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Important Terms about Court Reporters & Stenographers
Court reporters are important agents in legal proceedings. They are responsible for transcribing hearings and trials, thereby creating a permanent record of what transpires in a courtroom. If you're new to the world of court reporting, you may encounter certain words and concepts with which you may not be familiar. Below we'll define certain terms associated with court reporting.
Court Reporter - A trained professional entrusted with the responsibility of transcribing what is said during litigation. This can be done with a variety of methods. Some reporters use a stenographic machine, others repeat testimony into a dictation machine. Still others employ computer-aided transcription. Sometimes called stenographers, they are vital agents in preserving courtroom testimony for future reference.
Stenotype Machine - A kind of simplified typewriter that allows stenographers to record everything said in the courtroom. Also called a shorthand machine or a stenotype. Stenotype machines allow one to type in shorthand, allowing much greater speed than one would achieve on a regular keyboard.
Verbatim - Word for word. Court reporters are expected to transcribe in a verbatim fashion--that is, including every word.
Deposition - Oral or written legal testimony taken down outside the courtroom for later use during the proceedings.
Litigation - The process of engaging in legal proceedings.
Scopist - A person who edits and proofreads the transcript prepared by the court reporter.
Voicewriting - A transcription method where the reporter repeats everything said in the courtroom into a hand-held mask. The mask is outfitted with microphones, and its design prevents the reporter from being heard by others.
Court reporters and stenographers prepare official records of court transcripts. There are at least two common methods for transcribing testimony, depositions, and proceedings at a trial. One is to use shorthand machines. The other is to transcribe the testimony verbatim.
Many of the court reporters and stenographers are registered notary publics. This allows the writers to take legal statements from people who are under oath and to verify dictation as an accurate record for the courts.
Depending on the trial, a court might not allow audio or video recording machines. This makes it pertinent for shorthand experts to take dictation of the proceedings. That way the court officials can review accurate records and keep transcripts for future reference.
One of the important skills that court reporters must have is the ability to use a stenotype, otherwise known as a shorthand typewriter, to keep accurate records of individual voices. This is a faster method than writing litigation and mediation testimony by hand, so it has become necessary for those in the field.
Many law firms, courts, mediation organizations, and similar associations hire stenographers who have taken classes to prepare them for the types of language used in certain situations. For instance, a courtroom conducting a trial about embezzlement will typically want the proceedings transcribed by a stenographer with experience in finance law.
When reviewing the minutes of a transcript hearing, the stenographer might need to state officially that the litigation on record is accurate. This is one reason that many litigation stenographers are notary publics who can sign official documents.