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Court Reporting Standards and Best Practices

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I. Court Reporter Qualifications

Standard of Operation

1. Court reporting employees and contract service providers shall meet all professional standards and training requirements established by Florida statute, court rule, the State Courts System, and the chief judge of the circuit.

Best Practices

1. Court employees or contractors providing stenographic services for the State Courts System will achieve and maintain the designation of Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) as defined by the National Court Reporters Association.

2. Court employees or contractors providing digital court reporting or transcript services for the State Courts System will achieve and maintain certification with the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT).

3. Court employees or contractors providing voice-writing services for the State Courts System will achieve and maintain certification with the National Verbatim Reporters Association (NVRA).

4. Judicial circuits shall ensure availability to real-time stenographic services, either through the use of court employees or contract service providers.

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II. Oversight

Standards of Operation

1. Court reporting program employees and contract service providers are officers of the court and must comply with all applicable Florida statutes, court rules, and other requirements as established by the State Courts System and the chief judge of the circuit.

2. Judicial circuits shall comply with court reporting contracting requirements as established by the State Courts System.

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III. Use of Clerk of Court Staff

Standard of Operation

1. Judicial circuits shall not engage clerk of court staff to provide court reporting services, other than those services or responsibilities established by Florida statute, court rule, and the State Courts System.

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IV. Cross-Training

Best Practice

1. Judicial circuits shall explore cross-training initiatives with their court reporting employees for the provision of court reporting services.

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V. Assigning Coverage

Best Practice

1. Court staff responsible for scheduling hearings and preparing dockets will provide dockets to the court reporting manager or other designated court administration professional or contract service provider as far in advance as possible to ensure adequate time to assign appropriate court reporting coverage of proceedings.

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VI. Eliminating Analog Recording

Best Practice

1. Judicial circuits shall refrain from utilizing analog audio recording and should attempt, where practical, to replace analog with digital recording capability.

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VII. Service Delivery Models

Best Practice

1. Judicial circuits shall implement procedures for assigning court reporting coverage of proceedings recorded at public expense as follows:

a. Digital court reporting alone should be used for county criminal, domestic violence injunction, delinquency, dependency, Baker Act, Marchman Act, guardianship, Jimmy Ryce, and general magistrate/hearing officer proceedings.
b. Either stenography or digital court reporting may be used for circuit criminal proceedings (unless digital court reporting is otherwise unavailable), termination of parental rights proceedings, crossover cases (Unified Family Court cases), and proceedings taking place outside of the regular business hours of the court.
c. Stenography alone should be used for capital cases and circuit criminal trials. Specifically, real-time or CAT stenography should be prioritized for capital case trials and post conviction proceedings.

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VIII. Monitoring Ratios

Best Practice

1. Judicial circuits shall implement procedures for assigning the monitoring of proceedings recorded at public expense using the following ratios of the number of proceedings vs. court reporters:

a. Circuit criminal trials, capital cases, county criminal trials, Jimmy Ryce trials, and termination of parental rights proceedings should be monitored at a 1:1 ratio.
b. Delinquency and dependency proceedings should be monitored at a
2:1 ratio. All other circuit and county criminal proceedings and domestic violence injunction proceedings should be monitored at a 3:1 ratio.
c. Baker Act, Marchman Act, guardianship, and Jimmy Ryce proceedings should be monitored at a ratio of 4:1. However, this ratio may be lowered to 1:1 if these proceedings are held offsite and/or the presiding judicial officer is using a portable digital device.
d. General magistrate/hearing officer proceedings should also be monitored at a ratio of 4:1, if monitored by a digital court reporter as opposed to the presiding magistrate or hearing officer.

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IX. Participant Responsibilities

Standard of Operation

1. Judicial circuits shall codify the responsibilities of all participants during a proceeding to ensure the quality of the official record.

Best Practices

1. Judges, general magistrates, and hearing officers shall: notify participants of the method of recording being utilized, remind participants to speak into the microphone at a sufficient volume and answer verbally; ask participants to identify themselves and spell their names for the record; notify court administration, the clerk, or contract service provider if equipment has been tampered with or is not functioning; remind participants to protect the equipment; signify when it is appropriate for attorneys to utilize mute buttons; and recess periodically during lengthy proceedings so that court reporters may remain alert and effective.

2. Attorneys shall inform their clients of the method of recording being utilized and take necessary precautions to protect disclosure of confidential communications during the proceeding.

3. Court reporters shall monitor equipment during a proceeding to ensure adequate operation and immediately notify the presiding judicial officer of problems with the equipment.

4. Bailiffs shall ensure that all participants refrain from tampering with equipment including the inappropriate use of microphone mute buttons or the unauthorized removal of microphones from their original location.

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X. Preventing the Recording of Confidential Communications

Standard of Operation

1. Judicial circuits shall post signs inside and outside of all rooms in which proceedings are recorded using audio technology. The signs shall provide notice to all who enter that any conversations occurring in the room may be recorded.

Best Practices

1. Judicial circuits shall post signs at attorney tables within rooms in which audio technology is used to record proceedings. The signs shall caution attorneys and their clients that their conversations may be recorded.

2. Judicial circuits shall install microphones with “hold-to-mute” capability for those microphones used by attorneys or presiding judicial officers in proceedings recorded using non-portable digital technology.

3. Judicial circuits shall conduct periodic training for stakeholders commonly coming into contact with the use of audio recording technology. The training shall include a description of how the technology is operated and tips for effective courtroom behavior specific to the stakeholder.

4. Judicial Circuits shall distribute and/or make readily available audio recording resource materials (i.e., pamphlets, guide books, operator manuals, etc.) for stakeholders to assist with ensuring the quality of the official record.

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XI. Operating Digital Recording Equipment

Standards of Operation

1. Digital recording systems shall comply with all statewide standards for digital court recording as established by the Florida Courts Technology Commission.

2. Judicial circuits shall implement procedures for regular testing of digital court recording systems to ensure proper operation.

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XII. Tagging the Digital Recording

Standards of Operation

1. Judicial circuits shall ensure appropriate tagging of digital recordings is performed for proceedings in which there is a significant likelihood that transcripts will be requested.

2. Judicial circuits shall establish standardized “tags” and produce a reference document of same to be distributed to all circuit court reporting staff, contract service providers, and approved transcriptionists.

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XIII. Ownership of the Official Record

Standard of Operation

1. The court shall retain ownership and control over the official record whether it is in paper or electronic format. The court shall also reserve the right to full and complete access to any unedited notes, paper tapes, electronic files, and audio or video recordings used to create the official record.

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XIV. Storage

Standards of Operation

1. Judicial circuits, contract service providers, and vendors of digital technology shall comply with all storage and retrieval standards for digital court recording as established by the Florida Courts Technology Commission and otherwise established by the State Courts System and the chief judge of the circuit.

2. Judicial circuits shall codify record retention protocols to be applied to stenographic paper tape/notes, unedited CAT/real-time text, analog and digital recordings in accordance with rule 2.430, Florida Rules of Judicial Administration.

3. Judicial circuits shall implement storage and retrieval procedures to ensure timely and secure access to transcripts, analog or digital recordings, and any supporting materials related to the production of the official record.

Best Practices

1. Judicial circuits shall examine the provision of secure and direct access to a network of electronic files and digital recordings related to the official record for certain internal stakeholders of the court such as court reporting employees, judges, general magistrates, and hearing officers. Circuits shall also examine the feasibility of providing limited and secure access to other stakeholders such as state attorneys, public defenders, and court-appointed counsel.

2. Judicial circuits shall not disclose back-up recordings of proceedings to persons not employed or contracted by the court.

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XV. Transcript Production

Standards of Operation

1. Transcripts may only be produced by employee or contract court reporters and transcriptionists approved by the court in accordance with rule 2.535, Florida Rules of Judicial Administration.

2. All persons approved by the court to perform court reporting transcription services shall comply with all applicable court rules and standards established by the State Courts System and the chief judge of the circuit.

3. All judicial circuits shall codify protocols for transcript production in accordance with court rule and standards established by the State Courts System. These protocols shall include, but are not limited to: procedures preventing transcription of off-the-record discussions, sidebar conferences, attorney-client conversations; and other confidential information; the court’s process for approving transcription services; and certification of the transcript for correctness.

4. Judicial circuits shall enter an administrative order developing and implementing a circuit-wide plan for court reporting in all trials in which the state seeks the death penalty and in capital postconviction proceedings in accordance with rule 2.535, Florida Rules of Judicial Administration.

5. All persons approved by the court to perform court reporting transcription services shall give priority to capital cases in the production of transcripts.

6. Judicial circuits shall prohibit the “loaning out” of stenographic notes in capital cases to ensure the court reporter has immediate access to the notes for production of the transcript.

7. Judges shall give immediate instruction to the court reporter to begin transcription upon the return of the verdict in capital cases and immediately initiate an order approving the production of the transcript (if applicable).

8. Judicial circuits shall incorporate requirements related to expedited transcript requests in court reporting service contracts.

9. Judicial circuits shall specify consequences for contractors who fail to meet expedited transcript requirements in court reporting service contracts.

Best Practices

1. Judicial circuits shall encourage collegiality between all persons involved in expediting transcripts for capital cases.

2. Judicial circuits shall collaborate with appellate courts regarding the oversight and management of the court reporting process, with particular emphasis on the production of transcripts for capital, dependency, and termination of parental rights cases.

3. When requested, judicial circuits may provide a transcript for: appellate review, other purposes in which a transcript is considered a necessity by the court in the best interest of justice, or if an audio/video file is unavailable. A copy of the audio/video file, if available, shall be provided for all other purposes to the extent allowable under court rule.

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XVI. Producing Copies of Recordings

Standards of Operation

1. All judicial circuits shall codify protocols for producing copies of audio/video recordings in accordance with court rule and standards established by the State Courts System. These protocols shall include, but are not limited to: procedures preventing the release of confidential information; the court’s process for ensuring the accuracy of the recording; and certification of the recording for correctness. [As amended by Administrative Order SC11-22]

2. Copies of audio/video recordings mya be made available to attorneys of records, parties to a case, and self-represented litigants upon request so long as acknowledgement is provided with the copy that states confidential information may be contained on the recording, further dissemination of confidential contained on the recording is prohibited, and violation of the prohibition against dissemination may subject the requestor to an action for contempt of court. [As amended by Administrative Order SC11-22]

3. Copies of audio/video recordings may be made available to the public at large after review to ensure that matters protected from disclosure are kept confidential in accordance with court rule and Florida Statute. [As amended by Administrative Order SC11-22]

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XVII. Cost Sharing

Best Practices

1. Judicial circuits using state funded court employees to provide transcription services for public defenders, state attorneys, and court-appointed counsel shall operate under the cost sharing arrangement.

2. When requested, judicial circuits operating under the cost sharing arrangement may provide transcripts to the state attorneys, public defenders, and court-appointed counsel for: appellate review, other purposes in which a transcript is considered a necessity by the court in the best interest of justice, or if an audio/video file is unavailable. A copy of the audio file, if available, shall be provided to these entities for all other purposes to the extent allowable under court rule.

3. Judicial circuits operating under the cost sharing arrangement are required to provide a “statement of services provided” to local state attorneys, public
defenders, the Justice Administrative Commission, and the Office of the State Courts Administrator. The “statement of services provided” shall include those services that will or will not be provided by state-funded court employees versus those services that may be purchased independently from contractors. This documentation shall also include services provided or not provided by division of court, proceeding type, and any variation that exists by county and/or courthouse. The “statement of services provided” shall include a corresponding time period in which these terms are in effect and shall be no less than one fiscal year (July 1 – June 30).

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