If you’ve ever worked in an office, you know about water cooler conversations. They can happen almost anywhere at any time. What do you think about the project? Who is getting promoted? Did you hear what happened last week when the team went to lunch? They’re all questions I know I’ve asked my colleagues but what happens when you’re a court reporter? You’re bound by a certain code of ethics to not have water cooler conversations about clients and cases.
For most of us, it’s just professional courtesy not to talk about our customers or clients. We all know there are issues and perhaps opportunities to discuss situations with a trusted friend or mentor but we also know those conversations are confidential. Unfortunately, not everyone abides by this code but for court reporters, they’re strongly encouraged to abide by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) Code of Ethics that includes:
- Being fair and impartial to all parties involved in a case.
- Guarding against the fact and appearance of impropriety.
- Maintaining confidentiality at all times. That means not sharing any information learned with people not directly involved with the case.
- Refraining, as an official reporter working for the courts, from freelance reporting activities that interfere with official duties and obligations.
- Determine fees independently, except when established by statute or court order, entering into no unlawful agreements with others with respect to fees to any user.
- Adherence to the NCRA Constitution and Bylaws.
Read more on this and other industry related topics on the NCRA website.
Why the Code of Ethics for Court Reporters Matters
Talking about what happened on your date last weekend is one thing but talking about the details of a court case is an entirely different matter. You never know who is listening and how they could potentially be connected to a case. Even if they’re not connected, it just looks bad for your reputation to be talking about what should be private matters, in public. The Code of Ethics matters because there are certain matters that should not be discussed outside a courtroom or attorney’s office.
Let’s think about it from a client’s perspective in a legal matter involving a murder. It’s a bit extreme but stay with me for the demonstration.
You go to lunch with a friend and talk about the murder trial you’re working as a court reporter. It has been a long and drawn out case that’s all over the Sacramento news. You mention specific names and details of the case as well as your opinion that the defendant is guilty based solely on what you’ve heard at depositions.
The information you shared publicly has the potential to hurt the case, however unintentionally you meant it to be, because you didn’t realize a local news reporter is sitting nearby listening to your conversation. Details of the case hit the news and there is controversy over whether or not an impartial jury can be found based on what has been made public.
While your conversation is likely not the only source for the reporter’s article, it may well have led them down a path that led to the details hitting the news. Your conversation contributed to a murderer potentially walking free. Like I said, the example is extreme so that you can hopefully see the point that there is a difference between a confidential proceeding and water cooler talk and for good reason.
What you hear as a court reporter isn’t for public consumption. It’s a matter between parties and you’re bound by a Code of Ethics to stay impartial and confidential. Your role is extremely important to the outcome of the case but it also needs no commentary when you’re with your friends and colleagues.
At Accuracy Plus, we strive to provide experienced and educated court reporters for all your legal needs. Contact us today to schedule a deposition.