I. Digital Recording of Court Proceedings
A. Digital recording is a sound recording process that converts audio or analog signals to electronic format for storage and integration with other digital applications, such as case management and calendaring systems.
B. Digital recordings and related materials are part of a comprehensive transcript management system that governs the life cycle of the court record from the initial court proceeding through the filing of a transcript. These recordings and materials are preliminary to the transcript and are owned by the court.
C. Digital recording may not be used as the verbatim recording in death penalty and other felony trials unless (1) authorized by the court and operated according to this policy or (2) as a secondary record of proceedings under a pilot project of limited duration to study the feasibility of a recording system.
II. Licensing of Electronic Reporter-Transcriber (LERT)
A. Preliminary Qualifications
To apply for licensure as a digital monitor, a candidate shall meet the following qualifications:
(1) At least 18 years of age,
(2) High school graduate or equivalent, and
(3) Good moral character.
B. Application for License
A candidate for initial licensure as an Electronic Reporter-Transcribershall:
(1) Apply for, pass, and receive notice of passing both CER (Certified Electronic Court Reporter)
and CET (Certified Electronic Transcriber) exams offered by the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT);
(2) Complete the Board of Court Reporting’s application for a licensed Electronic ReporterTranscriber (LERT); and
(3) Pass the Georgia Written Test that assesses knowledge of the laws, rules, and regulations pertaining to court processes and court reporting in Georgia.
C. Initial and Continuing Education
Within twelve months of initial licensure, a Licensed Electronic Reporter-Transcriber (LERT) shall complete the Board-sponsored educational program for new digital monitors.
To qualify for licensure renewal, a Licensed Electronic Reporter-Transcribershall complete and submit a certificate for a minimum of ten hours of Board-approved continuing education each year.
D. Disqualification for Act of Dishonesty
Any applicant who commits any act of dishonesty with respect to any portion of the exam shall immediately be disqualified and will not be eligible to take the exam again for a period of two years from the date of the exam on which the applicant was disqualified.
After an applicant has met all requirements for licensing, the Board shall issue a license with a unique identification number to the Licensed Electronic Reporter-Transcriber.:
F. Right to Review
The Board reserves the right to refuse to allow testing or licensing of any applicant for good cause.
III. Standard Operating Procedures and Rules
A. Supervision of Digital Monitors
1. The chief judge of each court may designate an administrator or a managing court reporter to oversee the digital audio recording of court proceedings.
2. The administrator or managing court reporter shall be responsible to:
a. Appoint, schedule, and supervise digital monitors for the purpose of equitably distributing workload and assuring the lowest overall cost to the court.
b. Verify certification records for all digital monitors working in the court’s jurisdiction.
c. Review the work and work product of digital recording monitors and report regularly to the chief judge.
d. Manage the preparation of transcripts of digitally recorded proceedings.
e. Coordinate requests and orders for digital recordings and transcripts and review related invoices for payment.
IV. Procedures and Best Practices for the Use of Digital Recording Technology
Signage provides important reminders to litigants, staff, and the public that the proceedings are being recorded and that anything spoken may be recorded.
1. The following is suggested language for signs placed at each table microphone, podium, and on the judge’s bench:
(1) The court may be electronically recording proceedings.
(2) Speak clearly and slowly into the microphone.
(3) Speak in normal conversational tone. Do not whisper.
(4) Do not speak over another person.
(5) Remain seated or at the podium.
(6) Mute microphone for private conversations.
2. The following is suggested language for a sign posted at the courtroom entrance door: The court may be electronically recording proceedings. Silence in the gallery and litigation area is required. Remain seated and do not approach the bench until instructed to do so.
Courtroom participants may also need to be informed that the recording system may purposely or inadvertently remain operational between proceedings and/or after the proceeding has ended.
B. Opening Announcement
For some or all proceedings, the judge may choose to supplement signage by opening the court session with an opening announcement similar to the following: These proceedings are being electronically recorded. Please clearly state your name and appearance for the recording. Speak clearly and directly into the microphone. Do not speak over each other. All responses must be made orally. Avoid gesturing or head nodding, as these gestures will not be captured for the record.
C. Procedures for Licensed Electronic Reporter-Transcriber
The Licensed Electronic Reporter-Transcriber is responsible for producing backed up recordings of court proceedings using a digital recorder. The Licensed Electronic Reporter-Transcriber produces log notes and other material containing the spelling of proper names, unusual terms, and beginning and end times enabling systematic playback.
In general, responsibilities include:
(1) Being physically present in the courtroom during all proceedings;
(2) Assisting in identifying the best placement of microphones in the courtroom to achieve the goal of maximizing channel-to-channel voice separation for all speaking participants;
(3) Monitoring the recording through headphones to ensure that the proceedings are being properly recorded by the digital recording equipment;
(4) Taking and maintaining log notes and relevant lists of attorneys’ names and addresses, witnesses, exhibits, and other information;
(5) Playing back recorded court proceedings, as directed by the judge;
(6) Transcribing all proceedings requested and/or required; and
(7) Ensuring that the recording is properly stored and archived at the court.
1. Case Management System Entries
When appropriate, the Licensed Electronic Reporter-Transcriber may be assigned responsibility for making entries into the court’s case management system (CMS) for proceeding start and end times, appearances, court orders, and next hearing dates. For example, at arraignment or change of plea sessions, the Licensed Electronic Reporter-Transcriber may be assigned responsibility for entering conditions of release, fine amounts, and conditions of probation into the court’s CMS.
2. Practices and Procedures
a. Preparation for proceedings
Make sure that all necessary supplies for producing a recording, making log notes, marking exhibits, and preserving the record are available and accessible. Supplies could include headphones, the court calendar and docket, pens, pencils, legal pads, blank appearance sheets, witness and exhibit lists, and compact disks used for archiving the recording.
ii. Daily Testing
(1) Test the recording and log notes software for operating functionality.
(2) Check the microphone and camera placement in the courtroom according to the type of case and the flow and movement of the participants.
(3) Test the recording quality of each microphone and the wiring by speaking into each microphone and listening to the recorded result on each audio channel.
Problems could be caused by the microphones not being plugged into the proper channels or equipment or not being set on “Record” mode. Report any problems so that they can be fixed prior to the day’s proceedings.
iii. Default Settings
If default settings are used, check whether the system has been set back to the appropriate default setting and, in particular, that the setting accurately identifies the name of the judge presiding over the recorded proceeding.
iv. Communication with Judge
Determine how the judge would like to be notified or interrupted by the Licensed Electronic Reporter-Transcriber during the court proceeding if the record is not being captured.
b. During Proceedings
The recording system should be operated at the direction of the judge.
ii. Confidential Communications
a. The court should post signs providing notice that any conversations occurring in
the room and, in particular any conversations at the attorney/party tables, may be recorded at any time.
b. The court should install microphones with “hold to mute” buttons for microphones used by attorneys and the judge.
iii. Monitor Through Headphones
Using headphones, monitor what is being recorded onto the audio channels, not what is being said into the microphones, ensuring that the proceedings are being adequately and intelligibly recorded (known as “confidence monitoring”).
iv. Interrupting Proceedings
a. The Licensed Electronic Reporter-Transcriber should strive for an unobtrusive presence interrupting proceedings only as necessary and in accordance with protocols established with the judge. Licensed Electronic Reporter-Transcriber must use their best judgment before interrupting, since an interruption may not be desirable at a critical point in testimony. It may be necessary to interrupt proceedings to:
(1) Request the correct spelling of names or technical or unfamiliar names;
(2) Request that a party move closer to the microphone;
(3) Request that a person stop tapping a microphone or shuffling papers too close to it;
(4) Request that a non-verbal response be made audible; or
(5) Request that a party slow down his or her speech pattern.
b. Interrupt the proceeding and notify the judge when a record is not being made.
(1) Technical failure of the equipment
(2) The speaker’s words are inaudible for reasons including:
(3) Audio level of the recording is not adequate
(4) Parties are speaking too softly or too rapidly
(5) Parties are talking simultaneously over each other
(6) Excessive shuffling of papers
(7) A microphone remains muted
(8) Excessive gallery or extraneous noise.
c. Licensed Electronic Reporter-Transcriber must use their best judgment before interrupting. An interruption maynot be desirable at a critical point in testimony.
v. Off the Record Discussions
The recording should be stopped for “off the record” discussions only at the direction of the judge and only as long as the judge directs that the discussions not be recorded.
vi. Sidebar or Bench Conferences
Sidebar or bench conferences are part of the official record and need to be recorded unless the judge orders otherwise. Because these conferences are often whispered, it is important to monitor the volume and to ensure that the log notes identify each speaker.
vii. Jury Voir Dire
Creative microphone placement and/or the use of wireless microphones can help avoid problems with voir dire. The judge and attorneys should address jurors by name or number for proper identification during questioning. Licensed Electronic Reporter-Transcriber may need to be particularly vigilant at asking potential jurors to speak up.
viii. Language Interpreters
Digital recording preserves both the English and the foreign-language interpretation making it possible to confirm accuracy. The interpreter must be provided with a microphone assigned to a channel that is not the same as the channel assigned to the witness in order to ensure that the witness is not speaking over the interpreter. Log notes on when the interpreter is interpreting and the identity of the speaker whose words are interpreted are particularly important.
ix. Log Notes
Log notes allow for a simplified search of the electronic record for the playback of testimony during and after court proceedings.
a. For all court proceedings, log notes must contain:
(1) Names/Identifiers – the full name of the judge, parties, and attorneys present and not present; case caption; and case number; and
(2) Time – the beginning and end times of each proceeding.[Note: The digital recording software should automatically insert the beginning and end times along with any time that the recording is paused, started, or stopped. In court sessions where proceedings overlap, the Licensed Electronic Reporter-Transcriber will need to be particularly diligent at
logging start and stop times and may not be able to rely on the software to do so.]
b. For trials and evidentiary proceedings, log notes must contain:
(1) Names/Identifiers – the full name of the judge, Licensed Electronic Reporter-Transcriber, parties, and attorneys present and not present; case caption; and case number;
(2) Time – the beginning and end times of each proceeding;[Note: Log notes should also identify the time that each type of examination (direct, cross, voir dire) begins, the time that any off the record discussion begins, and the time that the jury enters or leaves the courtroom.]
(3) Spelling/Unusual Names and Terminology – uncommon words, proper nouns, unusual phrases or jargon, events occurring on the record, attorney objections, and court rulings; consider a separate word list with the spelling of proper nouns and technical jargon;
(4) Trial Events – the calling and swearing in of witnesses, the beginning of each type of examination, all attorney objections and court rulings, exhibit marking and identifying, motions for admission of evidence, references to statutes and rules and any other information that would assist transcription; commonly used abbreviations may be useful;
(5) Identifying Speakers by Channel – speakers may move between multiple microphones during a proceeding, so it may be useful to develop a code to identify a speaker on a particular channel at a particular time.[Note: A standard setup for channel allocation could serve as a useful guide in the majority of cases. For example:
① Judge/Jury/Bench or Well
(6) Nonverbal occurrences – such as “witness nodded head” and could indicate times when attorneys are conferring off the record;
(7) Abbreviations – for commonly understood standard terms, such as “YH” for “Your Honor;”
(8) Shortcuts – as needed to identify speakers in the log notes during rapid fire colloquy with the judge, such as “Jones, then Smith, then Judge, Jones again, then Smith, etc.;”
x. Appearance/Information Sheet
a. For indexing case information, enter case information onto a digital or paper appearance/information sheet identifying the case along with the judge’s name and the names and spellings of the attorney(s) representing the parties in the case.[Note: In some recording systems, this information can be entered when a recording is initiated, preserving it in a searchable format directly associated with the recording.]b. For most hearings, the sheet should contain the:
(1) date of the hearing;
(2) full name of the judge and Licensed Electronic Reporter Transcriber;
(3) case number, case name, and type of hearing;
(4) full names and spellings of attorneys and self-represented litigants;
(5) speaker identification codes selected for the log notes;
(6) channel designation and seating arrangement for all parties.[Note: In some recording systems, Licensed Electronic Reporter-Transcriber can create name macros for all parties present for a case, enabling the monitor to quickly insert the full name of a party or an attorney by a single mouse click, entry, or keystroke combination.]
c. For trials and evidentiary hearings, the sheet should contain items (1)-(6), above, and the:
(1) law firm and/or government agency names, street addresses, e-mail
addresses, and business and cell phone numbers;
(2) names of all witnesses;
(3) description and number for all exhibits.
a. As directed by the judge, locate the requested portion and play it back, using the courtroom public address system or sound reinforcement system such as a set of speakers connected to the recording personal computer.
b. After the playback, ask the participants to provide time for the Licensed Electronic Reporter-Transcriber to resume duties before resuming the hearing.[Note: The recording system should support immediate resumption after playback, with no interruption in the proceedings.]
c. At the conclusion of the day’s proceedings
Follow court practice to properly store and archive the recording at the court. This could include:
(1) backing up the day’s recordings to the court’s electronic network,[Note: If the system does not enable backup onto a network, back up the day’s recordings onto a compact disk.]
(2) labeling the recordings to enable their retrieval during the retention period,
(3) setting the system on the appropriate default setting for the next day’s proceedings, and
(4) shutting down the recording system.
D. Procedures for Judges
(1) Verify with the Licensed Electronic Reporter-Transcriber that the system is operational.
(2) Make participants aware that the court proceeding is being electronically recorded.
(3) Remind participants to speak loudly and clearly.
(4) State each case by name and number and type of proceeding each time a case is called.
(5) Remind all participants to properly identify themselves when making their appearance at the beginning of each proceeding and to spell their names for the record.
(6) Request attorneys to give their appearances at the start of each day of a continuous, multi-day trial.
(7) Remind attorneys to take necessary precautions (i.e. cover the microphone or use the mute button) when they wish to consult with clients during the hearing.
(8) Point out to those present that coughing or sneezing near a microphone will adversely affect the recording.
(9) Permit attorneys to remain seated during proceedings and make sure that they are speaking into a microphone.
(10) Remind participants that only one person should speak at a time. Discourage overlapping questions and answers or colloquy.
(11) Discourage speakers wandering around the courtroom unless wireless microphones are used.
(12) Hold on the record bench conference conversations at the bench conference microphone.
(13) Leave the judge’s bench microphone turned on while in session.
E. Procedures for Attorneys and Courtroom Participants
(1) Attorneys should inform their clients of the method of recording being utilized and take
necessary precautions to protect disclosure of confidential communications during proceedings.
(2) Upon speaking for the first time, identify yourself for the record. Spell your name and state whom you represent.
(3) Provide the Licensed Electronic Reporter-Transcriber with the correct spellings of unusual or technical names and words to be used.
(4) Avoid moving microphones.
(5) Always remain within arm’s reach of a microphone. If you approach the bench, wait until you are within arm’s reach of a microphone before speaking again.
(6) For the benefit of the written record, avoid speaking while witnesses or other counsel are speaking. Only one person should speak at a time.
(7) Address jurors by name or number for proper identification during voir dire.
(8) Solicit verbal responses from all witnesses since the recording system can only pick up spoken words. Avoid “uh huh,” “huh-uh”, head nods, and gestures.
(9) Avoid shuffling papers or making other noises when people are talking. Move away from the microphone before coughing or sneezing.
(10) Use the mute button to consult with a client or make statements that should not be recorded. Be sure the mute button is off, and the microphone is on before proceeding.
(11) When at a bench conference, avoid blocking the microphone with documents and speak one at a time into the sidebar microphone.
(12) When there are multiple cases set for hearing, hold discussions outside the courtroom or away from microphones.