A court transcript is a written record of everything that's said during a court proceeding. A court reporter might sit in the hearing room and transcribe it there and then or, more often, the transcript will be prepared later from a recording. If you would like to get a transcript of a court hearing, you typically must submit a written request to the clerk of the court where the hearing took place.
Who Can Provide a Court Transcript?
The court will organize the transcript for you, but don't assume that a copy already exists. While the court retains an audio recording of the hearing, this typically will be transcribed only when someone makes an official request. If you're thinking about making an appeal to an appellate court and you need the transcript to help build your case, it's essential that you have the audio transcribed by an approved transcription company. You may be able to cut costs by having an unapproved transcriber write up the audio, but this will not be admissible in court.
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What Information Do You Need?
Each state has its own rules on how to obtain a court transcript, and within a state, the process can vary by county. Generally though, you will submit a request in writing to the clerk of the court where the hearing took place. The request must contain certain case information, for example:
- Full name of the case (Thomas Smith v. Grace Webb).
- Docket number (SUCV2018-98765).
- Date and time of the hearing to help locate the audio.
- Name of the judge who heard the case.
- Courtroom number.
- Names and numbers of the attorneys present, if known.
- Name of the transcriber you want to prepare the transcript from the court's approved transcriber list.
In most cases, you'll also need to fill out the court's order form.
What Are the Fees for a Court Transcript?
Fees vary by court and depend on the length of the audio recording that you want to have transcribed. The courts of Massachusetts, for example, charge $3 per page on the assumption that a transcriber will produce 50 pages of transcript per one hour of audio recording. For rush jobs, the fee rises to $4.50 per page. You can save money by ordering a copy of a ready-made transcript, but this can only be provided if an original transcript has previously been prepared.
How Long Does the Transcription Take?
Once you have submitted your request, the transcriber will provide you with an expected delivery date. You likely will be asked to pay a deposit within a certain period, for example, five days; otherwise your order may be cancelled. Upon payment of the deposit, work on the transcript will begin. Expect the job to take between one and seven days for a rush request and between 14 and 90 days for a regular request. If the audio recording is especially lengthy, the job could take considerably longer.
Can You Get a Transcript of Federal Court Hearings?
You can get a transcript of federal court cases, and it's much the same process. Some federal court transcripts may be available online through the Public Access to Court Electronic Record System, known as PACER. You can visit the website at pacer.gov or call the clerk of the court to find out what forms are needed to request a court transcript. The federal court system has maximum per-page fees for transcripts that each court must follow, but individual courts can charge what they want per page, up to the maximum amount.
Every court has different procedures for obtaining a transcript of a court hearing, but generally, you'll need to submit a written request to the court clerk and pay a fee to obtain a copy.
- If you were involved in the case, contact your attorney. In many cases, the attorney will have the transcript on file, or be able to obtain it on your behalf.
- Check with the court to determine if you qualify to have the fees waived.
Jayne Thompson earned an LL.B. in Law and Business Administration from the University of Birmingham and an LL.M. in International Law from the University of East London. She practiced in various “Big Law” firms before launching a career as a commercial writer. Her work has appeared on numerous legal blogs including Quittance, Upcounsel and Medical Negligence Experts.