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Thank you, Dimitry. But I'm not asking for legal advice. I only want to receive legal information regarding a legal situation. I'm in the legal profession. I've been a certified court reporter since 1991. I know hundreds of lawyers. But I've had something rather strange come up and I just need to speak with someone with legal experience about it. Do you think you can assist me with this?
Ok. Just bear with me for a minute and I'll give you some details. My agency sent me an audio file and a video file to "transcribe". I was not present as the court reporter. In fact, there was no court reporter or lawyer present. This is an interview by a counselor at a children's advocate center of a 15-year-old boy who says he was molested by a 22-year-old neighbor boy. The atty who ordered the transcript represents the alleged molester. When I received the audio file and the video file, it was of such poor quality, I really couldn't hear it well at all. I called the atty's paralegal and told her the audio was bad and she told me to use the video and told me to make audio adjustments. So I did. But it was still very poor quality. I called the counselor who did the interview and told her of the poor quality audio and video and she told me that they had just moved into a new office and had been experiencing very poor quality audio and video problems for quite a while. So I did the best I could to create the transcript. When the atty received my transcript she went ballistic on me saying that my transcript didn't match the audio and video. I explained the problems I'd had and she now is demanding that I re-listen to it and change the transcript in certain portions. She's quite a bully about what she wants the transcript to reflect. So I had the agency re-send the audio and the video and it's just the same poor quality crap. So, what I'm doing now is re-listening to it and amending the transcript to reflect the inaudible portions and also where there is audio failure. She seems to be saying to me that I'm going to be held somehow responsible for mistakes in the transcription, when actually it's a defective audio/video. I have never transcribed testimony that I wasn't present at. I've always transcribed work that I actually took down. I'm not sure what to do.
Thank you for your follow-up. It is a difficult situation to be in. In terms of transcribing what she wants you to transcribe, as a professional you obviously cannot do that because that would taint the evidence and create potential claims against you directly. While it is true that you could be held responsible for intentional errors in the transcription, if you cannot hear the information, state so to the attorney. You may want to do so in writing and do the worst thing that attorneys hate for themselves--create a 'CYA' paper trail to her stating that you are working with audio that is of such poor quality that you cannot transcribe other than how you have done at this time purely due to the failure on the part of the location to ensure viable equipment. In addition state in the letter that requesting you to make changes to transcription based on her requests when the information does not match what you heard may violate your own obligations, and can be considered evidence tampering that could require you to make a report to the state bar association. That should make the attorney hate your guts (which is inevitable), but likely leave you alone to do your work. It is not pleasant, but it will provide you with protection.
Hope that helps.
Yes, what you're saying is completely reasonable. What I will do is send her the transcript portions she is questioning that I have re-listened to and determined they are inaudible. I have stated to her on the phone the audio/video issues, but I will in the e-mail I send her restate the issues and stress that I have in no way made intentional errors and that any errors that occur are due to the poor quality of the recording. And any further contact I have with her I will only do through e-mail. She threatened me that she is going to send me a subpoena that I may have to come to court to explain my transcript. I also will in the e-mail make note of that. I'm not afraid of her. I have NEVER had any of my transcripts called into question in the 25 years I've been reporting. I will also state that in the e-mail. She's putting me through sheer torture.
Thanks for the info re creating a paper trail. That's definitely the way to go.
Thank you for your follow-up, Camille. Glad to help.
All of those steps sound reasonable. Plus, any communication between her and yourself does become discoverable if needed, so if she does push this, she ends up appearing foolish to the point of possibly undermining her own client's case.
Good luck to you!
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