Court reporting is a profession that has seen its fair share of changes throughout the years. Although this field continues to evolve, it all started with innovation and technology. Let’s explore about this profession’s history in detail and also about will court reporters become obsolete.

The history of court reporting is very interesting. The first people employed to record what happened during a trial were monks who wrote shorthand, with their notes hidden under their robes so that they would not distract the judges or attorneys. Later these notes were taken down in longhand by professional scribes. Their handwritten records were not considered official evidence until they were checked by a clerk.

The Origin of Shorthand

From 63 B.C., when Cicero, the great Roman philosopher and lawyer was spreading his influence across the empire to 1630 A.D.; we found people using abbreviated writing called shorthand as a means of communication during moments where time is scarce or privacy is necessary such as in court rooms and law offices.

Tiro, the slave scribe in ancient Rome who developed a system of shorthand consisting of more than 4,000 symbols and abbreviations which went on to be used by other scribes around the world. Transcribers would keep their notebooks with them at all times so they could record down any information quickly without having it read back incorrectly or forgetting about important details

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Shorthand Expands to English Speakers

Shorthand was invented by a man named John of Tilbury in 1180. However, it wasn’t until much later that people started to take notice and use shorthand as an English-language writing system. The British physician Timothie Bright published his own 500 symbol alphabet for shorthand which became the most popular at its time among scholars and ministers alike – this is around 1602 or so!

After him came John Willis who also developed an alphabetic based script with symbols embedded into our very beloved language; he created such scripts using letters from words instead of drawings (also towards 1772).

John Robert Gregg, a court reporter and secretary from Boston in the 19th century, developed shorthand that was published in 1893. The style became popular when he opened schools for it all over America soon after his arrival to teach.

Modern shorthand has been around since the Late 1800’s

In the late nineteenth century, a court reporter by the name of Miles Bartholomew invented what we now know as stenography. With this innovation in technology came an easier and more efficient way for reporters to take down testimony at trial or other proceedings. In 1878, John Longacre patented “The Reporter’s Friend,” another shorthand machine that was able to type faster than it could be written out longhand with pen and paper – marking one of many technological advancements made before World War II which forever changed how trials were reported via written word alone (or typed).

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Today, stenotype machines have a microprocessor and LCD screen where the shorthand abbreviations appear in English. Voice recognition is an addition to these updated technologies that improves both speed and quality of court reporting. In fact, speech-to-text translation has an accuracy up to 96%.

Court reporters have been in the game for centuries and will continue to be a part of depositions.


Responsibilities of A Court Reporter

The responsibilities of a court reporter include:

  • Taking notes at trials or other hearings in shorthand, using specialized equipment that produces live-action transcripts.
  • Transcribing the original notes into computer documents that can be inserted into court filings and documents. Court reporters may also produce audio recordings of the proceedings for use by attorneys and judges.
  • Preparing and submitting transcripts of recordings to litigants, attorneys, and judges as requested. Court reporters may be called on as witnesses during hearings or trials in which they have taken notes and/or made recordings.
  • Taking down information from conferences, depositions, and other legal proceedings for use by lawyers or judges.
  • Preparing legal documents, such as subpoenas and summons.

The major responsibility of a court reporter is to produce transcripts for the court system and the attorneys involved in the case. These transcripts are usually entered into the record and become part of an official trial record. In some cases, transcripts can be ordered by non-attorneys who are involved in a case. Court reporters may also be responsible for preparing transcripts from depositions, court hearings, conferences and debates that they have taken notes on.

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The Federal Rule of Civil Procedure in the US requires parties to file copies of any electronically recorded deposition or trial proceedings with the court reporter within 14 days after receiving a copy.

Electronic Court Reporters (Digital Court Reporters)

From the days of Thomas Edison’s wax cylinder, to Alexander Graham Bell’s invention of the telephone, to today’s new digital voice recording technology, court reporting has evolved in tremendous ways. In order to keep up with the growing technological advances, there have been many changes made within court reporting and digital recording is one of them.

What is a Digital Court Reporter?

A “digital” or “electronic” court reporter makes use of a digital platform to record what is said in the courtroom. A digital recorder allows the court reporter to capture, store and retrieve recordings instantly. Teachers teach their students to produce high-quality transcripts that are easy to read, making them more accessible to attorneys, judges and other members of the legal community. As evident in the video above, digital court reporting is essential to achieving justice for all involved.

How Digital Recording Works?

A digital recording makes use of an innovative program known as SensoLyne LiveNote that combines a reporter’s shorthand skills with electronic voice recording technology. The reporter uses a microphone to record the spoken word in the courtroom while simultaneously writing down what was said.

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The reporter’s voice is recorded into a computer at a speed of 180 words per minute while simultaneously being written down on paper. Many court reporters and attorneys are able to complete transcripts for trials, depositions or hearings within hours after they have ended, instead of days in the past.

Benefits of Digital Court Reporting

There are many reasons why a digital recording is more beneficial than the old-school audio cassette tapes and reel-to-reel recorders that were once used. For one, digital recordings are not susceptible to tape cuts like their predecessors.

Digital recordings can also be instantly downloaded and stored, played back at any time and even shared with others. Most importantly, digital recordings can be easily accessed by hearing-impaired individuals whose sign language are translated into English for them to understand without the need of an interpreter.

Will Court Reporters Become Obsolete?

Court reporting is a noble profession. Although technology has made great strides in the past few decades, there are those who believe that court reporters will always be an essential part of our judicial system. While it may seem as though voice to text software and computers are making court reporting obsolete, many organizations remain unabated in their support for court reporters.

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This profession is an essential part of the justice system and at this time, seems to be secure in its purpose. However, only time will tell if technology can outdo or replace court reporters.



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