The record

April 2007
By Judge John Wittmayer, Multnomah County Circuit Court

By now you are all probably aware that only one of our judges has a court reporter in her courtroom. All the rest of us use electronic recording. The court reporters were laid off about four years ago because of budget cuts.

The electronic recording system is operated by the courtroom clerk and is recorded digitally on a computer system. When we had court reporters, of course, you would give your name to the reporter in advance of the hearing and the reporter would note in his/her notes the name of the person speaking. But with electronic recording, the computer does not know who you are.

The solution is that for every hearing, at the very beginning of the hearing, when the name of the case and the case number is recited into the record, each and every lawyer appearing should say aloud and spell his/her name and should say his/her bar number. If this is done, when the recording is later transcribed, the transcriptionist will know who is appearing and can recognize the speaker's voice, so the words can be accurately attributed to the correct speaker.

And, although I have said it before, it is always good to keep in mind that the court is not responsible for making your record. If you walk away from your microphone or have your witnesses in trial walk away from the microphone, there is always a risk the electronic recording system will not pick up your questions and your witness' testimony. Check with the clerk in advance or during a break to ask about the capabilities of the recording system in each courtroom.