and previously, audio files were not), they were also considered “privileged” and “protected,” unless of course there was a court order.
In New Jersey, CCRA legislative chairman Rick Paone says that he’s received numerous complaints about lawyers not treating court recorders’ audio files as work products. Some were requesting and even demanding audio files with a quick turnaround and weren’t required to show cause.
Paone became personally involved when one of his court recorders, an employee, was accused of leaving something out of the audio file. Even though the attorney who requested the file allegedly admitted to Paone that his client was troubled, the audio file was requested to appease the client.
Protection for Court Recorders
Accusing court recorders of not doing their jobs, and even falsifying documents, can severely damage the legal professional’s career. In extreme cases, court recorders may be wrangled into lawsuits (or face lawsuits themselves) when their work isn’t protected. Paone says when he refused to turn over the audio file, after his court recorder was accused of not fully recording testimony, the client fired the attorney and sued the court recorder for fraud and deception.
Ultimately, this case was dismissed, but it showcased what could happen when court recorders don’t have full protection. Key language is necessary to ensure court recorders’ audio files aren’t used against them. Passing this protection was a long and arduous task, but Paone says it was worth the effort. It required a full year to get a Civil Practice Committee recommendation, including additional weeks allowing for public comment.
A Serious Profession
New Jersey put the new language and law into effect Sept. 1, but not all states have such requirements. Being a court recorder requires extreme attention to detail, legal knowledge and the ability to offer un-biased, transparent and comprehensive recordings in numerous formats. It’s also a stressful job, especially when they get requests for copies with quick turnarounds (with or without a court order).
Sometimes court recorders are outsourced from reputable companies that offer legal professionals well-versed in local laws and practices. When hiring a court recorder, it’s paramount that they have the experience, skills and spotless reputation necessary to help ensure a smooth legal process.
Court recorders invest in continuing education to keep pace with the latest technology and laws, and should guarantee a swift turnaround time. If you need to hire a court recorder, court videographer or other legal professional in the Utah area, contact DepoMaxMerit Litigation Services, and rest easy knowing your needs are in good hands.