In early October of this year, I was lucky enough to go to Russia with NCRA through People to People with a delegation of court reporters. Past Presidents Merilyn Sanchez and Laurel Eiler were our leaders. 35 court reporters spent 10 days seeing the historic sites of Moscow and St. Petersburg and meeting with attorneys, judges, and court secretaries (court reporters) of Russia.
In Russia the person who is in charge of the official court record is a court secretary. To be a court secretary, a person must first be an attorney. Being a court secretary in Russia is considered to be a stepping stone on the journey to becoming a judge. 70% of the judges of Russia began as a court secretary.
Court secretaries do not create a verbatim record of a courtroom proceeding. Rather, the court secretary takes what we would consider to be minutes of a trial and documents the “important events” of a trial. The newer courthouses are putting in ER to supplement and back up the “minutes” as recorded by the court secretary.
There are many similarities between the USA court system and the Russian court system. They do have jury trials. One difference is if a person is found to be not guilty in a criminal trial, the prosecution can appeal the decision to a higher court. There is no double jeopardy.
One of the highlights of the trip was going to the Constitutional Court of the Russian Federation. It is a court that considers cases relating to the compliance of the federal laws. It is the first judicial body of constitutional review in the history of Russia. The Court was created in October 1991, after Soviet time. In its very first decisions, the Constitutional Court confirmed the supremacy of international human rights law.
As a delegation, every representative of the court system who spoke to us was very open. We were never told we couldn’t touch on a certain subject or ask specific types of questions.
In the past I might have been hesitant to accept a reporting job in Russia thinking it might be difficult or intimidating. I would encourage any reporter who gets the opportunity to travel to Russia to go. It is a beautiful country. The people are kind. It is safe.
Have your passport ready just in case you get the call, “Can you go to Russia to cover a deposition?” (You will need a visa – go to http://www.passportvisasexpress.com)