Impartiality of Judicial System Threatened By Insurer Contracts, Consumer Group Study Shows

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In a first-of-its-kind report, the practices of insurers and other large corporate defendants entering into long-term deals with court reporters that give them an upper-hand over other parties in litigation have been documented by the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights (FTCR), a national non-profit, consumer advocacy organization. Court reporters who report depositions and certify transcripts are supposed to be impartial officers of the court. Through these agreements, as documented by FTCR, however, insurers and other corporations are requiring court reporters to give them special services, unbeknownst to other parties in a case, such as:

  • providing uncertified, rough-draft transcripts to the insurer or their counsel.

  • compiling exclusive witness databases of all deposition transcripts from all cases in which insurance company is an interested party, thereby giving them the upper hand in future cases.

  • completing “Witness Information Sheets” that collect otherwise confidential information from witnesses, such as social security numbers, for quick reference in later cases.

  • producing summaries or abstractions of depositions for the insurer or corporate defendant that are not made available to other parties in the case.

  • remaining after other parties have left a deposition to take dictation from the insurance company’s counsel as to his interpretation of deposition.

“We would not tolerate insurers striking these kind of secret, one-sided deals with judges and we should not tolerate it with any officer of the court, especially those that are responsible for creating the official record of what happens in a court proceeding,” stated Pamela Pressley, FTCR staff attorney. “The worst part about these preferential agreements is that the injured consumer seeking redress against an insurer or other corporate defendant is placed at a serious disadvantage from the very outset of the litigation process.”

Additionally, the insurers and major corporate defendants benefit from preferential pricing arrangements such as:

  • giving “close to a 40% discount off market prices” to insurance companies.

  • promising to hold bills of the contracting insurance company for any deposition related fees until case is settled or formally adjudicated.

  • providing no-cost training to contracting parties attorneys on the use of Interactive Real-time, deposition digesting and document/exhibit data-basing.

  • providing expedited delivery at no cost to defendant insurance company.

Court reporters from around the country converged in Boston this week to mark the 100th year anniversary of the National Court Reporters Association. The occasion culminated in a press conference held on the steps of the Suffolk County Courthouse where court reporters, representatives from the American Judges Association and the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, and Massachusetts State Rep. Harold P. Naughton Jr. (D-MA-MAH155th), sponsor of HB 3509, a measure to ban long-term contracts between interested parties and court reporters, spoke out against insurer practices compromising impartiality in the courts.

“Citizens who seek justice in our courts should not have to wonder whether the court reporter taking their deposition is working for the defense,” remarked Representative Naughton. “HB 3509 will help to level the playing field by banning these special deals with one side.”

“Enough is enough — we won’t let these big corporate interests jeopardize 100 years of impartiality,” proclaimed Laura Hebb, president of the Massachusetts Court Reporters Association and board member of Citizens for Impartial Justice, a national non-profit, advocacy group of court reporters formed to preserve the neutral and impartial role of court reporters in the administration of justice.

Judges organizations including the American Judges Association (AJA) and the National Conference of Metropolitan Courts have adopted resolutions to support legislative and judicial efforts to stop preferential insurer agreements. Currently, fourteen states have such legistion or court rules, including Hawaii, Texas, Minnesota, Utah, West Virginia, New Mexico, Georgia, Louisiana, Nevada, Kentucky, Michigan, Arkansas, Indiana, and North Carolina.

Judge Ira J. Raab, Nassau County, NY District Court Judge and Governor of the AJA cited to the AJA’s resolution recognizing that such arrangements between court reporters and interested parties “could create an appearance of partiality that is inimical to the public’s faith in the fairness and impartiality of the judicial system.”

HB 3509 is currently before the Massachusetts House Judiciary Committee. Several other states have similar legislation or court rule proposals pending.


Consumer Watchdog
Consumer Watchdog
Providing an effective voice for American consumers in an era when special interests dominate public discourse, government and politics. Non-partisan.

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