Monday, June 18, 2012

Court recording instead of reporters

AP reports:
The iconic figure of the court stenographer has largely been replaced by digital recording devices in Superior Court in Hackensack and Paterson and almost all such courtrooms in New Jersey as the state judiciary moves toward new technology.

Proponents say the change is a successful, cost-effective attempt by courts to keep pace with technology and keep reliable records of proceedings. But the switch also is being watched closely by skeptics, who say recording technology is never a full substitute for a court reporter.

Of concern are the uniquely human aspects now absent. For instance, court reporters often interrupt proceedings to get every word uttered by someone in a low tone or if more than one person is speaking at once. Recording equipment cannot do that, which explains the "inaudible" entries that often punctuate court transcripts from digital recordings.
Using recording machines is inevitable. Court reporters are a luxury. The local Santa Cruz reporter has dropped its court reporters from the family court, so proceedings are not reported or recorded unless the parties hire their own reporter.

The courts should just record everything and post the recordings online.

I do not agree that reporters are better when two parties speak at once. The local court has separate microphones for each speaker, so it could record a separate audio streams for each microphone. And if two people are speaking at once, then the judge is probably not getting it anyway.

As it is, people come out of family court confused about what happened and with no way to get a record. All because some judges don't like recording in the courtroom.


Anonymous said...

it would actually be simple and cheap to set up a digital recording system in each of the courtrooms. As far as missing words you simply use what's known as a "compressor" that evens out the sound from each microphone so you'd easily capture everything anyone says. They cost less than 100 dollars each.

Digital storage is cheap and plentiful and the courtroom system could be run off a standard PC. The audio equipment to interface the microphones to the computer and recording software are dirt cheap, too.

And if someone wants a transcript the court clerk could simply give them a CD of their case for a few bucks. Much like they charge for making copies out of your case file.

This is not rocket science and would be much cheaper than a court reporter. There is no financial or technological reason not to do this.

Anonymous said...

back of the envelope calculations shows me that the four courtrooms in Watsonville and the six (?) in Santa Cruz could be outfitted with simple digital recording gear using existing PCs and mics for under 2000 dollars, probably less, actually.

George said...

You are right. They have the microphones, and probably have the recording gear. The article says "high-tech digital recording system costs $15,000 to $18,000 per courtroom". That would buy some high-grade equipment, but still be a lot cheaper and more convenient than court reporters.

Anonymous said...

you don't need to install that level of gear in a court room unless you're trying to set up an Abbey Road Studios West. There's plenty of inexpensive but reliable gear out there today that'd do the job for a few hundred per court room. Installation is easy, too.

Agreed that even if they decide they want the Abbey Road Studios level gear it's a helluva lot cheaper than the court reporter, especially with those government retirement packages. It's all about transparency and the lack thereof. Note in today's news that Google is now getting an order of magnitude greater number of requests compared to earlier that year (2011) from US government agencies to censor or remove "sensitive" or "objectionable" content. I see no difference between the Bush and Obama regimes anymore.

Unknown said...

Until these digital recording devices are able to decipher between tones and actual words, I feel that humans should still be employed at every hearing. My friend that works as a Tampa court reporter told me that she is seeing a lot more courts utilizing this type of technology. He has the same logical complaints as you do. This opportunity may offer less costs, but it is producing results that are far inferior to the accuracy of a human. Thank you for sharing the importance of this issue.