Monday, July 31, 2006

Stenographic notes nightmare.

I was returning from vacations today and was once again thinking to myself: "there will always be someone to keep me from being 100% paperless." First, I had a one foot tall pile of letters waiting for me on my desk. Compare to the 200 or so e-mails that I have been able to sort within 30 minutes, I spent 3 hours going through the letters and their accompanying manipulation. Second, I had another one foot tall pile of... stenographic notes. Third and this is what prompted me to write this ticket, I did not wake up!
The saddest part is that the pile was comprised of the stenographic notes of only one examination! Without discussing the environmental cost of sending 3 copies of a 300 pages book by mail, let’s just say that, for ease of manipulation, I wish I had received one copy by e-mail... To start with; I would have had the possibility to add it to my Summation (or Casemap) database before reviewing. Happily, in this case, I phoned the stenographer who was able to forward me via e-mail a .ASCII version of the notes that I incorporated to my database. I was then able to review and annotate the notes in the same location while creating shortcuts and hyperlinks to the legal theory of my case (pleadings' drafts) and to the filed exhibits and motions.

Moreover, it prevented me from modifying the "original" version of the stenographic notes by highlighting and marking the pages. Pleaders have all waken up the day before a trial to realize they did not have any virgin copy of the stenographic notes (or any other filed document) to produce during the hearing: I don't want it to happen anymore! Electronic documents give me the possibility to keep an "original" that I will later copy on disks as I please.

Not only that, at the age of the Loi concernant le Cadre juridique des technologies de l'information, I do not understand why the paper version still has to be THE original. Has anyone ever been questioned about the authenticity of the stenographic notes... It seems to me that a .PDF document (or anything similar) with the stenographer signature encrypted would be far more formal than putting the pen to the paper.

It would reduce the amount of paper the poor "fonctionnaires" have to deal with everyday and would therefore eliminate a fair number of so-common (and frequent) errors that ensue in the manipulation process. Talking about manipulation: let us cut the chain of custody that starts with the stenographer recording and dictating the examination on a good old tape and that follows with the same (or another) stenographer typing the recordings to its computer, printing the final product in X copies for all the parties and the judge, signing one copy of the bundle for each party, mailing the bundle (after buying stamps); Wake up!! Canada Post truck just picked the packages and is on its way to the sorting warehouse! Anyway, you got the picture.

The process could start and end with the stenographer videorecording the examination to its computer, retyping the audio recording and e-mail it (with the video for a little extra $$) to the parties.

Especially in matters of injunctions, saving the mailing delays (and manipulation risks) would give us the extra time we need to prepare for the hearing.

Finally, the electronic version can follow me anywhere I go (in my laptop or through a VPN connection) and it takes no space in my filling cabinet...

One last thing: To make sure I was not dreaming, I reverted to an article by Dennis Kennedy where he stated that "Court reporters have historically driven the adoption of new technology in litigation. It was court reporters more than lawyers who pushed for real-time transcription. Now court reporters are once again poised to move us to the next step in digitizing the litigation process." I was dreaming!

P.S. Just by reading the four articles of the Loi sur les sténographes, one understands that Quebec is far from thinking about going where Dennis Kennedy is heading!

2 comments:

tracal said...

"It would reduce the amount of paper the poor "fonctionnaires" have to deal with everyday and would therefore eliminate a fair number of so-common (and frequent) errors that ensue in the manipulation process. Talking about manipulation: let us cut the chain of custody that starts with the stenographer recording and dictating the examination on a good old tape and that follows with the same (or another) stenographer typing the recordings to its computer, printing the final product in X copies for all the parties and the judge, signing one copy of the bundle for each party, mailing the bundle (after buying stamps); Wake up!! Canada Post truck just picked the packages and is on its way to the sorting warehouse! Anyway, you got the picture"


It is so not done that way anymore, and probably has not been done that way for over 20 years. Modern Court Reporters have CAT software to translate the steno notes into English using realtime technology. The rough transcript is then finalized and proofed. It is then printed or sent via ASCII or whatever electronic form you like. Some attorneys still like the paper copy. Reading into a tape is pretty much out the door these days.

Dominic Jaar said...

Perhaps it is in Philly... I welcome you to take part into an examination on discovery in Montreal. You'll be reminded of your reality 20 years ago: lawyers are still being asked to suspend for a few seconds in order to change or turn the tape...