In an unprecedented move, NCRA has published “Emerging Ethical and Legal Issues Related to the Use of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR), Voice Cloning, and Digital Audio Recording of Legal Proceedings,” its first white paper highlighting the emerging ethical issues related to the implementation of artificial intelligence in the U.S. judicial system.

“Raising the alarm of the emerging threat of artificial intelligence to the nation’s judiciary starts with this white paper,” said NCRA Executive Director Dave Wenhold, CAE, PLC. “NCRA continues to be at the forefront of our industry by providing this document to legislators, members, and our citizenry at all levels.”

The document has been a work in progress for years, sparked by the NCRA STRONG Committee, which is chaired by Sue A. Terry, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, a 48-year veteran of court reporting from Springfield, Ohio.

“This white paper will serve as a crucial reminder to courts, lawyers, and justice advocacy groups of the importance of ensuring the integrity of our nation’s court records,” Terry said.

“While digital audio recording and automatic speech recognition tech vendors promise cost savings that are often unattainable, there are high risks with these technologies to the accuracy, accountability, privacy, and traceability of litigants’ private information, and caution should be used before implementing this solution,” she added.

The 22-page document is the culmination of the work of 17 NCRA members from 11 states who offer 525 years of combined experience in the stenographic court reporting profession. Nearly three years of research into the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR), voice cloning, and digital audio recording reveal the urgent need to strengthen protections of America’s established court processes to ensure that early-stage technologies, products, and services such as these do not either inadvertently or intentionally corrupt the integrity of the nation’s judicial system.

While these technologies can offer great opportunities such as mass data management, their programmed algorithms must not be relied on to perform tasks that require the expertise, critical reasoning, and interpretive skills unique to specifically trained people such as NCRA-certified stenographic court reporters in the United States, and not questionable digital transcribing firms abroad.

“The judicial system, and society as a whole, depends heavily on the services that only a qualified, NCRA-certified stenographic court reporter can provide,” Wenhold said. “By making this document public facing, NCRA is taking that bold step into advocating for our legal system to remain free from foreign interference and in turn, a secure democracy.”

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