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Summit County court takes courtroom transcriptions high tech with AI

A hand holding a judge's gavel resting on a desk
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The Administrative Judge for the Summit County Domestic Relations Court says the AI will not take away jobs from court reporters but instead save the court money and the court reporter time.

Artificial intelligence has grown increasingly popular in the past few years and has made a mark on all areas of society, and now the courts are looking at how to take advantage of it. The Summit County Domestic Relations Court has received a $9,500 grant from the Ohio Supreme Court to purchase AI transcribing equipment, according to Administrative Judge Katarina Cook.

“[It’s] basically a computer program, that would basically be attached to our court smart system, which is our recording system in our courtroom,” Cook said. “And it would be able to actually transcribe whatever was said during the hearing, like a format that either a magistrate could use in preparing their decision, or a court reporter could utilize.”

According to Cook, the AI will not take the job of the court reporter who transcribes court hearings. She said that the actual transcripts must be certified by a court reporter.

“It’s actually just as much as back in the day when we had typewriters, and we went to computers and word processors. It’s the same idea,” Cook said. “A court reporter could then take that [recording] and then be listening to the actual recording at the same time to make sure those words match.”

Cook said the Summit County Domestic Relations court is down to just one court reporter, and it’s hard to find new court reporters. She said that AI will save the court money and make the court reporter more efficient.

“Our court has ten magistrates on the third floor and none of them have a court reporter during all their hearings. Cook said. “If somebody requests a transcript of that hearing, then that court reporter has to go in, if they were not present then they have to listen in and gather what they can gather [from recordings]. If it’s an hour-long hearing, it should take an hour for the court reporter to transcribe. We are charged for every hour that they’re just writing the transcription, and we’re getting charged for that on top of the per page cost.”

The Ohio Court Reporters Association has expressed concerns about the accuracy and reliability of AI systems used in courts.

“AI systems are fallible and can produce inaccurate results,” They wrote in a statement made in November. “In legal proceedings, errors can have significant consequences, affecting verdicts, sentences, or other legal outcomes affecting the life and liberties of people.”

Summit County Domestic Relations Court is one of the first courts in Ohio to use AI to help court reporters, according to Cook.

Des Torres is an intern at Ideastream Public Media.