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Fate of courtroom cameras still unknown

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The federal judge vying to become the next justice on the U.S. Supreme Court favors having cameras in court and says she might be interested in furthering their use at the nation's highest court that has resisted the idea for decades.

During her second day of confirmation hearings Tuesday before the Senate Judiciary Committee, 2nd Circuit Judge Sonia Sotomayor responded to a senator's question about cameras in the courtroom by saying she's participated and volunteered to have cameras in the courtroom, and has had a positive experience allowing the access. While she would listen to all arguments from her Supreme Court colleagues on that procedure if confirmed, she also hinted that she might be a persuasive new voice on the topic.

But even with that hint of change, the Hoosier legal community continues waiting on word from the state's justices about whether a pilot project for cameras in Indiana trial courts will continue. While arguments are broadcast online for the two appellate courts, the trial level has generally been off limits up until the court decided to investigate a change in that procedure.

Justices have been considering the issue for 16 months, since a report was submitted for review to determine what may be in store for Indiana's trial courts as far as camera accessibility. The appellate docket for Pilot Project for Electronic News Coverage in Indiana Trial Courts, No. 94S00-0605-MS-00166, shows no activity since March 27, 2008.

At that time, the Indiana Broadcasters Association and Hoosier State Press Association submitted a final evaluation and summary of the pilot project that lasted from July 1, 2006, to Dec. 31, 2007. The report showed the 18-month process was positive based on those recordings but overall disappointing, since only six proceedings were filmed in eight different courtrooms scattered throughout the state. Evaluators noted that the state's consent rules hindered the tapings, and to improve the process the Indiana Supreme Court could modify that to allow media to record proceedings with only the approval of participating judges, rather than all of the parties involved in a case.

Court spokeswoman Kathryn Dolan told Indiana Lawyer today that the court is still considering the issue and hasn't made a decision.

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  1. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  2. If the end result is to simply record the spoke word, then perhaps some day digital recording may eventually be the status quo. However, it is a shallow view to believe the professional court reporter's function is to simply report the spoken word and nothing else. There are many aspects to being a professional court reporter, and many aspects involved in producing a professional and accurate transcript. A properly trained professional steno court reporter has achieved a skill set in a field where the average dropout rate in court reporting schools across the nation is 80% due to the difficulty of mastering the necessary skills. To name just a few "extras" that a court reporter with proper training brings into a courtroom or a deposition suite; an understanding of legal procedure, technology specific to the legal profession, and an understanding of what is being said by the attorneys and litigants (which makes a huge difference in the quality of the transcript). As to contracting, or anti-contracting the argument is simple. The court reporter as governed by our ethical standards is to be the independent, unbiased individual in a deposition or courtroom setting. When one has entered into a contract with any party, insurance carrier, etc., then that reporter is no longer unbiased. I have been a court reporter for over 30 years and I echo Mr. Richardson's remarks that I too am here to serve.

  3. A competitive bid process is ethical and appropriate especially when dealing with government agencies and large corporations, but an ethical line is crossed when court reporters in Pittsburgh start charging exorbitant fees on opposing counsel. This fee shifting isn't just financially biased, it undermines the entire justice system, giving advantages to those that can afford litigation the most. It makes no sense.

  4. "a ttention to detail is an asset for all lawyers." Well played, Indiana Lawyer. Well played.

  5. I have a appeals hearing for the renewal of my LPN licenses and I need an attorney, the ones I have spoke to so far want the money up front and I cant afford that. I was wondering if you could help me find one that takes payments or even a pro bono one. I live in Indiana just north of Indianapolis.

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