Steven Lerner, by my count one of the first journalists to acknowledge the court reporter shortage debate, appeared on the Pro Say podcast Episode 248. The beginning talks about the Major League Baseball wage lawsuit and recent settlement. About 20 minutes in, we get to the DR segment and the Glitchy Rollout article.
Mr. Lerner notes that there’s a disagreement between stenographers and the court reporting companies pushing digital court reporting. He notes the 2020 Racial Disparities in Automatic Speech Recognition study, and how automated solutions can have error rates higher than 40%. “Now, imagine unleashing this faulty tech in the US legal system, which has historically been unjust for people of color, in particular, black people. This speaks to the problem of having diversified data sources.” This is certainly a problem for any digital reporting method implementing automated speech recognition.
Asked why this is a problem for everyone, Lerner summarizes, “so even if a person is operating the new tech, there could still be glitches, so that’s why it matters, because it’s just going to disrupt the entire legal system.”
The only major missing piece is that the digital reporting method is not new. The ability to record and transcribe testimony has existed for decades and yet digital court reporting has not supplanted American stenographers. If it were truly cheaper or an innovation worth implementing, implementation would have started sooner and not the better part of a decade after the release of the Ducker Report.
I continue to believe it is quite suspicious that Jim Cudahy utilized his position of Executive Director of the National Court Reporters Association to get the shortage forecasted. Jim later surfaced under Speech-to-Text Institute, an entity claiming the stenographer shortage is irreversible.
Ultimately, neither Jim nor STTI have explained why the shortage is not as bad as forecasted or faced the reality that things didn’t play out exactly as forecasted. They continue to utilize numbers that are almost a decade old in an obvious attempt to create a market. I know that’s not Lerner’s fight, but it gets glossed over that this is not a matter of “stenographers say this, other side says that.” It’s a matter of stenographers showing mathematically that the data being relied on by digital proponents is wrong and digital proponents never ever being asked about that.
The question remains: Will we be able to expand stenography? Will we be able to convince investors that the stable return is on stenographic court reporting? If I get my way, it’ll be irreversible.