Q: One party wants to go off the record; another party does not! What should I do?
A: The court reporter’s job is to make the record. Never go off the record unless all parties have consented to do so.
This scenario is generally encountered in proceedings that have turned acrimonious. A dynamic the reporter may encounter in this situation is the Noticing Attorney directing you to go off the record “because I hired you.” As well, someone may declare, “If you stay on the record, I refuse to pay for that part of the transcript.”
It’s important to understand that what’s at play is simply a bit of legal skirmishing that has nothing to do with the reporter. Be mindful that this isn’t about you and remain calm and professional. An effective way to handle this situation would be to firmly but politely state:
“Counsel, as a neutral officer in these proceedings, I am duty-bound to remain on the record unless all parties have consented to going off the record.”
Attorneys know that it is inappropriate to put the court reporter in the middle of their legal wranglings with opposing counsel, and therefore, generally upon hearing this statement by the reporter, they will accept it and move forward. Typically, the person who wanted to remain on the record will make their statement, followed by the person who wanted to go off the record adding comments about the appropriateness of those statements; perhaps even asking a judge to consider striking the contested remarks. This would happen at a later date, and it would have nothing to do with you. The reporter should continue capturing all remarks and testimony unless and until all agree to go off the record or to conclude the proceedings.
Be aware that the objecting party may request that the court reporter “certify” the contested part of the transcript, or note it in the transcript index. It is appropriate to agree to do this.
Have you been in an “on the job” situation that you were unsure how to handle?
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About Jan Ballman – FAPR, RPR, CMRS – Principal, Minneapolis
Jan began her career as a court reporter in 1981. In 1990, she was elected President of the state court reporters association. This experience afforded the opportunity to meet many outstanding court reporters and industry leaders. In 1993, Jan collaborated with two highly regarded colleagues–Jayne Seward and Lisa Richardson–to form Ballman, Richardson & Seward. Five years later, Jan led the merger of BR&S with two well-known and highly respected firms–Schultz & Sorenson; and Oliver, Mitchell & Maves—and launched Paradigm Reporting & Captioning on January 1, 1998.
After a 20-year career as a court reporter, Jan retired her steno machine in 2002 in favor of taking the helm of Paradigm on a full-time basis.
A recognized leader at both the state and national level, Jan was bestowed Minnesota’s highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award, by the Minnesota Association of Verbatim Reporters and Captioners in 2004. In 2010, Jan was elected to serve on the Board of Trustees of the National Court Reporters Foundation and was honored to accept the appointment as Chair of the Board from 2014 to 2016. In August of 2017, Jan was inducted into as a Fellow into the Academy of Professional Reporters. Currently, Jan Ballman is the only court reporter in Minnesota to have attained the professional distinction of FAPR.
Outside of her chosen profession, Jan enjoys working with local nonprofits, mentoring tomorrow’s leaders, and exploring the world of wine. Since 2011, Jan has been delighted to chair “Legal Wine Lovers,” an official affinity group of Minnesota Women Lawyers.