ETHICS: Coping with COPE

By Doug Friend

I’m honored to serve NCRA this year as the chair of the Committee on Professional Ethics, otherwise known as COPE.

This committee is made up of a wonderful cross-section of NCRA’s membership. The committee this year consists of freelance reporters, officials, firm owners, and a retired judge who gives us outstanding input. We hail from every corner of the nation – Oregon, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Florida, and California – as well as the heartland areas of Iowa and Texas. Of course, legal counsel is always at hand.

The purpose of COPE is laid out in NCRA’s Bylaws. The committee is responsible for developing, interpreting, and enforcing the Code of Professional Ethics (The code is available online at http://NCRA.org/CodeofProfessionalEthics). That code defines the ethical standards the public, the bench, the bar, and other reporters have a right to expect from an NCRA member.

The purpose of the Code of Professional Ethics is never to cramp anyone’s style, nor is it ever to interfere with our members’ business practices. The code and the purpose of this committee is to give guidance as to appropriate conduct to ensure that:

–        the public is treated fairly and impartially;

–        reporters and firm owners have guidance in dealing with attorneys and the judiciary, as well as the public;

–        the integrity of the reporting profession is maintained.

Maintaining the integrity of the reporting profession overarches everything COPE does – and well it should. Unless court reporters are trusted and viewed as impartial, then why do we exist?

To put meat on the bones of the code, there are Public Advisory Opinions that are easily accessed on NCRA’s website. These PAOs lay out scenarios of how the code would be interpreted in factual situations, such as:

–        What are the duties of disclosure if a party orders a transcript?

–        What are the differences in those duties if the reporter is the official record or is simply hired by one party for that party’s purposes?

–        What is the responsibility of a firm owner who knowingly and repeatedly assigns reporters to jobs for which they are not qualified?

These are just a few examples. There are more than 30 Public Advisory Opinions.

Any member who has a situation occur that doesn’t seem to be covered in NCRA’s current PAOs can submit that questionable scenario and ask the committee to render its opinion on the appropriate protocols. If a feeling of discomfort has come up for you, chances are someone else has had the same situation.

In addition, NCRA offers a way for people to lodge complaints against an NCRA member if someone, whether a reporter, a member of the bar of judiciary, or a citizen of the public, feels that an NCRA member has violated the Code of Professional Ethics.

In the coming months, COPE committee members will be writing articles highlighting specific issues to help each of you in your workplaces. I know you’ll find them helpful and informative.

R. Douglas Friend, RDR, CRR, is the chair of NCRA’s Committee on Professional Ethics. He is a principal in a firm based in Portland, Ore., and a past president of NCRA.

 

Terms explained

COPE is used as an abbreviation for both the Committee on Professional Ethics and the Code of Professional Ethics.

PAO is an abbreviation for Public Advisory Opinions. Public Advisory Opinions are questions presented as scenarios that the Committee on Professional Ethics answers with standard practice based on the principles stated in NCRA’s Code of Professional Ethics.