Court reporting is a large field that incorporates several job descriptions, ranging from closed captioning, to live sign language interpretation.
It is worth noting that court reporters – no matter the subspecialty – go through the same training programs. However, it is only those that are appointed by the court (normally, highly skilled stenographers) that can be called ‘official court reporters’.
Official court reporters are typically permanent employees, hired by either the state or federal government. Their primary role is to take verbatim records of court proceedings and produce official records of assigned cases.
Notably, all court reporters must possess high levels of competence and trustworthiness. This is because their work is vital to the fair administration of justice. They are, therefore, required to follow strict guidelines (when recording proceedings or producing transcripts) to keep the court process fair and transparent.
Official Court Reporter Duties
The duties of a judicial court reporter depend on whether they work in a federal, state or county court. Nonetheless, their general job descriptions include:
- Generating verbatim records of court proceedings using stenotype, shorthand or steno masks.
- Reading back previous testimony at the request of the court.
- Editing and proofreading transcripts before preparing a final draft.
- Research and fact-check abbreviations, names and other facts to enable them prepare accurate transcripts.
- Producing transcripts within the (often strict) deadlines given.
- Giving assistance to judges, legal counsel and other court members in matters involving transcripts of minutes and court rulings.
- Maintaining credible and accurate records in accordance with court policies.
They also perform administrative duties such as :
- Sending invoices for official transcripts produced
- Delivering and mailing transcripts.
Judicial Reporters in A U.S. District Court
The minimum requirements for getting an official court reporting job in a typical U.S .District Court include:
- At least 4 years experience as a court reporter, whether in an official capacity or as a freelancer.
- Being a member of the National Court Reporter Association (NCRA), which basically comes after passing the Registered Professional Reporter exam.
Due to the fact that there are more qualified reporters compared to the jobs available, most courts often set high qualification requirements. Nonetheless, the federal court reporting standards require all court reporters to be able to:
- Produce verbatim records of all criminal proceedings in open courts
- Accurately record all the other open court proceedings assigned to them
- Record any other legal proceedings as directed by a judge or a court
Employment and Salaries for Official Court Reporters
While some court reporters are appointed on indefinite terms, some courts may at times prefer to hire freelance court reporters. Freelance reporters have to take an oath every time they record court proceedings.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of a court reporter in the United States, as of May 2012, was $53,010. However, the salary varies from state to state. For instance, in Illinois, courts pay their reporters between $37,000 and $42,000, while in Arizona, salaries range from $49,712 to $65,000.