Star Wars. Good versus evil… Right versus wrong… Those both make interesting fodder for Hollywood blockbusters; most of us rally for the good guy (or gal) because he respects the norms of society and seeks justice for cultural inequalities. I am not sure about you, but when the Star Wars backup music dramatically fills the air, I am ready for some lightsaber action to balance the scales.
Dun, dun, duh-nuh-nuh nuh, nuh!
What does that have to do with court reporting? Those who know me understand that court reporting ethics is a BIG deal in my world. On a daily basis, I fight the good fight to educate clients, colleagues, and the legal community at large regarding the importance of unbiased reporting. I saw an ad recently for the upcoming Star Wars movie. My favorite character from back in the day was Yoda. I wonder what he would have to say about court reporting ethics. The best I could come up with was:
Court reporters contribute to the integrity of the judicial system by serving as unbiased officers of the court.
The NCRA (National Court Reporters Association) has a Code of Ethics which outlines specific rules that all court reporters are expected to follow. I take these ethical guidelines very seriously and have built Donovan Reporting on these principles. As a court reporting firm owner, I wanted to share three important reasons why ethical reporting is so important.
3 Ethical Responsibilities Of Every Court Reporting Firm
- Impartiality. Did you know that your court reporter is ethically and legally obligated to remain impartial and neutral? This means court reporters must provide the same level of service to all parties in the proceeding; partial treatment should not be given to the hiring attorney. This issue often surfaces when there is a “contract” (or handshake agreement) with one side of a case. In these situations, the reporting firm has an ethical obligation to disclose the details and offer the benefits of that agreement to all parties. (I have grandkids, and this is what I call “playing nice in the sandbox.”)
- Incentive gifting. Like it or not, we live in a world of instant gratification where most folks expect some sort of offer to purchase a product or service. Incentive gifting, meaning a direct reward given in exchange for scheduling a future deposition, is strictly prohibited by NCRA. In fact, the Georgia Board of Court Reporting imposes strong restrictions on these practices.
At first glance, it might seem harmless to allow your staff to accept gifts in exchange for scheduling a deposition. However, in reality, this exchange is nothing less than a kickback to your staff member that is financed by your client, and in most cases, without your client’s knowledge. Also, depending on the total value of these gifts, there could be unintended tax consequences placing you at financial risk.
- HIPAA Compliance. Simply stated, what happens in the courtroom or deposition room must stay there. Under HIPAA privacy rules, certain personal information is protected under the law. Did you know that if your reporter shares such information over a business lunch (or afterhours cocktail) with other reporters they could be placing you at risk?All court reporting firms should have a HIPAA Policies and Procedures Manual in place, and all reporters and staff should be HIPAA trained and HIPAA compliant. In addition, it is the court reporter’s responsibility to protect all files, exhibits, and other materials associated with a case. I have been blown away by the number of firms that do not comply with these rules (which were enacted back in 2013, by the way). When it comes to choosing a court reporting firm, do not allow this practice to influence your staff members. Selecting a court reporter should be based solely upon qualifications, dependability, integrity, and value.
Remember, court reporters are responsible for capturing AND PROTECTING the record. Make sure you are working with a firm that embraces the highest ethics and integrity. I hope this information helps prompt a conversation with your staff members regarding the selection of an ethical and unbiased court reporting firm.
Not sure if your reporting firm is ethical?
We’ve created an informative brochure which will help you make an educated determination. To receive a free copy of this valuable resource, simply complete the form below and we’ll drop it in the mail.
Yours for ethical reporting,
Lori T. Donovan, RMR, CRR
Certified Court Reporter