The trend of underfunding the court system that has led to a shortage of courtroom interpreters has also extended into the court reporting space, which could put the administration of justice into jeopardy, says Toronto court reporter Kimberley Neeson.

As The Globe and Mail reports, an Ontario judge recently criticized the province for failing to remedy the shortage of qualified court interpreters in the courts, noting that the number of cases “being adversely affected is at an intolerable level.”

A lack of court interpreters speaks to a trend of trying to “get by” with as minimal services to the public as possible, says Neeson, owner of Neeson & Associates Court Reporting and Captioning Inc. – a move which has also been echoed on the court reporting side. The Ministry of the Attorney General, she says, has moved to digital recording of all hearings, shifting the transcript responsibilities onto the public and users of the system as another cost-saving measure.

“While it may save the Ministry of the Attorney General funds, imagine the cost to a client if counsel has to listen to six hours of recorded testimony to find those ‘gems’ in the recorded transcript? Soon litigants will have to find their own transcriptionists to prepare transcripts – and none of these people will have been in the courtroom to hear the testimony, to ask clarifications such as spellings, mishearings, or for people to repeat what they are saying when things are inaudible (paper crumpling, sneezing, etc.) – what will be the costs of such measures to the administration of justice?” asks Neeson.

The services of a trained court reporter are crucial to the courtroom, she says, as court reporters are trained professionals, many of whom who are seasoned veterans to the administration of justice. Professional, certified court reporters are also neutral parties in the preparation of transcripts and the taking of evidence and also invoke state-of-the-art technology in the delivery of their product.

Without a trained court reporter, cautions Neeson, a transcript can suffer in many ways, including:

  • Counsel can purchase the passive audio DVD but will have to conduct manual searches to find what they’re looking for
  • CDs are not searchable in the way electronic transcripts are (or even paper, when it is indexed) – word searches do not work on a CD recording
  • Many transcriptionists may end up preparing a transcript, thereby increasing the likelihood of errors, misspellings and misunderstanding of testimony and submissions
  • No access to documentary evidence or facta as filed by counsel which are used by a trained court reporter to assist in preparing the transcript
  • Increased costs to litigants if lawyers or their staff now begin to sift through CDs to find pertinent testimony
  • Impartiality of the guardian of the record is lost
  • Off-the-record discussions or private conversations may be inadvertently recorded