What Court Reporters Do
Court reporters provide an accurate description of court proceedings.
Court reporters create word-for-word transcriptions at trials, depositions, administrative hearings, and other legal proceedings. Some court reporters provide captioning for television and real-time translation for deaf or hard-of-hearing people at public events, in business meetings, and in classrooms.
Court reporters typically do the following:
- Attend depositions, hearings, proceedings, and other events that require written transcripts
- Capture spoken dialogue with specialized equipment, including stenography machines, video and audio recording devices, and covered microphones
- Report speakers’ identification, gestures, and actions
- Read or play back all or a portion of the proceedings upon request from the judge
- Ask speakers to clarify inaudible or unclear statements or testimony
- Review the notes they have taken, including the names of speakers and any technical terminology
- Provide copies of transcripts and recordings to the courts, counsels, and parties involved
- Transcribe television or movie dialogue to help deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers
- Provide real-time translation in classes and other public forums for the deaf or hard-of-hearing population
Court reporters create word-for-word transcripts of speeches, conversations, legal proceedings, meetings, or other events.
Court reporters play a critical role in legal proceedings, which require an exact record of what was said. They are responsible for producing a complete, accurate, and secure legal transcript of courtroom proceedings, witnesses’ testimonies, and depositions.
Court reporters in the legal setting also help judges and lawyers by capturing, organizing, and producing the official record of the proceedings. The official record allows users to efficiently search for important information contained in the transcript. Court reporters also index and catalog exhibits used during court proceedings.
Some court reporters, however, do not work in the legal setting or in courtrooms. These reporters primarily serve people who are deaf or hard-of-hearing by transcribing speech to text as the speech occurs.
The following are examples of types of court reporters who do not work in a legal setting:
Broadcast captioners are court reporters who provide captions for television programs (called closed captions). These reporters transcribe dialogue onto television monitors to help deaf or hard-of-hearing viewers or others viewing television programs in public places. Some broadcast captioners may translate dialogue in real time during broadcasts; others may caption during the postproduction of a program.
Communication access real-time translation (CART) providers are court reporters who work primarily with deaf or hard-of-hearing people in a variety of settings. They assist clients during board meetings, doctors’ appointments, and any other events in which real-time translation is needed. For example, CART providers may caption the dialogue of high school and college classes and provide an immediate transcript to students with hearing problems or who are learning English as a second language.
Although some court reporters may accompany their clients to events, many broadcast captioners and CART providers work remotely. An Internet or phone connection allows them to hear and type without having to be in the room.
Court reporters who work with deaf or hard-of-hearing people turn speech into text. For information on workers who help deaf or hard-of-hearing people through sign language, cued speech, or other spoken or gestural means, see the profile on interpreters and translators.
Court reporters may use different methods for recording speech, such as stenotype machine recording, steno mask recording, and electronic recording.
Court reporters use stenotype machines to record dialogue as it is spoken. Stenotype machines work like keyboards, but create words through key combinations rather than single characters, allowing court reporters to keep up with fast-moving dialogue.
Key combinations entered on a stenotype machine are recorded in a computer program. The program uses computer-assisted transcription to translate the key combinations into the words and phrases they represent, creating real-time, readable text. The court reporter then reviews the text for accuracy and corrects spelling and grammatical errors.
Court reporters also may use steno masks to transcribe speech. Court reporters who use steno masks speak directly into a covered microphone, recording dialogue and reporting gestures and actions. Because the microphone is covered, others cannot hear what the reporter is saying. The recording is sometimes converted by computerized voice-recognition software into a transcript that the court reporter reviews for accuracy, spelling, and grammar.
For both stenotype machine recording and steno mask recording, court reporters must create, maintain, and continuously update an online dictionary that the computer software uses to transcribe the key presses or voice recordings into text. For example, court reporters may put in the names of people involved in a court case, or the specific words or technical jargon typically used in that type of legal proceeding.
Court reporters also may use digital recorders in their job. Digital recording creates an audio or video record rather than a written transcript. Court reporters who use digital recorders operate and monitor the recording equipment. They also take notes to identify the speakers and provide context for the recording. In some cases, court reporters use the audio recording to create a written transcript.