Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Indiana Court Reporting Pilot Project Underway

December 20, 2012 by James F. Maguire

Background

“The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”

—Albert Einstein

Indiana trial courts use primarily audio digital equipment to make a record when conducting business. County-paid court reporters are responsible for keeping the record of proceedings and preparing a written transcript when requested. The courts of record in each county adopt local rules that govern court reporting services and set the permissible court reporter per page fees for both private and indigent transcripts, subject to Supreme Court review and approval. Each court reporter submits an annual report on income generated through the preparation of court transcripts. Court reporters statewide collected approximately $1,862,000 in 2011. Of that amount, public funds totaling $968,000 were paid for indigent case transcripts. The monies paid by an individual county varied depending on the number of appeals and the length of the transcripts. Expenditures ranged from zero to approximately $320,000 in Marion County. Because county local court rules dictate the amount allowed to be charged, county transcript preparation fees vary from a low of $2.50 to a high of $7.50 per page.

The Indiana Court of Appeals reviewed cases filed on appeal to determine the time that transpired between filing of notices of appeal at the trial court level and submission of appellate briefs and transcripts with the appellate courts clerk’s office. In 2010, there were 2,276 appeals in which a transcript was filed. In those cases, the average number of days was 151 between the filing of a notice of appeal locally and the filing of the briefs and transcript with the appellate clerk. The fewest number of days was 86, and the longest was 229.

Consistent with its goals of expediting the appellate process and improving record-keeping services, the Division of State Court Administration (Division) conducted a study on procedures used in other states. The Division reported that systems used in other jurisdictions include: (1) audio/visual recordings as the record on appeal in lieu of a written transcript; (2) certified professional transcription experts who prepare the record of proceedings; and (3) digital filing and transmission of appellate briefs, transcripts, records and documents.

The Supreme Court ordered the Executive Director of the Division and staff to work with Indiana Court of Appeals Chief Judge Margret Robb, Court of Appeals judges and staff, and selected trial court judges to conduct a pilot project, for a limited period of time and in a limited number of cases, to accomplish the following:

  1. in selected courtrooms, use audio/visual recordings on appeal as the record of trial court proceedings in lieu of paper transcripts;
  2. in selected counties, use outside transcript preparation services to expedite transcript preparation for appeals; and
  3. in limited cases, require parties on appeal to file in digital format only their appellate briefs and transcript of proceedings.

Three Indiana Court of Appeals Judges will assume primary responsibility for participating in this pilot project: Judge Melissa May, Judge Cale Bradford, and Judge James Kirsch.

Supreme Court Order: Phase One

The Indiana Supreme Court on September 18, 2012 issued its first Order of this three-phase pilot project that is scheduled to end on December 31, 2013. The Order mandates the use of audio/visual recordings in lieu of paper transcripts for the preparation of the record and briefs on appeal. This effort was designated as the Indiana Court Reporting Pilot Project for Audio/Visual Recordings.

The Supreme Court designated three trial courts from which forty five (45) cases will be chosen in this project. Each of the participating trial courts will select fifteen (15) cases in which a Notice of Appeal has been filed from the following case types: criminal cases; termination of parental rights cases; and, civil cases. The participating judges and courts for these case types are the Honorable Mark Stoner, Judge, Marion Superior Court, Criminal Division 6 (Major Felony); the Honorable Loretta Rush, Judge, Tippecanoe Superior Court #3 (Juvenile); and the Honorable Nancy Boyer, Judge, Allen Superior Court (Civil). Governor Mitch Daniels named Judge Loretta Rush as the 108th Indiana Supreme Court Justice and Justice Rush was sworn in and began her new duties with the Court on November 7, 2012. The Honorable Faith Graham, Magistrate, Tippecanoe Superior Court, has assumed responsibility for over-seeing the work in this court for the pilot project. Governor Daniels on November 28th appointed Magistrate Graham as the new Judge in Superior Court 3.

Kentucky is the only state that uses exclusively audio/visual recordings in lieu of paper transcripts in their appellate process. Jefferson Audio Video Systems, Inc. (JAVS) installed and provides support for the audio/video equipment in the Kentucky courts. The Division selected JAVS to install equipment in each of the courtrooms involved in this project, which includes microphones, cameras, monitors and software. The participating courts will utilize this equipment to record every courtroom proceeding during this pilot project. In the fifteen (15) cases to be chosen by the trial court judge for this pilot project, participation is mandatory for the parties. Their appellate briefs will reference to the exact time of the proceeding as noted in the audio/visual record rather than citing to the page and line number of the transcript as is usually done.

All three judges involved in this project have reported favorable responses on this technology from the lawyers appearing before them. Judge Nancy Boyer presided over a 5-day medical malpractice trial and both plaintiff and defense counsel downloaded each day’s proceedings onto their flash drives. This process took about fifteen minutes. Defense counsel even included parts of their doctor’s videotaped testimony in the presentation software used in final argument. Judge Mark Stoner also gave high marks on the use of the equipment in his courtroom, with the Public Defender’s Office considering the potential use of the recorded court proceedings for attorney training purposes. Judge Stoner was the first to issue a Notice of Designation of Case as an Audio/Visual Recording Pilot Project Case on September 21, 2012 when a Notice of Appeal was filed in his court. Justice Loretta Rush reports that none of the attorneys who appeared before her have complained about the system interfering with either their trial preparation or courtroom conduct. She and her court staff are happy with the equipment, and she assigned the primary responsibility to her court administrator for exercising control over the A/V equipment.

Supreme Court Order: Phase Two

The Supreme Court on November 8, 2012 issued its second Order of this three-phase pilot project. The second phase of the pilot project involves using professional transcription providers to prepare expedited (within thirty days) transcripts. AVTRANZ and eScribers are two firms that provide transcription services for courts in Connecticut, Florida, New Hampshire, New York and Vermont. Representatives from these two firms made presentations to Appellate Court Judges, Appellate Court and Clerk staff, and Division staff. Those involved made a unanimous recommendation to use the services of both companies, in selected counties, and in a limited number of cases. The counties chosen to participate in this phase of the pilot project are Hamilton, Lake, Madison, Tippecanoe, and Vanderburgh. The judges in these counties, or their court administrators, working with the Division, will select four (4) cases on appeal and will assign two (2) cases to each firm for expedited transcript preparation. This effort was designated as the Indiana Court Reporting Pilot Project by Using Professional Transcription Experts on Appeal.

Supreme Court Order: Phase Three

The third phase of the pilot project concerns reducing the amount of paper involved in each appeal. This will be accomplished by requiring: 1) court reporters to submit transcripts electronically or on CD; 2) parties to submit briefs electronically or on CD; and 3) Clerks to submit records electronically or on CD. The Division will select a trial court from which a small number of appeals will be digitally transmitted to the Indiana Court of Appeals.

Measuring the Results: Survey Monkey

Jessica Tucker Ballard, Judicial Clerk for the Honorable Melissa S. May, Indiana Court of Appeals, is taking the lead in developing a Survey for this Pilot Program. We will seek feedback from participants in the pilot project, including trial and appellate court judges, law clerks, court staff, and attorneys. She is exploring the use of Survey Monkey, a free online survey service with features that insure security and maintain confidentiality.

Preparing for the Future

Technology is changing rapidly and we must continue to be diligent in exploring ways to improve the efficiency and accuracy of recording court proceedings. This pilot project will provide information to help us achieve this goal.

“Those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.”

—George Bernard Shaw


If you have any questions, comments, concerns or wish further information on this pilot project please contact the author at (317) 233-3018, or by email at james.maguire@courts.in.gov.


Editor’s Correction to article: Indiana Court Reporting Pilot Project Underway

The above article lists Connecticut as one of the states where outside transcription services are provided for courts. The State of Connecticut Judicial Branch Committee on Court Reporting Monitors and Court Reporters studied and issued an excellent Final Report on court reporting and court reporters in November 2010. Heather Collins, Court Planner in the Connecticut Judicial Branch Office of the Executive Director, informed us that Connecticut does not export its transcription services. Their court transcripts are prepared by full-time Court Reporters and Court Reporting Monitors and Temporary Court Recording Monitors. “Connecticut, like Indiana and other states around the country, is exploring ways in which to best serve the public but at this time our transcripts are completed in-house,” she wrote. We apologize for this error.