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Unity and Professionalism

Unity and Professionalism in court reporting

Series Three – Unity and Professionalism 

 We recently posted an opinion piece titled Disruptive vs. Destructive that spoke about the need for our industry to embrace the integrity and standards for creating a record and not on how the record is created. We want to share with you a letter written by the current President of AAERT, Janet Harris. Janet Harris is one of the founding members of AAERT more than 25 years ago, promoting the profession, education, and certification. 

 AAERT’s Response to Negative Articles about Digital Reporting . 

JANET HARRIS·TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 4, 2020· 

Recently several articles have been written inciting fear and the possible “dangers” of digital court reporting. On behalf of the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT), I would like to respond to several inaccuracies we find in these articles. 

AAERT is led by a board of respected industry professionals who have been working in the government and court markets for decades. In a recent interview with Victoria Hudgins at Legaltech News on Law.com, I was misidentified, misquoted, and misunderstood by the statements the reporter attributed to me. AAERT is a non-profit trade association founded in 1994. I currently serve as its president. AAERT’s mission has always been to provide education and certification for professionals engaged in digital (electronic) reporting, transcribing, and associated roles. 

In response to claims of lack of certification, AAERT provides two industry and government-recognized certifications, the Certified Electronic Reporter CER® and the Certified Electronic Transcriber CET®. Both certifications include testing on professionalism, ethics, industry, and job skills. The CER® and CET® exams require an 80% score to pass the knowledge portion, while the CET® also requires a 98% accuracy score to give the practical part of the certification. These levels exceed the minimum scores needed for NCRA’s Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) certification, which has a 75% for the written and 95% accuracy for the productive passing rate. 

AAERT requires all members to adhere to a strict Professional Code of Ethics or risk having their certifications revoked and their membership to the organization denied. This code is very similar to standards set by NCRA and the National Verbatim Reporters Association, the third type of court reporting used in today’s marketplace. Stenographic and verbatim voice writers can produce real-time transcripts. Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) technology developments soon will allow digital reporters to provide a real-time transcript as well for the first time in history. All three court reporting methods have evolved with advances in technology. Those who adapt to change and embrace it are the most successful. 

 AAERT lays out in its Best Practices Guide minimum standards to follow to ensure the integrity of the record is preserved. AAERT recommends one digital court reporter per proceeding to monitor the recording through a headset continuously and create time-stamped annotations for quick reference, playback of questions, and to streamline the production of a verbatim, certified transcript. A redundant backup recording is a best practice, as well as secure storage and backups, as a part of their business practice. Digital reporters are notary publics and appear as officers of the court in depositions. They are responsible for capturing and maintaining the record. The suggestion that a digital recording alone would allow for the easy altering of a proceeding is as reckless as saying a stenographic reporter would alter the actual statements of a witness when writing testimony on their steno machines or would change the transcript to benefit one of the parties. The role of the court reporter is the same, regardless of the method. Both reporters are held to the same professional standards, to be a fair and impartial third party whose role is to preserve the integrity of the record. 

The growing shortage of court reporters is increasing at an alarming rate, as the demand also increases. The deficiencies have proven the research data but in the experience of nationwide reporting agencies struggling to have full coverage of their booked calendars. The deficit is proving the experience of citizens not being able to find a stenographic reporter. Also, to appear for their civil cases, primarily when representing themselves in family court where many jurisdictions now only provide a steno reporter in criminal matters. Other viable methods of court reporting need to be allowed into the marketplace, and the best practices for implementing these methods also need to be followed. 

 We know that not all firms, court systems, and reporters will adhere to these standards no matter what the organization produces them. It is up to the company or individual to choose how they will comport themselves in the industry. It is up to the court administration to recognize the necessity of following best practices and educate staff who are responsible for making recordings. NCRA has no more power over individual stenographers than AAERT has over digital court reporters or agencies or courts who choose to rely on poor practices to produce poor quality recordings and transcripts full of indiscernible or inaudible notations. When the result is poor quality, most often, the process in place does not follow the best practices of AAERT. We are also committed to maintaining high-quality standards, the same standards NCRA has had in place, and we have adopted as part of our certification as well. 

Instead of being worried about the differences and going back and forth with our various articles, facts, and opinions, we ask that the industry organizations come together to create a unified front for the guarding of the record. Standards on ethics, professionalism, and the quality of the written record should be universal no matter how it is recorded. 

By Janet Harris, CER, CET, CCVS, President AAERT, www.aaert.org aaert@aaert.org 

Permission for JAVS to repost from Janet Harris. 

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