One state considers replacing more court reporters with digital recorders

Digital recorders, in place of court reporters, should be used more often in North Carolina courts, according to a report recently issued there. It follows the state senate cutting North Carolina’s court reporting staff in half because of budget concerns.

Several lawyers and judges are not happy about the Administrative Office of the Courts finding, the Charlotte Observer reports.

“Sorting out what the witnesses, the lawyers and the judge is saying is central to the integrity of the trial process,” John Wester, a Charlotte lawyer, told the paper. “If we move to … digital recorders, we must know there is no compromise.”

The state already uses digital recorders in district court, where misdemeanor cases are heard.

John Smith, a former judge who runs the state’s Administrative Office of the Courts, says the report does not recommend eliminating court reporters entirely. Rather, he’d like to see a “gradual transition to an appropriate mix,” with live reporters in more complex cases, and digital recorders for routine and administrative matters.

The article notes that a 2010 Kentucky murder trial had to be reheard after a digital recorder the court used broke down.

Alternatively, the Utah courts saved $1.3 million since it introduced digital recorders in court and cut 50 jobs. Also, according to the article, the average number of days to get a trial transcript in Utah has gone from 138 to 12.

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