What is a Certified Electronic Court Reporter (CER)?

A Certified Electronic Court Reporter (CER) is an individual who has taken and passed a CER certification exam given by the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT), which is a credential that certifies skills in electronic court reporting. This certification can be helpful in finding work as an electronic court reporter.

To clarify (and as noted elsewhere on this blog), there are three basic types of court reporting. These are stenographic court reporting, voice based court reporting, and electronic court reporting. In the stenographic method a reporter types keys or combinations of keys representing a shorthand that is later transcribed into readable English text. In voice writing, the reporter repeats the verbal interchanges verbatim into a voice writing mask – a simple contrivance that shields the reporter’s voice from being heard while it records. The third method and the topic of this article is electronic court reporting.

The Electronic Court Reporting Method

Electronic Court Reporting, also called digital court reporting, is a system in which the court reporter actually records the spoken content of court proceedings with digital recording equipment. The reporter arrives at the court (or other event that requires verbatim documentation and transcription) and sets up digital recording equipment, usually interfacing it with a laptop computer. Often the reporter will set up separate microphones for each of the active parties in a courtroom session. This allows the reporter to record each voice separately and get good clear audio from close up to each speaker.

As the equipment records testimony and other spoken exchanges, the reporter monitors and oversees the functioning of the recording equipment. He or she also takes notes on what is occurring and any other relevant data. This data is usually automatically synched with the audio so that it is easy to find particular portions of the audio track at a later time.
After the court session is recorded, there are two basic options for producing the final transcript: either the reporter themselves replays the recording and produces the written transcript, or a trained professional known as a transcriber handles this part of the job. You’ll see how this is relevant to the certifications below. The process of transcription in electronic court reporting is basically simply playing back the digital track and creating a readable text transcript based on the recording and the notes taken. This transcript is then made available for a fee to interested parties.

The American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT)

The AAERT is a national organization that deals with the electronic court reporting industry. It oversees the entire industry, publishes a newsletter, provides detailed listings of practitioners, and offers certification exams. This professional organization is well known and highly regarded at the national level and serves as a resource for both electronic court reporters already in the field and students of or newcomers to the industry.

CER Certification

The CER certification is one of two that the AAERT offers. [Note: The other is the CET, which stands for Certified Electronic Court Transcriber, and certifies transcribers as mentioned above. This certification is discussed in another post on this blog]. The CER is gained by being a member of the AAERT and passing the certification exam

The CER Certification Exam

The examination for the CER consists of two parts: a written part and a practical part. The written section is timed. It covers three subject areas: legal procedures and principles, technical aspects of electronic practice (equipment, recording techniques, microphone protocols, etc.), and vocabulary. Note: the written sections for the CER and CET exams have some overlapping principles but are not identical.

The practical section of the exam tests the electronic court reporter’s practical ability to take accurate notes. They do not actually record a court session, but rather view a 20 minute, 5 voice video and show take notes that are then graded. Test takers must bring their own laptops, CDs or floppy disks, and log noting software to the exam.

The cost of the exam is $150.00. Students must pass each section with a score of at least 70% in order to receive the certification. There are no continuing education requirements to maintain the certifications other than remaining an AAERT member in good standing.

Exam Eligibility

In order to be eligible to take the CER certification exam, an individual must meet three conditions: First of all they must have at least a high school diploma. This is not a hard requirement for most people to meet. Secondly, test takers must be must be at least eligible for notary public commissions in their states. Finally, the test taker must have either one year of court reporting experience or, alternatively, be recommended by an employer or AAERT member.

The CER certification can be a valuable credential that can increase the employability prospects of both newcomers to court reporting and veterans of the field alike. Registration and other information on the CER certification can be found on the AAERT website at: http://www.aaert.org/home.htm