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Letters: Court reporters vs. AI

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Court reporters vs. AI

With regard to “Dictating Change,” October-November, page 26, and on behalf of the more than 13,000 members of the National Court Reporters Association, I would like to share why using a human court reporter versus any artificial intelligence systems is vital to not only ensuring an accurate record is made, but also ensuring participants in any legal proceeding have access to that accurate record.

Stenographic court reporters remain the gold standard for capturing the spoken word. It’s not just that they produce the most accurate legal records, including capturing certain interpersonal nuances that digital recordings might miss. Nor is it simply because they are trained to handle complex procedures associated with trials and depositions. Court reporters are indispensable to the legal system because they offer 21st century solutions to unyielding situations that demand speed without sacrificing accuracy. They provide high-tech solutions to our increasingly virtual society.

Today’s court reporters process their shorthand through computers to provide judges, attorneys and clients with instantaneous, understandable transcripts. No AI technology can come close.

Your article suggests that the use of remote video platforms and AI technology in the courtroom have emerged as two solutions to address both the shortage of court reporters and the need for social distancing. I agree that remote video platforms address the solution for social distancing, and in most instances during the pandemic, the stenographic court reporter working remotely through the use of these video platforms has been the only solution for the administration of justice.

In the courtroom, peoples’ lives are on the line, and every single word matters. That is the ethical responsibility that guides stenographers. Only a human being, charged with care of the record, is capable of instantly determining unintelligible speech and pausing the proceedings for clarification. Only court reporters can provide a real-time display of the transcript that has the added value of being able to resolve potential misunderstandings in real time.

Even in courts that have been forced to implement other methods of recordkeeping, court reporters nearly always remain in place for complex civil litigation and felony criminal proceedings because they are the most reliable in high-stakes situations.

As a further note, the stenographic writer depicted in the photo is more than 50 years old. Stenographic machines, like cars and technology in general, are far more computerized and advanced than their 50-year-old ancestors.

Christine Phipps
NCRA President

When we talk about our court reporters shortage in “Dictating Change,” one thing that is left out is that we have known about the shortage for at least seven years. Many initiatives have popped up in that time, including the National Court Reporters A to Z program, Open Steno, Project Steno and school programs initiated by Allison Hall to close the gap and fulfill demand for stenographic reporters.

Also, this push to say companies like Verbit are “AI-driven” is likely inaccurate. When studied by Stanford University, automated transcription was only 80% accurate with “white” speech, 65% accurate with “Black” speech and worse with specific dialects such as African American English. If all the big companies haven’t cracked the code, it’s unlikely a relative newcomer has. In Verbit’s series A funding, it was stated it provided 99% accuracy. In its series B funding, it revealed that it would not remove the human from the equation. While it is nice to think about a world of automation, in reality, we’re talking about a world where it’s transcribed by people and you’re told it’s automation.

Christopher Day
Staten Island, New York

You may submit a letter by email to [email protected] or via mail: Attn: Letters, ABA Journal, 321 N. Clark St. Chicago, IL 60654. Letters must concern articles published in the Journal. They may be edited for clarity or space. Be sure to include your name, city and state, and email address.

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