Despite some misgivings over the effectiveness of automated court recordings, the Massachusetts Trial Court will abolish all court reporter positions by June 30 this year.
In their place will be an advanced digital audio recording system called For the Record. Developed by an Australian company, For The Record features an eight-microphone setup that would be able to slow down and even isolate individual voices in the courtroom. The audio system is reportedly in use in 65 other countries across the globe.
The recordings will be stored in a special server that will provide access to the audio for court officials and counsel.
Installation of the audio recording system in 436 state courtrooms has so far cost Massachusetts about $15.8 million dollars, reports WCVB5 TV.
Court reporters earn about $82,000 dollars a year in the state. Those court reporters who have accepted a demotion to “court monitor” will get hit with a 20% pay cut. The rest of the state’s 37 court reporters will lose their jobs or be forced to retire. The court monitors main task will be to ensure that the recording system is working.
Many court officials, among them Chief Justice of the Trial Court Paula Carey, went on the record to say that serious discrepancies have been found with some transcripts churned out by For The Record. In some cases, testimony was lost because the recording stopped or was not turned on the first place. In others, the transcripts were riddled with notes about “low audio” and “unclear speech.”
Other officials lament the loss of institutional knowledge possessed by the court reporters, whose knowledge of the local geography and the people who work there are key to making the most accurate transcripts possible despite simultaneous talk and loud background noise in the courtroom
Across the United States, five other state governments apart from Massachusetts have approved the use of digital recording devices in the courtroom.