Many attorneys are unfamiliar with the licensing requirements and rules that govern court reporters and court reporting firms. The court reporter rules, codified in the Texas Judicial Branch Certification Commission Statutes, Rules and Policies, go very deep into what a court reporter can and can’t do in the State of Texas (similar rules apply in other states).
First and foremost, the rules mean that court reporters must uphold high standards and, as non-biased parties to a case, show no prejudice.
What problems can a lack of court reporter rule knowledge create for legal counsel? Well, consider an attorney who changes their mind about waiving witness signatures. The attorney hired the court reporter, so the court reporter should just get the signatures, right? Not so fast. Court reporter rules specify that such a request requires the agreement of all parties to the case.
“Ohhh, I should have thought of that before I waived the signatures,” says the attorney.
Even a simple request for an expedited transcription involves rules. Yes, the court reporter can do that, but they must follow steps and offer the same service to all parties. That’s non-biased. Similarly, the consent of every attorney is required to go off the record. But, here’s a wrinkle— the consent of only one is required to go back on the record.
“Hmmm, did we do that in our last deposition?”
Don’t Lose a Case on a Rule Violation
Why should attorneys know the court reporter rules? Rule violations could mean negligence on behalf of a court reporter or law firm that would adversely affect the case, even make the difference between winning and losing. If you think about what is at stake, it could be hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars.
In the case of serious rule violations, court reporters and court reporting firms can have grievances filed against them, and every law firm can be held liable if negligent. For example,
Attorney A hires XYZ court reporting firm and they send a court reporter to take an expert witness’ deposition. The court reporting firm doesn’t realize the court reporter they sent isn’t a Texas Certified Shorthand Reporter (CSR) because they didn’t do their due diligence confirming the court reporter is certified and in good standing with the State of Texas. The Texas-filed case must have a Texas CSR take down the testimony; otherwise, it’s not admissible in court and can be thrown out. This could be devastating for the hiring attorney’s case.
3 Court Reporter Rules Attorneys Should Know (Plus a bonus)
No one wants to damage their case, so here are three situations involving court reporter rules I encounter frequently that attorneys need to know:
- A non-party or attorney for non-party wants to purchase a copy of a deposition. Code of Ethics, Section 9 prohibits court reporters from doing so unless all parties agree and consent in writing for the non-party to receive a copy.
- 0&1 costs and who is responsible. 0&1 costs represent the cost of taking the deposition and which party bears that cost. Some attorneys mistakenly think it is the attorney who Noticed the Deposition who bears the cost, even if the noticing attorney didn’t ask the first question at the deposition.
When you have multi-parties on both the Plaintiff side and Defense side, this can be very confusing. One Defendant attorney will send the Notice of Deposition to all parties, but a different Defendant attorney will ask the first question of the witness.
The Defendant attorney who asked the first question would receive the invoice for the 0&1 costs. If the attorney’s pay arrangements vary from the Government Code Chapter 52.059(d)(2), it’s imperative the attorneys make a statement to that effect on the record.
- Court reporters must treat all parties in a litigation with honesty, integrity and fair dealing. Per Code of Ethics, Section 4, this includes, but is not limited to, releasing all transcripts for delivery at the same time. Also, offering like services to all parties, i.e. rough drafts, expedited transcripts, copies of video, so no party has an advantage over another.
We get a lot of inquiries about the above situations and rules. And, I would say that questions about fees also fall within in the top tier of queries, so I’ll throw in that one as a bonus.
Bonus: Code of Ethics, Section 17 states that all parties must be charged the same for an original transcript, and all parties must be charged the same for copies of transcripts. Say Attorney A takes a deposition in a case and is charged the O&1 costs. Then Attorney B decides to take a different deposition in the same case. Attorney B must be charged the same as Attorney A. The only fees that would vary would be additional services ordered, i.e. rough draft, expedited transcript, etc. This is true whether attorneys are paying 0&1 costs or copy costs.
Trust Lexitas Court Reporting
Lexitas maintains a core group of experienced independent court reporters who loyally work for Lexitas. This group knows your expectations and is constantly updated on educational topics and rule changes. We resolve any issues with our staff of independent reporters very proactively.
Our court reporters know the rules and follow the highest ethical standards. That knowledge and conduct protects your record and will not hinder your case.
We also offer an online repository of depositions and exhibits with 24/7 access. Three years down the road when you can’t locate or need quick access to that deposition, we’ve got it, and we’ll continue to have it beyond the required retention period, which varies by case type.
It’s good to know the rules that govern court reporters and court reporting firms. It could save you time, headaches and money, maybe even prevent a blemish on your record. You can also trust Lexitas to know the rules and follow them.
About the Author
Janice Eidd-Meadows is the East Texas & Fort Worth Regional Director for Lexitas. She serves on the Court Reporters Advisory Board for the Judicial Branch Certification Commission under the auspices of the Texas Supreme Court.