Ethics: Advisory Opinion No. 1997-2

Advisory Opinion No. 1997-2
Advisory Opinion No. 1997-2

Application Of Code Of Ethics To Court Reporters
Charging Public For Computer Disks

Martin R. Libbin, attorney for the legal services division of the Office of the Chief Court Administrator, has asked whether, under the Code of Ethics for Public Officials, Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-79 et seq., court reporters can provide a computer disk to attorneys, together with a transcript, and charge for providing the disk. Attorney Libbin has asked the question in the alternative; (1) assuming the chief court administrator has adopted policies and procedures governing the sale of disks by court reporters, including a fee schedule, and (2) assuming that no such policies or procedures have been adopted.

The issue of the extent to which court reporters could, under the Ethics Code, charge a fee to the public for supplying transcripts of court proceedings was addressed by this Commission in Advisory Opinion 94-2, 55 Conn. Law J. No. 37, p. 4D (3/15/94). Of particular concern in that opinion was whether court reporters could charge an "expedited" rate for certain transcripts. State law and Judicial Department regulations allowed court reporters to charge a certain fee for work performed within a specified time frame. However, court reporters would routinely prepare expedited transcripts, setting their own fees for that work. The Commission held that unless the Judicial Department or the legislature defined an "expedited rate" and established a fee schedule for such a rate, it would be a violation of the Ethics Code’s prohibition against using one’s state position for financial gain for a court reporter to unilaterally charge a higher fee for expedited work. See Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(c ). Attorney Libbin states that after the issuance of Advisory Opinion No. 94-2, Conn. Gen. Stat. 51-63, the statute governing transcript fees, was amended to allow the chief court administrator to adopt policies regarding expedited fees.

The same reasoning which was applied by the State Ethics Commission with regard to expedited transcripts applies to the sale of computer disks by court reporters. If there is statutory or regulatory authority for such a sale, the court reporter need only follow those rules to avoid a conflict with the ethics laws. If, however, there is no authority, then the court reporter may not unilaterally set a price on the sale of a disk without violating the "use of office" prohibition of Conn. Gen. Stat. 1-84(c ). Of course, if the court reporter purchases the disk and charges the buyer no more than that purchase price, no violation of the Code of Ethics has occurred, since there has been no financial gain to the court reporter.

By order of the Commission,

Maurice FitzMaurice

Content Last Modified on 9/7/2005 8:02:03 AM