Technology Speeds Court Transcripts

The Huntsville Times- Thursday, April 12, 2007

Judge, lawyers getting daily copy of testimony in case

Usually, a court reporter needs several weeks after a trial to prepare a transcript for lawyers. But a team of court reporters is getting a boost from technology this week so they can provide transcripts almost immediately to lawyers in a civil trial in Madison County Circuit Court.

“The judge and the lawyers will get a daily transcript of the testimony,” said Tammy Hastings, court reporter for Circuit Judge Billy Bell.

Despite Huntsville’s high tech image, the use of this type of technology sets a precedent in Madison County. “Daily copy was used in the O.J. Simpson trial years ago,” Hastings said. “This is the first time that it has been used in this courthouse.”

The team includes Hastings; Parian Holderfield, loaned by Circuit Judge Karen Hall; and Shannon Ball, on loan from Circuit Court in Scottsboro. All three are certified court reporters. The procedure requires three court reporters, Hastings said. One reporter records the words spoken in court with a stenotype machine. They symbols from the stenotype machine are relayed to a computer and appears as text on the screen.

A second court reporter edits the words that appear on the screen, and the third court reporter proof-reads the copy. The finished copy is ready a short time later. “The lawyers requested daily copy so they can use the trasncipts to prepare for the next day orfor use during the trial,” Hastings said.

The lawyers are trying a law suit filed by a Huntsville man in 2003 against Ford Motor Co. The trial started Monday before Circuit Judge Bruce E. Williams.

The suit says Hugh Frank Green was driving west on U.S. 72 near Madison with his wife, Heather, on April 14, 2003, in their 200 Ford Explorer. A 1990 Volkswagen Jetta crossed the median and struck the Explorer, which veered off the road and rolled over three times, according to court papers. Green suffered injuries that required plastic surgery.

Attorneys for Green—Christopher Glover, Benjamin Hogan, Brett Turnbull and Allen Brinkley—say the Explorer had a weak roof that was inadequate to protect people in a roll-over wreck, the roof becomes an injury causing mechanism, they said. Green and his lawyers are seeking compensatory and punitive damages.

Alan Thomas, an attorney for Ford, told a jury in his opening statement Tuesday that the Explorer’s roof structure exceeded standards required by the federal government. He said those standards are the strictest in the world. The safety record of the Explorer exceeds those for cars and other compact sports utility vehicles, Thomas said.

The trail is expected to last two weeks.

–David Holden