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Court Reporter Contracts Studied

July 31, 1999

BOSTON (AP) _ Some court reporters enter contracts with insurers and large corporate defendants that give those litigants an advantage in court, according to study released Friday by a consumer advocacy group.

The study by the Foundation for Taxpayers and Consumer Rights indicates that though court reporters are supposed to be impartial observers, they often provide special services to insurers and other companies with whom they have long-term contracts.

The services include providing uncertified, rough-draft transcripts to the insurer and counsel; completing ``Witness Information Sheets″ that give the companies otherwise confidential witness information, such as Social Security numbers; and producing summaries of depositions that are not available to other parties in a case.

The report also says that the insurers and corporate defendants can get as much as 40 percent off market prices.

State Rep. Harold P. Naughton has introduced a bill that bans long-term contracts between insurers and interested parties in Massachusetts.

Mark Golden, executive director of the 32,000-member National Court Reporters Association, said he hadn’t seen the Foundation for Taxpayers and Consumer Rights report, but supports Naughton’s bill.

The long-term contracts have arisen out of market demand for court reporters services. But even if their motivations are innocuous, court reporters are obligated to eliminate even the appearance of impartiality, he said.

``Preserving impartiality is our business,″ Golden said.

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