The Iowa Judicial Branch plans discuss today whether it should look into the possibility of replacing live court reporters with electronic equipment to record legal proceedings. The executive director of the Iowa Court Reporters Association, Kristina Sickels, says they are worried about losing their jobs, but also about how the job would be done electronically.
Sickels says the role of the court reporter is to "maintain the integrity of the record," and they are worried about whether the electronic recording can do that. Sickels says electronic recording could lead to valuable information being left out of the record.
Sickels says there’s a misconception that the electronic recording gives you a printout of what is happening, as she says someone still has to listen to the tape recording and transcribe what was said.
She says other states have found there sometimes can be portions of the tape where you can’t hear what someone says, and that is listed as "inaudible" in the written report. Sickels says human court reporters add more detail. She says they monitor everything that goes on in the courtroom and if there is someone who isn’t talking loud enough, the court reporter can ask them to speak up. Sickels says there are 185 full-time court reporters in the judicial system.
Sickels says the membership in the association includes both official and free-lance court reporters, and she says they are 90% female. She says many of those women are the heads of households or the primary breadwinners in the family. "It’s interesting because you hear on one hand our political leaders are talking about we need to do job creation, we need to create jobs, and then on the other hand they are talking about this. It’s confusing," Sickels says.
The proposal is one of the things being considered to save money and will be considered by the Iowa Judicial Council, which is made up of Supreme Court chief justice Marsha Ternus, the chief judge of the Iowa Court of Appeals, and the chief judge of each of Iowa’s eight judicial districts.