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Court amends public accessibility, other rules

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The Indiana Supreme Court has revised its administrative and appellate rules governing how trial courts make records publicly accessible and how appeals are handled in certain cases requiring confidentiality.

Orders dated Oct. 6 dictate access to court records and says trial courts may manage access to audio and video recordings of its proceedings to the extent that may be deemed appropriate and not interfering with court operations. Justices reached a decision on the issue late last week during a weekly conference.

When a trial judge seals a portion or entire case, that decision carries over to the appellate courts unless the appellate court decides otherwise.

At the appellate level, the clerk is required in certain confidentially bound cases - such as juvenile, paternity, and termination of parental right cases - to make the appellate chronological case summary publicly accessible but is able to change the party names "in a matter reasonably calculated to provide anonymity and privacy."

That confidentially extends to appellate arguments and hearings, where attorneys will refer to the case and parties as identified on the record and not be able to disclose anything excluded from public access.

In studying this issue during the past year, the Indiana Supreme Court's Records Management Committee had originally discussed the possibility of creating a second docket that would be publicly accessible in order to shield the parties, as well as the attorneys involved in the case. That is not happening, according to the court order and the committee's chair, Justice Brent Dickson.

"This doesn't attempt to create a formula," Justice Dickson said. "It's basically an operational call by the clerk, and the clerk is to come up with what they find appropriate for designations to meet the rule and comply with statutory obligations."

In the order, the court also amended its rule regarding court record security and added commentary that includes examples of what judges can do to ensure recordings aren't altered.

"The court is required to preserve the integrity of audio and video recordings of court proceedings," the rule states, adding that options include supervised playback for listening or copying, creating a copy of the record for use during playback, and notifying the involved parties about the accessed record.

Rule revisions take effect Jan. 1, 2009. Both the appellate rule order and the administrative rules order can be found listed on the state judiciary's website.

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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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