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Writing Court Reports

Establish Context

❶We have seen that it is in the interests of society that everything which goes on in court is reported - the charges, the name of the defendant and all the evidence, as well as the verdict and sentence.

Court Report Purpose

Your Target Audience
Include Biographical Information

It also helps the volunteer verify that the report is complete. Completing a court report is a joint effort between the CASA and the county coordinator. The CASA always needs to have the report reviewed and edited by the county coordinator.

This editing process is a cooperative effort. Coordinators may have suggestions about better ways to effectively phrase issues: The coordinator can also verify the court report formatting. The CASA helps the coordinator understand what has been happening in the case and makes sure that the intent of the report is maintained through the editing process.

Any changes that the coordinator wishes to make in the court report should be discussed with the CASA who has written the report. Resources The seventh section contains information about all of the people directly involved with the case and the names of the people interviewed by the CASA. Legal parties in a dependency case are only those listed in the court's Minute Entry. CASA court reports are distributed only to legal parties.

Interested parties are granted the right to notice of and participation in any review or hearing concerning the child. Interested parties may include therapists, foster parents, relatives, friends, etc. If the parents have attorneys, the parents are considered to be interested parties. A court report can change the course of someone's life. Court reports are presented to the judge in certain types of cases, including criminal proceedings against a minor and adoption hearings.

By presenting information in the correct format and order, you can help influence the result of the hearing. A court report should begin with basic information to help the reader identify the people in the case. Include the names and dates of birth of the people involved and the date of the hearing. Establish context for the case. Explain how you know this information and whether or not you observed it firsthand. If the report you're writing is for an adoption case, include information about the potential parents and home.

So the smooth running of society depends partly on people being informed about what happens in courts. There is another very good reason why newspapers and broadcasting stations send reporters to court, as well as the social duty they perform. There are hundreds of very interesting news stories there.

Almost every case to come before the courts is full of human drama. There are murders and rapes and assaults, thefts and burglaries and robberies, broken promises, land disputes and broken contracts. Every one of these, written the right way, can give an interesting news story at the same time as informing the public about the workings of the courts.

Every editor should think very seriously about having one reporter permanently in the courts, if they have enough staff. We have seen that it is in the interests of society that everything which goes on in court is reported - the charges, the name of the defendant and all the evidence, as well as the verdict and sentence.

However, as we shall see in Chapter 69 , there is an offence called defamation or libel in some countries , which stops people saying untrue things about other people which will damage their reputations. Is this not a worry to the court reporter? Suppose a court reporter has taken down all that the prosecuting lawyer had to say, and all that the prosecution witnesses had to say about the defendant; and suppose the court reporter has done her job and written a report which has been published.

It is likely that it will all be damaging to the defendant's reputation. Now suppose that, at the end of the trial, the defendant is acquitted - that is, he is found not guilty.

Can he now sue the prosecution lawyer and all the witnesses for defamation? Can he sue the reporter for defamation? After all, what was said and written was damaging to his reputation, and it can now be seen that it was not true. The answer, of course, is that he cannot sue them for defamation. If he could, then it would be impossible for the courts to do their job. To allow the courts to do their job, anything that is said in court as part of a hearing is protected by privilege , and that is dealt with in detail in Chapter The good news for court reporters, though, is that privilege protects more than the lawyers and witnesses.

It also protects a news report of court proceedings, as long as it is fair, accurate and not malicious. In many legal systems, this special protection for reporting cases is called qualified privilege , because it has some conditions or qualifications. We shall deal in a moment with what each of these means.

It is interesting to note that privilege is the court reporter's best friend. The limitations placed on what we can report by a case being sub judice may seem like a difficulty; the risk of defamation may seem frightening; but privilege puts everything back into balance. The court reporter may have to wait to tell the full story, but when the time comes it can all be reported fully, without any fear of defamation.

Let us look now at the three conditions a report must meet in order to be protected by qualified privilege. If evidence has been given by both prosecution and defence, the report must contain both sides. It is not necessary to report every word that was said, but the overall balance of the court case must be retained in the report. For example, if the prosecution case took twice as long as the defence case, you could fairly devote two-thirds of your report to the prosecution evidence and only one-third to the defence evidence.

It is essential that a newspaper or broadcasting station which starts to report a court case, continues to do so every day until it is finished. Otherwise the report of the case as a whole cannot be fair, and it will then lose the protection of privilege. It is essential that court reporters do not make mistakes. What the witness says may be quoted, but it must be an accurate quote.

Court reporters need good shorthand. If the reason you publish or broadcast a court report is to do harm to the defendant - that is, you are being malicious - then you can lose the protection of privilege.

This is not something which you need to worry about very often. You will report court cases on their merits, day after day and week after week. You will report them for the reasons we have already discussed - to inform readers or listeners about what is happening in courts. There will not normally be any malice towards anybody involved in any case.

The only time a problem might arise would be if the defendant is a known enemy of you or the owner or editor of the newspaper, radio or television station. In this case, you must be very careful to treat the case in the same way you would treat any other similar case.

If you publish every word of prosecution evidence, on page one, and the person is later acquitted, he may try to sue you for defamation. If he can show that the way the case was reported was actuated by malice, you will lose the defence of privilege. Contemporaneous is a long word, but it means the next issue of the newspaper or the next news bulletin.

In some legal systems, such as Britain, as long as you publish or broadcast a court report contemporaneously, you will have a special kind of protection from privilege called absolute privilege.

In this case, your report only has to be fair and accurate; it does not matter whether or not it was actuated by malice. For a daily morning newspaper, a court report is privileged in this way if it is published in the next morning's issue.

For a daily evening newspaper, it must be published in the same day's issue, unless the hearing finished too late, in which case it must appear in the next day's issue. For radio or television, the report is privileged in this way if it is used on any bulletin up to the start of the next day's hearing.

It can be used on the evening bulletin, and again next morning, but not after that. We shall return to consider the different kinds of privilege in more detail, in Chapter To help you understand how sub judice applies during legal processes, see this Sub judice Char t.

It illustrates how sub judice, defamation and privilege work at different stages in legal processes. While sub judice restricts what else you can report about the legal process, fair and accurate reports of the proceedings themselves are protected from defamation by privilege.


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A court report can change the course of someone's life. Court reports are presented to the judge in certain types of cases, including criminal proceedings against a minor and adoption hearings. By presenting information in the correct format and order, you can help influence the result of the hearing.

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write a report for Court, there are several options to assist social workers with Court Report writing. If your place of work regularly submits Court Reports, many .

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Writing a court report is one of the most important responsibilities of a CASA. The court report is the official method that a Court Appointed Special Advocate uses to inform the judge about what the advocate has learned about the appointed child and family. Read some tips on how to write a professional court report. Read some tips on how to write a professional court report. Writing Court Stories. Search the site GO. Issues. Journalism U.S. Government U.S. Foreign Policy U.S. Liberal Politics U.S. Conservative Politics Women's Issues.

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Submission of Last Minute Information to the Court Time Frames for Submission of Court Reports Writing a Status Review Hearing Report for a WIC Section , . In order to produce a concise and compelling court report, your number one task is to guide your target audience to what is really important. In other word.