Traditionally, the court reporter has been the unobtrusive one sitting next to the judge's bench quietly recording proceedings.
But that passive role is changing as jobs are threatened by the cool, unblinking eye of the video camera.To preserve their profession, court reporters have become lobbyists.
As the supervising court reporter for Utah's 3rd District Court, Nora Worthen concedes that changes need to be made to improve service. Workloads need to be equalized; delays minimized. Reporters need to update their equipment by purchasing their own computer-aided technology to enable "real time" or simultaneous transcription of their shorthand-coded notes.
With such technology, judges and attorneys can receive transcripts on the same day of trial, if needed. With real-time translation in a modernized courtroom, judges, attorneys and witnesses could view the transcribed, printed version on computer screens.
"With computerized transcription and a computer-integrated courtroom, a live reporter has an advantage over a video camera. A written transcript can be searched for specific passages much easier than using video tape," she said.
The use of video cameras as the official court record has already proved to have flaws, she said. In Kentucky, the Legislature recently passed a law to extend the time period up to 60 days to file an appeal, because it takes longer to review a video than a transcript, she said.
Machines are not infallible. They can break down or fail to pick up mumbled words. "A court reporter's job is to take down verbatim what is said in court. If we don't understand the words spoken or if a speaker speaks too fast, we can stop proceedings and ask for a repeat - and I do it all the time."