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Tag: court record

Why You Should Always Order Audio Recordings By Braxton Mounteer

You may be asking yourself, why should I order from the court a copy of the audio recordings of my court hearings? Shouldn’t the court’s own notes in the written record be sufficient? Can’t I just make my own recordings? Not in Utah.

First, the “written record” that the court keeps is more like meeting minutes and is not a word-for-word record of everything that was said by the parties, the lawyers, and the court during a hearing or trial.

Second, Utah does not allow you or your attorney to make your own recordings of your own court proceedings. Such a rule makes absolutely no sense and imposes undue costs and wait times on parties and their attorneys, but it’s the rule nonetheless.

Third, and most importantly, you should order the audio recording of your hearings and other court appearances to ensure that the orders that come out of those proceedings are accurate and complete–to ensure they are faithful to what was actually said and ordered. Most people cannot keep it all correctly remembered in their heads.

When there is a back and forth between the parties and their counsel over the specifics of a judgement or recommendation that was handed down months or years or even days ago, knowing exactly what was said is vitally important. You wouldn’t want a decision in your favor to be forgotten or misstated. Nor would you want to be mistreated due to someone imposing a harsher penalty on you than the court issued simply because no one could remember what the evidence was, what the testimony was, and what the court’s decisions were.

In Utah, you need to pay $15.00 and fill out and submit to the court clerk a form to request an audio recording. It is fast and easy. Your lawyer or opposing counsel may say “You don’t need to do that, I remember the hearing”; do not believe him/her. Human memory is fallible. Lawyers have the reputation that they have for a reason. Do yourself a favor and spend the five minutes that it would take to fill out and pay for an audio recording. Don’t leave your fate to faulty memories.

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Is it possible to get court transcripts for custody hearings?

Every jurisdiction is different regarding which court hearings are open to the public and whether recordings of their proceedings are available to the public or even to the parties’ themselves. 

Every jurisdiction is different regarding how court proceedings are recorded too. 

Not every jurisdiction makes a written transcript of court proceedings. 

Most jurisdictions make audio or video recordings of court proceedings at a certain level, and divorce and family law proceedings are on that level. 

In the jurisdiction where I practice divorce and family law (Utah), the court makes its own audio recordings of divorce another family law court proceedings. These proceedings are open to the court, and thus the audio records of the court proceedings are public record, meaning that they are available to the public. Utah courts do not, at the trial court level, make written transcriptions of court proceedings. 

If you wanted to obtain a transcript of Utah family law court proceedings, you would need to take the audio recording of those proceedings and have them transcribed. If you wanted to use the transcription for appeals purposes, you would have to have the record transcribed by a stenographer approved by the court. It might also be possible to make your own transcript and to utilize that, if the opposing party agreed that your transcript was a true and complete and accurate transcription of the proceedings. 

Generally speaking, if all you want is a written transcription of the recordings of court proceedings for your own personal use, there’s nothing to stop you from doing so. And with advances in transcription technology, the cost of transcription have plummeted from what they were just 10 or 20 years ago. There are online transcription services such as http://Rev.com or Otter.ai – Voice Meeting Notes & Real-time Transcription that don’t do a perfect job of transcription, but do a very good job of transcribing for very little money. These types of services make obtaining transcriptions of court proceedings easier and less expensive than ever before. 

Transcripts can be very useful in establishing certain facts that may have otherwise escaped the court’s attention had they not been recorded and transcribed. Judges hate listening to audio recordings, but are much more receptive to reading a transcript of the very same recording because it’s much easier to isolate those portions of the recording in the transcript that are relevant to the issues before the court.  

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277  

https://www.quora.com/Is-it-possible-to-get-court-transcripts-for-custody-hearings/answer/Eric-Johnson-311  

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Law from a legal assistant’s point of view, week 3: Who is watching the court?

It is sad, but I think that becoming a legal assistant has made me want to be more engaged with civic processes. It is not sad that I want to be more engaged, it is sad that it took a change in career paths to help me realize the necessity of being active in (and informed about) the functions of government.

Part of my job has been to send in requests to cover court proceedings electronically for Utah Family Law TV (UFLTV). I did not realize this until I got my current job, but hearings from the eight district courts of Utah may be recorded for the purpose of news coverage with permission from the court. There is a form for such requests that I have filled out several times. Oddly enough, these requests are often denied. I wonder why these requests are denied, especially since the Utah Supreme Court and the Utah Court of Appeals each regularly post recordings from their public hearings online.

Judges who deny UFLTV electronic media coverage requests are required to state the reason why they choose to deny electronic coverage of a given hearing, but not all judges will do so. Those who do state their reasons for denial can range from “This case does not warrant media coverage” to the judge simply saying “No” without any justification, even though court rules require much more than that, if a judge denies an electronic media coverage request. Perhaps the judge believes the parties involved in a case do not want more attention drawn to their case, but if that’s what the judge thinks, then why not block any and all kinds of public access to the hearing?

This past election cycle I had the opportunity (along with every other voter) to vote to retain or dismiss judges from the bench. The difficult part was that I did not have a means to assess these judges except a grade given to them online by the government. And maybe I should just take government’s word for it, but it would make sense to allow a regular civilian like myself the opportunity to see the judge in action and then I can make my decision based on some more substantial evidence. Good decisions come, in part, from good information.

Additionally, if I knew I would be involved in court action in the future as a party or as a witness who would be required to appear in court to testify or help my lawyer argue my case, it certainly wouldn’t hurt me to have access to recordings of real court proceedings in the court I will be in myself, so that I can see what is in store for me before I get to court. I could be better prepared for my own day in front of the judge. One of the best things about the internet is the ability is gives one to disseminate information to a broad audience without prohibitive expense or effort. So why has my experience so far been with judges being very guarded (overly guarded, frankly) about who can view a given court procession today?

I do not have the answer to that question, but it is food for thought. I figure with time I will understand more, but as of right now I have to be satisfied with being less informed.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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What’s the benefit of having no record of the child’s interview?

What’s the benefit of having no record of the child’s interview?

This post is the eleventh in series of 15 posts on the subject of custody evaluations and the appointment of guardians ad litem (“GALs” for short) in Utah child custody cases when the judge could simply interview the children instead. You do not have to read all 16 posts to benefit from this series. Read as many or as few as you wish.

The purpose of this series is to make the case for the proposition that an interview by the judge is a faster, more accurate, more particular, more reliable, and less expensive form of evidence than what a GAL and/or custody evaluator provides.

Even if private guardians ad litem work diligently and find a lot of useful information, there is no way to know that because they are not required to furnish any proof to verify the quality of their work and opinions. And so, when guardians ad litem say that they don’t tell us much, if anything, about what the child said, and refuse to provide of the evidence upon which they base their recommendations, but instead merely make a recommendation as to what is in the child’s best interest, the evidentiary basis for those recommendations, the factual basis in the record, is literally non-existent. What verifiable proof of anything pertaining to a child’s best interest when it comes to custody and parent time does a GAL bring to the table? Literally nothing.

Why should we take the unsubstantiated word of the GAL over the word of the child directly stated to the judge in an on the record interview with the judge? I do not see how a GAL can represent a child when there is no way to tell whether the GAL has done good/adequate/preponderance of evidence work or any work at all. The GAL’s work and the child’s interview(s) are not made on the record, so we have no idea what was asked of the child or what the child said in response. The GAL is not subject to discovery, so any ostensible evidence upon which the GAL claims to have based her analysis and recommendations will not exist as a matter of court record. The court literally takes on faith what the GAL recommends, if the court decides to believe anything the GAL says. I ask you: why I go through any of this rigmarole when the judge can interview the children directly, without any second or third hand intermediaries, far more quickly, accurately, particularly, and inexpensively than a GAL or custody evaluator?

I have never witnessed a private guardian ad litem meet or speak with the children for multiple times or for significant periods of time (nor am I aware of the need for this). Even if they did so, how would we ever know? None of their conversation(s) is/are made part of the court’s record. And even if a guardian ad litem and/or custody evaluator were to spend hours speaking with the child, attending the child’s activities, becoming intimately acquainted with the child circumstances, feelings and needs, neither the parents nor the court will ever know this because A) neither the guardian ad litem nor the custody evaluator is required to record interviews with the children, will never really know what they were asked or what they said in response and B) the judge will never speak with the child to verify whether what the guardian ad litem and/or custody evaluator reports is true. I do not know why anybody believes this is an acceptable way to engage in fact-finding, especially in court proceedings. No one has yet convincingly explained why to me, and I’ve asked around a lot.

I’ve heard guardians ad litem claim to have spoken to collateral sources, but how would we know if they ever did or what they asked or what they were told? No record is made of any of their alleged actions, no discovery can be conducted into who these alleged collateral contacts were or what they actually said to the guardian ad litem. In most cases, the guardian ad litem doesn’t even identify specially who he or she spoke with, and even if these collateral sources were specifically identified, we have no record of the conversation between the GAL and the collateral sources. And by the time you learn who the collateral sources are, the guardian ad litem is already made his or her report to the court, so you can’t cross-examine any of the alleged collateral sources the Guardian ad litem claims to have interviewed.

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

 

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Do GALs or custody evaluators do a better job of interviewing children than judges do?

This post is the tenth in series of 15 posts on the subject of custody evaluations and the appointment of guardians ad litem (“GALs” for short) in Utah child custody cases when the judge could simply interview the children instead. You do not have to read all 16 posts to benefit from this series. Read as many or as few as you wish.

The purpose of this series is to make the case for the proposition that an interview by the judge is a faster, more accurate, more particular, more reliable, and less expensive form of evidence than what a GAL and/or custody evaluator provides.

But do GALs or custody evaluators do a better job of interviewing children than judges do?

When the “judges interviewing children harms children” argument is finally abandoned by those who acknowledge it’s a silly and patently invalid argument, the next argument to which some cleaning in their efforts to prevent judges from talking to children directly is this one: GAL’s and/or custody evaluators develop a much deeper understanding of the child circumstances, needs, and desires than would a judge interviewing a child. But a guardian ad litem does not spend that much time learning about a child, his parents, or his environment, and does not establish an especially trusting or otherwise meaningful relationship with the child either. I’ve talked with GALs and custody evaluators and with people who had them appointed to speak to them as children; the guardian and/or custody evaluator may have spoken to them for an hour or so. No more than the amount of time a judge could and should spend speaking to a child as well. To assert that guardians ad litem and/or custody evaluators do a better job of interviewing children than a judge can because GALs inherently care more or put more effort or time into it is demonstrably false.

First, if there are any private guardians ad litem out there who spend more than an hour or so talking to their child clients before going before the court and making recommendations based upon the interview with the child, I don’t know who they are. I have never had a guardian ad litem do that in the cases I’ve handled. And if any of you claim that you generally spend or need to spend more than an hour or so interviewing the child, please provide some independently verifiable proof.

I have never witnessed a private guardian ad litem meet or speak with the children multiple times. Even if they did, how would we ever know? None of their conversation(s) is/are made part of the court’s record.

How could a GAL speak with the parents (unless the parents are proceeding pro se) without violating the rule against communicating with a represented party? On the extraordinarily rare occasion that the guardian ad litem has sought permission to speak with my client, the conversation has been brief and not in depth. And in a way that doesn’t come as a surprise. The guardian ad litem doesn’t speak for the parents. The parents can do that for themselves. Come to think of it, except where child is too young to communicate effectively, children don’t need a guardian ad litem or a custody evaluator to speak for them either. They have their own voice and should be permitted to voice their experiences, observations, feelings, concerns, opinions, needs, and desires by themselves, in their own words, unfiltered and unadulterated. But what do I know?

Utah Family Law, LC | divorceutah.com | 801-466-9277

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