In January 2023, the Indiana Supreme Court’s Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure introduced a proposed amendment to the Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure. Specifically, the proposed amendment to Rule 74(b), states that “recording through shorthand or stenography is prohibited.” Furthermore, the Indiana Supreme Court has also noted the following:
The proposed amendment to Trial Rule 74 would require all courts (including city and town courts) to record hearings in all case types, prohibit recording through shorthand or stenography, and delete provisions covered in other rules or statutes.
The BCSRA is calling on you personally to submit an official comment, share the information on social media, and to contact any bar associations, judicial associations, attorneys, or judges in the state of Indiana to raise awareness concerning this unprecedented and detrimental amendment. In Indiana, alternative methods of the record have been implemented and in use. However, the absolute prohibition of stenography is discriminatory and is unlike anything we have experienced as a profession. We need all hands on deck. We need folks to fight this and to make sure it does not spread to other states. We need help in saving the jobs of our Indiana colleagues. Please join us in this effort.
What You Can Do
Comment your opposition to proposed Trial Rule 74.
Comments are due February 6, 2023, at 12:00 p.m. Eastern time. Click here to comment.
Voice your opposition to proposed Trial Rule 74.
Call the Committee on Rules of Practice and Procedure at (317) 232-1313.
Sample Comment: Opposition of Proposed Amendment to Rule 74 of the Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure
Dear Office of Judicial Administration:
As a [stenographic reporter/captioner/legal videographer/scopist/member of the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) or British Columbia Shorthand Reporters Association (BCSRA)], I am writing to oppose a proposed amendment to the Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure. Specifically, I oppose the amendment to Rule 74(b), which states that “recording through shorthand or stenography is prohibited.” Furthermore, the Indiana Supreme Court indicated that “the proposed amendment to Trial Rule 74 would require all courts (including city and town courts) to record hearings in all case types, prohibit recording through shorthand or stenography, and delete provisions covered in other rules or statutes.”
I vehemently condemn the prohibition of shorthand or stenography and emphasize that if the amendment to Rule 74 of the Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure is adopted, its implementation would damage the accuracy and security of the record. Moreover, citizens of Indiana would be denied access to the most accurate record. Furthermore, not only would it have disastrous implications for the hardworking and highly skilled stenographic reporters of Indiana, their families, and their livelihood, but it would impact the abilities of participants in the court to enjoy the highest level of record-making available. If the proposed amendment to Rule 74 were enacted, it would abolish shorthand or stenography and supersede current Trial Rule 74, as well as Sections 33 through 41 of the Indiana Code, which have entrusted official court reporters in the state to take down and safeguard the record for decades. Furthermore, the proposed amendment favors alternative methods, such as digital and electronic reporting, to record hearings in all case types.
I believe that eliminating manual transcription of the record and solely permitting artificial, audio, or electronic recordings to serve as the official record would have catastrophic consequences for judges, attorneys, clients, and everyone who relies on the Indiana court system. It would deny them provision by stenographic court reporters of the most technologically advanced courtroom features available.
Employing the services of a realtime stenographic reporter in a well-managed courtroom guarantees that the official court record is an immediate, verbatim reflection of the words spoken during judicial proceedings and ensures that the record is transcribed by an individual physically present in the courtroom. Additionally, the physical presence of an impartial court reporter in the courtroom provides further protection of the record for the benefit of both judges and attorneys, as the certified court reporter knows when and how to ask for clarifications at the time of the proceeding. Further, certified stenographic reporters are officers of the court and have a duty to ensure that the official record is complete, accurate, and secure to preserve the rights of all parties involved. However, the sole implementation of any electronic recording can guarantee neither the accuracy nor the safety of the record.
Specifically, an electronic recording is transcribed after the proceeding has concluded. This presents many challenges as it may be difficult to identify speakers, distinguish between unique accents, or determine the words spoken when the transcriber is not present during the proceeding. As a result of the delayed transcription, this could lead to grave errors in the official court record, which would be damaging to both attorneys and their clients.
Furthermore, states that have already experimented with eliminating certified stenographic court reporters and have implemented recording systems have found that the result is frequent delays, increased costs, and equipment failures in their courtrooms. For instance, in November 2021, the Milwaukee County Court discovered that a record was never created during a bail hearing for Defendant Darrell Brooks because of a failure of audio recording equipment. Several days following the bail hearing, Brooks was released from jail and intentionally drove an SUV through a parade crowd where he killed 6 people and injured another 62 individuals. Afterward, when the court was asked to provide a verbatim account of the previous bail hearing that allowed Brooks to go free days before the tragedy, it was unable to due to a “technical malfunction” in the recording equipment. If the court system had relied on a certified shorthand reporter, rather than audio equipment in this instance, a verbatim record of the bail hearing would have been created and preserved in writing.
Aside from technical malfunctions, missing recordings, or inaudible recordings, digital recording systems also require constant maintenance and upgrades, resulting in more unanticipated expenses for the court system. Moreover, electronic recordings compromise the security of the official court record, as the individual transcribing the record may not be able to certify that the record is completely free from errors or tampering.
Additionally, it must be noted that stenographic court reporters are passionate about the accuracy of the record, hardworking court officials who have a specialized skill set and who have received specific educational training and certification to transcribe court records. Electronic, audio, or digital recording equipment cannot compare with these qualifications or accuracy.
Abolishing shorthand or stenography and only permitting electronic recording of official court records would disrupt the court system in Indiana from operating smoothly and efficiently. Further, I believe that enactment of such a policy would compromise the integrity of the court record. Lastly, support of this amendment would indicate the Indiana Judicial Branch’s failure to protect a profession that is integral to the state’s court system as well as its failure to ensure that certified court reporters retain their ability to provide irreplaceable services in the state. More importantly, this action would remove access to the most accurate record making option for the citizens of Indiana. Every person in Indiana should have the best record possible, and the fact that this amendment is prohibiting the most accurate option available is very disturbing.
I adamantly oppose the proposed amendment to Rule 74 of the Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure as the prohibition of shorthand or stenography within the Indiana court system would significantly harm the Indiana court reporting community and ultimately deny the rights of citizens at large. If the accuracy and integrity of the record are of utmost importance, it is our stance that a stenographic court reporter is the best means of ensuring that the record is protected. Thank you for your time.
[Name of Individual Submitting the Comment]