As a court reporter, you may be considered an official record keeper of Lady Justice. You cover depositions, hearings, and other legal proceedings. As such, you must be fair, impartial and unbiased so that all parties involved in a case get the justice they deserve. As one West Palm Beach court reporter shared, whether you are a federal court reporter or a freelancer collaborating with a law firm, you act as an officer of the court.
Hence, you must follow the ethical standards of your profession. You must always uphold impartiality at all times. This element is one of the three tenets the justice system stands on. You cannot be biased, or you will endanger the stability of the legal system. When you carry out your duties, you must always act with honor and integrity. Consider the following reasons why a court reporter needs to stay neutral:
Providing Comparable Services to Foster a Good Reputation
A West Palm Beach court reporter shared that you must be fair when providing services. You must comply with these ethical standards and offer the same real-time or expedited services to everyone involved. If one lawyer makes a same-day request, you must be willing to provide the same treatment for everyone else. By giving every party equal priority, you foster impartiality and fairness. As a result, you cannot play favorites or do anyone special favors.
Unfortunately, there have been instances when insurance company lawyers offer monetary compensation if the court reporter provides them documents in advance. This can include copies of the transcription, exhibits, and even audio for their review. What’s worse, they request special treatment and ask that documents be delayed for the opposing counsel. A West Palm Beach court reporter asserted that you must be firm in saying no. You must not ruin your reputation for money. All deliverables must be available to all parties at the same time. Accepting money will result in the following:
- Violating COPE provisions (a code of professional ethics established by the NCRA or National Court Reporters Association)
- Compromising the security and confidentiality of all deliverables
- Show that you condone improper behavior.
Be Firm in Avoiding Conflicts of Interest to Uphold Integrity
A West Palm Beach court reporter noted that you must be vigilant in avoiding conflicts of interest. As an officer of the court, you must follow your duty and disclose the information if you see any existing or potential conflict. Remember, even judges inhibit themselves when a potential case fosters conflict. Sadly, accepting the case puts their reputation in jeopardy.
If you have a personal connection with a litigant or witness, report this immediately to your immediate superior to prevent any problems. You must speak up because failure to do so discredits your character. Keeping quiet in the face of problems equates to your lack of ethics. If you want to keep your integrity as an unbiased professional, strive hard to avoid potential problems. For example, if you fail to inhibit, and it reaches a point where a counsel objects to your presence, you will feel embarrassed. Instead, recuse yourself ahead and provide the necessary arrangements to provide your replacement.
Avoid Making Comments on the Case to Guard Against Impropriety
A West Palm Beach court reporter shared that you must be vigilant against impropriety. You will earn a bad stigma in the industry if you get caught and reprimanded. It would be a shame to be called immoral. This scenario wastes the many years you spent studying and earning your certifications. All your hard work will just end up in vain. As such, you must always uphold neutrality and avoid the following:
- Answer partial questions, such as, “What’s your opinion on the witness’s testimony?” or “Don’t you think she’s lying?”
- Accept any gifts, tokens, or money from anyone associated with a case because you may be accused of accepting bribes.
- Fraternizing with people who are associated with a legal proceeding that you are currently working on.
Document Details Properly to Maintain a Clear and Accurate Record
As a court reporter, you must provide clear and accurate documentation of the proceedings. Your records shall be on the basis of judges, jurors, and lawyers when they make decisions. As such, a West Palm Beach court reporter said you must be particular about specific details to preserve your transcript’s neutrality and honesty. Take note of the following scenarios:
1. Non-Verbal Responses
If a witness doesn’t respond to a question, do not interpret the gesture. In case a witness merely nods the head or makes a hand signal, you cannot prompt him or her to make a verbal answer. That’s the lawyer’s job! In this scenario, you encode: “No verbal response!”
2. Off-the-Record Requests
You may encounter requests by a party to go off the record. You can only do so if all parties agree. If an agreement is not made, you have to keep on transcribing until everyone agrees. During a trial, you should listen and encode everything said in the courtroom’s hallowed walls.
Remember, document details as accurately and precisely as you can because your transcription has the power to affect the merits of the case. Being impartial and objective leads to valid, factual, and truthful documentation. Furthermore, you must maintain neutrality, while you’re editing your documents.
Final Wrap Up
As the keeper of records and officer of the honorable court, you must stay neutral all the time. Doing so means you remain fair and impartial. When you follow ethical standards, every man who gets his or her day in court receives “equal justice under the law.” With neutrality, you can be assured that all parties will get fair treatment before, during, and after court proceedings.