Federal Court Reporting System:

Outdated and Loosely Supervised

GGD-82-11: Published: Jun 8, 1982. Publicly Released: Jun 8, 1982.

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GAO conducted a review to determine how effectively and efficiently the present court reporting system was operating and whether alternative systems could better meet the needs of both the judiciary and the litigants.

The judiciary in some Federal courts has not adequately managed and supervised its court reporters, with the result that many of the reporters have often overcharged litigants, used Government facilities to conduct private business, and used substitute reporters extensively. GAO believes that, with improved management and more adequate supervision of court reporters, the judiciary can overcome the abusive practices and protect the courts, the public, and the litigants. A proven alternative to record Federal district court proceedings, electronic recording, is available to the judiciary, and its use would result in an annual savings of about $10 million. Numerous State and foreign court systems are using electronic recording systems, achieving substantial savings, and also providing excellent service to the courts and litigants. In addition, electronic recording can provide a better record of court proceedings and enable greater management flexibility and control over recording activities. Systems in use today produce high-quality recordings and contain features to safeguard against human and procedural errors. Opponents of electronic recording argue that electronic recording systems are not feasible, cannot identify speakers, record overlapping testimony, are unreliable, lack portability, and disrupt courtroom decorum. The GAO evaluation of these arguments showed that they have little merit and that the problems described can be readily overcome. GAO believes that an adequately constructed test would alleviate the concerns of the judiciary about such a change.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Judicial Conference, through the Administrative Office and judicial councils, should establish appropriate procedures and policies to ensure that court reporters' activities in district courts are adequately supervised and managed.

    Agency Affected: Judicial Conference of the United States

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Judicial Conference should assign the clerk of the court within each district responsibility for managing the district's official court reporters to ensure that: (1) reporters properly charge for transcripts; (2) reporters serve the entire court, including magistrates, senior judges, and visiting judges; (3) reporters' recording and transcription workloads are balanced and equitable; (4) contract reporters are hired only when court reporters are unavailable or the existing workload is not sufficient to justify a full-time court reporter; and (5) reporters are not inappropriately using substitutes.

    Agency Affected: Judicial Conference of the United States

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Judicial Conference should prohibit official court reporters from engaging in private reporting activities not related to preparing official court transcripts when court is in session or when the reporter is otherwise required to perform court-related activities.

    Agency Affected: Judicial Conference of the United States

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we confirm what actions the agency has taken in response to this recommendation, we will provide updated information.

    Recommendation: The Judicial Conference should terminate employment of any official court reporter who knowingly overcharges for transcripts or engages in prohibited private reporting work.

    Agency Affected: Judicial Conference of the United States

 

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