Every now and then while on the subway, I will see a court reporter proofreading a transcript. I can’t help but cringe. The particular reporter I saw this week was standing, red pen in hand, probably hoping to make good use of her valuable time. What bothered me, however, was the fact that a woman was reading the transcript over her shoulder. Thank goodness she didn’t pull out exhibits such as tax returns or medical records to review.
Another practice that I find frightening is when reporters put transcripts and accompanying audio on Facebook. While the names of the parties or those present at the proceedings may not be visible on the screen shot, this is still a very bad idea. As you know, information on Facebook can spread like wildfire. It may not actually go viral, but in a world getting smaller by the minute, it’s not too far-fetched to imagine that that post can find its way back to someone who recognizes the voice on the audio or even to the very person himself.
Call me paranoid, but these are not risks I am willing to take. Testimony reported in any setting is confidential and should not be put out for public viewing under any circumstances. I wouldn’t want a phone call from a client who discovered that his words were online because of me. If you were embroiled in litigation, would you want your private matters out there for public viewing?
I heard of an instance where a reporter gave her opinion about an important case on Facebook. This called into question her neutrality and professionalism, and it landed her a meeting before a judge where she was promptly fired. Improper behaviors have consequences.
Discretion is a quality possessed by every professional, but I think that court reporters particularly have a duty, as officers of the court, to be extra careful in this regard. Be mindful of how you handle yourself professionally. More people are watching than you may realize.