Voice Recognition Technology: Can It Really Replace the Expertise of Certified Court Reporters?

A few courts, in an effort to replace certified court reporters, have begun implementing the use of digital recording devices or, many times, a combination of the two. The savings generated from cutting the expense of hiring court reporters have allowed them to outfit their courtrooms with digital recording systems.

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But are digital recording systems really all they’re cracked up to be? For many, the hidden costs and downside of these systems may outweigh the initial benefits.

The Expense of Digital Recording Systems

At first it may seem like the upfront cost of a digital recording system is but a fraction of what it would cost to pay court reporters. However, the cost of a digital recording system may extend far beyond the original purchase. For example, the cost of a digital recording system may cost as little as $2,000, but the real cost comes in during the hardwiring of the equipment, as this may cost up to $20,000.

In addition, digital recording systems are only as good as the network on which they operate. Courts must invest in frequent network upgrades as to adequately store large, digital files. And that cost may exceed $50,000. Other expenses may involve the maintenance and upgrade of everything from wiring and audio to software and data storage.

Finally, digital recording systems still demand individuals who can run and monitor the system, thereby resulting in another expense. The operation of this equipment demands a highly qualified individual, who is more often than not a dedicated IT professional.

The Accuracy of Digital Recording Systems

Courts are often under the misperception that digital recording devices are more accurate than court reporters. However, this often holds untrue, as digital devices are incapable of being able to react to emotions or to contentious dialogue that often occurs in courtroom proceedings. These devices are also incapable of separating courtroom noises and from stopping proceedings if outside noises make testimony inaudible. Finally, digital recording systems cannot distinguish the difference between on- and off-record statements.

Many courts who have implemented digital recording systems in place of live stenographers have reverted back due to these issues, citing that there simply is no substitute for the presence of a live court reporter.