The nation’s court reporters play an essential role in preserving the official record of what transpired in hundreds of thousands of court cases across the country every year. Because the court reporter’s records often serves as a basis for the official record of events, court reporters must always remain highly attentive, alert, and professional while performing their duties. And while the vast majority of the nation’s stenographers are highly responsible when working, recent allegations surrounding a Manhattan court reporter shows what can happen when things go wrong.
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Authorities have discovered that during a high profile criminal trial in Manhattan, New York the court stenographer typed the words “I hate my job, I hate my job,” and other “gibberish” instead of recording the dialog from the trial. Though this may not seem like a big deal, this case of an employee deliberately acting out is causing a major headache for the city’s legal system.
Upon discovering the errors, city officials checked several other transcriptions from the same employee and found additional instances of unintelligible stenography. The lack of an accurate official transcript may allow defense attorneys to challenge court decisions, and leave officials handicapped in responding to the challenges.
The court reporter who was responsible for this snafu was the official stenographer during the 2010 case of Aaron Hand, who was convicted of attempting to hire a hit man to kill a witness in a court case he was undergoing. But is not just the Hand case that is threatened by the court reporter’s lack of good judgment. In all, officials are stating that up to 30 cases, which have already been tried and won by the government, are now in jeopardy.
The court reporter, who was fired in 2012 for misconduct, was subsequently arrested so that officials could try to have him reconstruct gibberish that he typed. When that effort failed, authorities were forced to ask witnesses, and others involved in the cases, to help them reconstruct what happened, a process which is ongoing.