In business, customer service is paramount. The person who pays is the person whose opinion and wants matter. “The customer is always right” is the credo of successful companies.
In court reporting, however, it’s different. Though one firm books the court reporter for a deposition or hearing, the court reporter’s loyalties don’t lie with that firm or party. All court reporters - whether official or freelance, whether stenotype or stenomask or electronic - are impartial guardians of the record and officers of the court.
Ethical standards vary by jurisdiction and licensing authority, but we’ve listed below a set of common standards:
Be fair and impartial toward each participant in all aspects of reported proceedings and always offer to provide comparable services to all parties in a proceeding.
Be alert to situations that are conflicts of interest or that may give the appearance of a conflict of interest. If a conflict or a potential conflict arises, the court reporter shall disclose that conflict or potential conflict.
Guard against not only impropriety, but the appearance of impropriety.
Preserve the confidentiality and ensure the security of information, oral or written, entrusted to the court reporter by any of the parties in a proceeding.
Be truthful and accurate when making public statements or when advertising the court reporter’s qualifications or the services provided.
Determine fees independently from other firms.
Refrain from giving, directly or indirectly, any gift or anything of value to attorneys or their staff, other clients or their staff, or any persons or entities associated with any litigation.
The common thread is that a court reporter/firm is required to treat each side equally and produce a true, accurate, and complete transcript of proceedings.
Sometimes court reporters are put in an awkward position by an attorney who thinks the reporter is “their” reporter. They might ask for their transcript to be delivered on an expedited basis and for the reporter to not let the other side know that it had been expedited. They might ask for a discount on services if they book the firm to take all of the depositions in a case. On their face those requests don’t seem horribly wrong, but give the appearance of favoritism.
On rare occasions, attorneys have asked court reporters to attempt to listen to conversations between opposing counsel and the witness during breaks. That’s obviously an extreme example, and the vast majority of attorneys would never ask a reporter to do such a thing. But if a reporter or firm has given the attorney small favors in the past - such as the type mentioned in the preceding paragraph - it sets a precedent where bigger “favors” will be requested.
At Legal Media Experts we take our ethical responsibilities very seriously, remembering that while the attorneys are our customers, we are officers of the court and impartial guardians of the record.