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Court Reporting Shell Game

Defense Attorneys

Many NJ defense firms represent clients through insurance carriers, who have entered into a contractual relationship with a court reporting outfit to provide services at a reduced cost.  Defense counsel are then instructed they must use that reporting agency for all that carrier’s work.
This can present a number of problems for defense counsel and you may want to make your clients aware of potential pitfalls in this regard.

CONTRACTING:  You should be aware that under 13:43-5.4 (Prohibited Practices) a “Certified Court Reporter shall not provide or arrange to provide reporting services, in a judicial or quasi-judicial matter and/or a deposition, if he or she is a ‘relative, agent or employee of one of the parties.’”  

Further, #3 indicates that a Certified Court Reporter shall not “enter into or arrange any contract or financial relationship that compromises the impartiality of the certified court reporter…or that may result in the appearance that the impartiality of the certified court reporter…has been compromised.”

An adversary may or may not have the right to object to a particular transcript on the grounds that the reporter or the entity who “arranged” for the reporter is a “relative, agent or employee of one of the parties” and that that relationship compromises the impartiality or results in the appearance that the impartiality of the reporter has been compromised. 

TRANSCRIPT FORMAT:   There are Transcript Format requirements under 13:43-5.9 that require, among other things, a certain amount of lines per page (25) and characters per line (52).  You should be aware that some transcripts are not being produced according to these guidelines and it may be costing you or your client money.  By shrinking the margins and changing the characters per line from 52 to 39, a transcript could be increased by 25%.  A 100-page deposition can quickly turn into 125 pages if these formats are not followed.  In a bill-by-the-page industry, this is an issue you should make your client aware of.  Thumb through a transcript and seek out the longest line of testimony.  Count the letters and spaces between each word.  It should be 52.  If it is drastically off, you or your client has paid for a bloated transcript.  That contractual “deal” may not be as beneficial to your client as they thought, but they will never know about it unless their attorneys provide the information.

  More and more agencies are utilizing non-Certified Court Reporters, who may be in violation of 13:43-2.3 “Employment of temporary registered reporters.”  These are reporters who are either students, or have graduated court reporting school but have yet to pass the State-mandated test.   They are usually paid less than a Certified Reporter, and so attractive to some entities who are billing the client at the same rates as they charge for Certified reporters. You should ask each reporter if they are certified and note their license number.  There are a number of Rules governing depositions vis-à-vis a non-licensed reporter, including the fact that the non-licensee must inform all parties/counsel beforehand that they are not Certified; reading and signing is NOT waived; the transcript must be reviewed by a Certified Court Reporter; and appropriate paperwork is to be filed with the Board of Court Reporting.  Your adversary may or may not have the right to object to the transcript if 13:43-2.3 has not been followed. 

If you have been instructed by a carrier client that you must utilize a particular reporting service, you may want to bring this to their attention, as they will most likely never know if the contracted entity is providing Certified reporters or not.

For more information on this subject, please read “The Court Reporting Shell Game” and “Fear the Middleman”.

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