Juvenile Judges Issue Statement on Importance of Court Reporters

The Tennessee Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges has issued the following statement: 

Our Executive Committee, on behalf of our state’s juvenile courts, wish to comment upon the proposal to sunset the Board of Court Reporting and to eliminate the licensure requirements for court reporters in Tennessee.  We oppose such measures.  We believe that properly trained and licensed court reporters are a necessary part of certain juvenile court proceedings.

Many adoption cases begin in juvenile court by means of a proceeding to terminate parental rights (TPR), a necessary first step in the adoption process.  In addition, and over and above adoption cases, many TPRs are filed in juvenile court to sever parental rights so that the child or children may be placed into a more permanent home and exit the foster care system.  In every TPR, a court reporter is present to accurately preserve the proceeding.

Because of the high stakes involved in a TPR, many of the decisions made by the juvenile court are appealed to our Court of Appeals.  The Court of Appeals requires a transcript of the proceeding, which is prepared from the report prepared by the court reporter.  It is vital that these transcripts accurately reflect what happened in the juvenile court so that the Court of Appeals may appropriately assess the proceeding.  Without the transcript, the appellate court is hamstrung in its review.  The same result obtains if a transcript is not accurate.

If the proposal to eliminate court reporter licensure is implemented, and non-licensed reporters are used, our fear is that the legitimacy and authenticity of the transcript may be challenged.  The result may be that the TPR decision is vacated or reversed, often one or more years after the child was placed with the family.  This would entail catastrophic consequences for the child and prospective adoptive family.

We thank you for your consideration.