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Are Court Reporting and AI a Good Match?




As artificial intelligence (AI) sweeps across the country, affecting nearly every industry and profession, the legal system is not immune. Court reporters document legal proceedings by providing a certified record of what transpired. These official records will ultimately be referenced by local, state and federal court systems during the litigation of cases. The importance of these records has led legal professionals to be wary of the sole use of AI in the justice system, specifically in court reporting. Some of the issues identified by legal professionals include ethics, dialect, and quality control.


Confidentiality and Ethical Issues


While reporters adhere to strict confidentiality codes and exercise discretion over sensitive material, “the role of AI in the court system raises concerns about data security and the potential for misuse or breaches of confidentiality with the potential for inadvertent disclosures” (Murray, 2024).


As an official of the court, court reporters are responsible for the integrity of the record produced. They have the ability to identify ethical issues, clarify testimony when witnesses speak over each other or speak too quietly, and interject into the proceedings if the record is not clear. AI by itself lacks the capacity to take on these tasks. “It relies on human oversight to ensure the transcript adheres to the highest standards of accuracy and fairness” (Seabrooks, 2024).


Terminology and Dialect


Terminology used in court and depositions can be complicated and often includes significant variations. Medical terms, proprietary terms, and legal terms are often not captured correctly by AI. Additionally, legal proceedings often include parties from different cultures. With different cultures come different dialects that AI may struggle to translate into an accurate record.


Quality Control


The quality of the transcript being provided by AI is the single biggest detractor for the sole use of AI in the legal system. AI struggles to identify speakers without human intervention. AI will not logically switch from one speaker to another without a human telling the AI who is speaking, especially when there are more than two parties speaking at one time.


The integrity of the audio recording is also a stumbling block for the sole use of AI. Poor audio quality can lead to serious gaps in testimony, resulting in a significant number of inaudibles in the transcript. These inaudibles can lead to a lack of understanding or misinterpretation of what the speaker is saying.

“The risk of a transcript being incomplete, inaccurate, or misleading cannot be overstated. In the context of AI, individual and enterprise accountability and human authority, oversight, and control are required, and it is not appropriate to shift legal responsibility to a computer or an algorithm rather than to responsible people and other legal entities,” as stated the American Bar Association Cybersecurity Legal Task Force Antitrust Law Section in 2023 (NCRA, 2023).


Advantages of AI


Now that we have discussed some of the deficiencies with AI in the legal system, let’s discuss the advantages AI brings to the table. A nationwide court reporter shortage exists at every level of the legal system. The shortage has become so serious that judges are suggesting that attorneys bring their own court reporter to trial if they want a timely transcript. AI is one tool that has been identified to mitigate this issue.

AI will allow for more jobs to be taken by court reporters by streamlining the process and increasing the efficiency of translating audio into a written record. Basically, AI gives the court reporter a head start on transcripts by translating the audio into written text.


Another AI advantage is RealTime Court Reporting. RealTime converts the spoken word into text that can be read, streamed, broadcast, searched, and archived almost immediately. This service will give attorneys and the court instantaneous access to the testimony being given in a deposition or court proceeding.


RealTime will also provide legal professionals with a livestream feed to remote locations of their choice for other stakeholders to view live testimony without being in the room. The live feed allows others to view the live transcript and aids in the research of information being distributed at a remote location.


Finally, AI can integrate with case management systems, resulting in searchable transcripts that speed up and simplify the process of legal research and case preparation.


Conclusion


In an, “I have to have it now,” digital society, legal professionals want accurate transcripts that can be quickly delivered. The number of legal matters being filed coupled with a shortage of court reporters has led to a perfect storm of inefficiency in the legal system, resulting in transcripts being delivered even more slowly than normal. One solution to consider is the use of AI as a tool, enabling the court reporter to be more efficient. AI should not replace the court reporter altogether, as reporters are guardians of the record who oversee the integrity of an important part of the legal system.


Perhaps Michael Murray says it best: “Integrating AI in court reporting, when thoughtfully combined with human oversight, creates a product that is superior in quality, reliability, and integrity. The human role in this partnership is not diminished but rather elevated, as reporters are freed up to leverage their unique skills alongside the efficiency of AI, ensuring that the final service delivered is of the highest standard” (Murray, 2024).


References

msn.com, Aaliyah Seabrooks, “Court reporters warn again use of AI: ‘Freedom in on the line’”, April 23, 2024.

Law.com, Michael Murray, “The Rise of AI in Court Reporting Technology”, January 12, 2024.

National Court Reporters Association (NCRA), STRONG Committee, “Emerging Ethical and Legal Issues Related to the Use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR), Voice Cloning, and Digital Audio Recording of Legal Proceedings”, November 2023.

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