Court reporters serve a critical role in maintaining the integrity of the judicial system by serving as an unbiased officer of the court. If your court reporter isn’t providing ethical excellence, it is definitely time to work with one that is.
Why are ethics in reporting so important?
The NCRA (National Court Reporters Association) has a Code of Ethics which outlines specific rules that all court reporters are expected to follow. As a court reporting firm owner, I take these ethical guidelines very seriously and have built Donovan Reporting on these principles. I hope by sharing this information, you’ll be informed regarding why ethical reporting is so important.
3 Ethical Responsibilities Of Every Court Reporting Firm
Impartiality. Simply stated, your reporter is legally and ethically obligated to remain impartial and neutral. This means providing the same level of service to all parties in the proceeding and not offering partial treatment to the hiring party. This particular 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.
HIPAA compliant. Using Vegas as our roadmap here, what happens in the deposition room or courtroom must stay in the deposition room or courtroom. Under HIPAA privacy rules, certain personal information is protected under the law. If your reporter enjoys sharing such information over lunch with other reporters or not otherwise protecting this information, 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. It may surprise you to learn how many firms have not taken the time and attention required to comply with these new rules enacted in September of 2013.
Incentive gifting. Incentive gifting, meaning a direct reward given in exchange for scheduling a future deposition, is strictly prohibited by NCRA, and the Georgia Board of Court Reporting also imposes restrictions on these practices. Allowing staff members to accept gifts and/or rewards in the form of “points” which may later be traded for gifts may at first glance seem to be harmless. However, when you think about it, this is nothing less than a kickback to your staff member, ultimately financed by your client, and in most cases without your client’s knowledge. Also, depending upon the total amount of these gifts, there could be unintended tax consequences which place you at risk. This practice also has at least some influence on staff members when it comes to choosing your court reporter, a decision which should rightfully be based upon qualifications, dependability, integrity, and value.
I hope this information helps prompt a conversation with your staff members regarding your selection of a court reporting firm. 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.
Yours for neutral and fair reporting,
Lori T. Donovan, RMR, CRR
Certified Court Reporter