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The Massachusetts House and Senate have passed legislation barring law firms and insurance companies from hiring court reporting services through exclusive contracts at discounted rates. Governor Paul Cellucci, however, has sent the bill back, saying that he opposes an outright ban and instead favors disclosure by the court reporters. The bill, which was passed on June 28, is now before the House. Proposed by the Massachusetts Court Reporters Association, the bill is part of a national trend of states seeking legislation preventing these contracts. According to the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA), 20 states have enacted legislation that either outlaws or strictly curtails contracting agreements. The unease felt by the national and local court reporters’ groups revolves around the independence of the stenographers. “We’re concerned about anything that calls into question a court reporter’s impartiality,” says Marshall Jorpeland, director of communications at the Virginia-based NCRA. Because court reporters are neutral parties at depositions and are there strictly to record the proceedings, those who support the bill say that if the reporters are paid exclusively by a law firm or insurance company, there may be the appearance that the reporter is beholden to one side. “I was always comfortable with the fact that stenographers were concerned about one thing — their notes,” says Springfield, Mass., lawyer William T. Walsh, who earlier this year participated in a deposition at which the court reporter worked strictly for the opposing side. Walsh represented the plaintiff in a malpractice case against two veterinarians. Although Walsh notes that the court reporting contract was not an issue in that particular case, he says, “I will tell my clients in the future that the proceedings are being taken down by someone who is paid exclusively by one side.” Normally, Boston litigato

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