COPE PUBLIC ADVISORY OPINION 38: An attorney requests a copy of a reporter’s backup audio media

By Linda Larson

The Committee on Professional Ethics reviewed the following scenario: While taking down the official record, a reporter makes an audio backup recording of a proceeding for use by the reporter only while preparing the transcript. During a break in the proceeding, an attorney requests a copy of the reporter’s backup audio media. What are the obligations of the court reporter under the Code of Professional Ethics?

The committee has determined that absent a court order to do so, the NCRA Code of Professional Ethics does not require that a reporter provide a copy of any backup audio media that the reporter uses to make the official transcript of a proceeding. If a court reporter chooses to give the audio to the requesting attorney, the court reporter should be aware of Provision Number 1 and Provision Number 4.

Provision Number 1 of the Code of Professional Ethics states that a member shall be fair and impartial toward each participant in all aspects of reporting the proceedings and always offer to provide comparable services to all parties in a proceeding.

Provision Number 4 of the Code of Professional Ethics requires that the reporter preserves the confidentiality and ensures the security of the information, oral or written, entrusted to the member by any of the parties in a proceeding.

In conclusion, if the court reporter decides to provide audio to the requesting attorney, then the offer should be made to all other parties in the proceeding. The audio should be carefully screened to be sure there are no confidential discussions inadvertently picked up on the audio that would violate Provision Number 4.
Linda Larson, RPR, CRI, is a member of the NCRA COPE Committee and a freelance court reporter and owner of Premier Reporting, LLC, with offices in Carlisle and Harrisburg, Pa. Linda can be reached at linda@premierreportingllc.com.

Wisconsin Association of Legal Professionals joins Ethics First

The Wisconsin Association of Legal Professionals has formally signed up as an Ethics First supporter, becoming the first association representing legal professionals to do so. NCRA’s Ethics First program was developed to recognize NCRA members who have made a commitment to abide by and promote the rules of the Code of Professional Ethics, particularly with regard to gift-giving.

Ethics First seeks to positively educate court reporters, firms, and clients that the impartiality and neutrality of the court reporter is of utmost importance in maintaining an unbiased legal system. Getting the word out to attorneys, legal staff, and other consumers of court reporting services about the perils of accepting free gifts from court reporting firms is also one of NCRA’s Ethics First task force’s charges.

At a meeting in April, WALP’s membership formally voted and unanimously agreed to support the precepts of Ethics First regarding incentive and excessive gift-giving. Even greater, the association proudly features the Ethics First logo on its website.

“We are extremely grateful and proud that an association representing so many individuals involved in the legal profession inside Wisconsin recognizes the potential ethical issues associated with incentive and excessive gift-giving,” says NCRA President Tami Smith Keenan, RPR, CPE. “I would like to personally thank the Wisconsin Association of Legal Professionals for making this commitment to promoting the Ethics First program and NCRA as a whole.”

“The Wisconsin Association for Legal Professionals is proud to be an Ethics First supporter,” says 2013-2014 WALP President Darla Stephenson, PP. “The members of WALP are bound by the same objectives and standards of conduct represented by the Ethics First program, and so the decision to become a supporter was an easy one.”

For more information on the Ethics First program, visit NCRA.org/ethicsfirst.