It depends. According to a study done by North Carolina’s Administrative Office of Courts, digital recorders can cut back on court spending by requiring fewer state-employed court reporters. The National Center for State Courts reports that the average state-employed court reporter earns $53,000 per year, while the cost of installation and operation of digital recorders ranges from $15,000 to $18,000 per courtroom, making recording the overall cheaper option.

However, there are a number of factors that are influencing the human vs. digital debate, including:

  • Switching back. Some courts that have employed digital-only technology are switching back to court reporters because of reliability issues and costs created by technology breakdowns.
  • Additional costs. Digital recorders may easily malfunction, causing trial delays and even lead to a full rehearing of a case. A Kentucky judge had to rehear an entire murder trial in 2010 after the court’s digital recorder malfunctioned and there was no stenographer during proceedings.
  • Personal rights. Advocates acknowledge that recordings may replace court reporters one day, but the technology is currently nowhere near good enough. A human brain is still required to sort the testimony of several parties and ask for clarification when a witness cannot be understood.

While most courtrooms are now equipped with recording devices, many attorneys are reluctant to give up the presence of an actual court reporter. Unwilling to sacrifice the integrity of their clients’ testimony, attorneys may use the digital recorders as well as court reporters in a “belt and suspenders” maneuver, just in case one or the other fails.

To find out if using a court reporter will be less expensive in the long run, visit our testimonials page to see what our clients have said about reporting services.

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