Recently I was privileged and honored to interview Sabina Klaneček, Senior Advisor for the Ministry of Justice & Public Administration of the Republic of Slovenia. Please enjoy this unprecedented interview between Ms. Klaneček and AAERT.
Gail: Welcome, Ms. Klaneček. May I call you Sabina?
Gail: Please give our readers a few details about Slovenia.
Sabina: Slovenia is a small yet strikingly scenic country in Central Europe with a population of about two million. It contains Alpine mountains, thick forests, vineyard, seaside caves, historic cities, and a short Adriatic coastline. The history and culture of Slovenia are rich and interesting. You can literally drive from the eastern to western part of the country in about three hours. Famous Slovenes include skier Tina Maze and hockey player Anže Kopitar who plays for the Los Angeles Kings. Akrapovič exhaust systems for motorcycles and Pipistrel solar aircraft also originated in Slovenia. People in Slovenia are open, happy, kind-hearted, modest and look forward to new situations. They would accept you with open arms.
Gail: Please tell us about yourself and your current position.
Sabina: I am working as senior adviser at the Directorate for Informatics and e-Services at the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Slovenia. I have been working at the Ministry for years and have been involved in e-Justice Projects since 2008. I am also a representative of the Republic of Slovenia in the Council of EU Working Party on e-Law (e-Justice) and in the European Commissions` Expert Group for the EU e-Justice Portal. I help by preparing minutes for the Minister and cooperate at briefings for the Council of Ministers at the European Union where they discuss and decide about new regulations, projects, and jurisdiction.
I am responsible for the implementation of audio recording systems in the Slovenian courts, 353 courtrooms at present, the video-conferencing system, and its use in interviews with child victims of crime, the training of the involved experts, the pilot project of implementing voice recognition system, and a few other projects. My latest project that I am working on now is the mentioned pilot project of voice recognition.
My position as a senior adviser demands flexibility, a wide range of knowledge, and good communication skills. More precisely, the role of a project manager requires a lot of coordination and cooperation with all of the parties such as the Supreme Court of the Republic of Slovenia, General Prosecutors office, Staff Attorneys office, other Ministries, organizations such as Human Rights Ombudsman, Information Commissioner, NGOs, contractors, et cetera. I also prepare and supervise the Public Procurement process, suggest new projects to the Project Council e-Justice at our Ministry, supervise contracts, and cooperate with internal technicians and legal advisers and their faculties.
Gail: Do Slovenian courts render verdicts by means of a jury trial, before a judge or judges, or both?
Sabina: In Slovenia we do not have jury trials. The courts render their verdicts before a judge or a senate of three or five judges.
Gail: How is the Slovenian court system structured? What is the relationship between the lower courts, the courts of appeal, and the highest court?
Sabina: The unified system of courts consists of courts with general and specialized jurisdiction. Courts with general jurisdiction include 44 local, 11 district, 4 higher courts and the Supreme Court of the Republic of Slovenia. Specialized courts include 3 labour courts, 1 labour and social court that rule on labour-related and social insurance disputes, and the administrative court, which provides legal protection in administrative affairs and has the status of a higher court (second instance). Local and district court rule are first instance courts. Local courts mostly deal with smaller and simpler criminal and civil cases.
The Constitutional court is the highest judicial authority for the protection of constitutionality, legality, human rights and fundamental freedoms. It has the power to negate the actions of legislature by abrogating an act or part of an act.
Gail: How many languages are spoken in the courtrooms? Do you use interpreters?
Sabina: In the area we have Italian and Hungarian minorities. Therefore, our courts use Italian and Slovene, and Hungarian and Slovene equally, as directed by Article 6 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Generally Slovene is used. In a trial where a party or a witness is a foreigner, the court must provide for an interpreter as Article 8 of the Criminal Procedure Code mandates. We have a register of court interpreters available on the Internet and judges can freely choose from there which interpreter will be at the court session. There is also a Directive 2010/64/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 October 2010 on the right to interpretation and translation in criminal proceedings. ().
Gail: What is the e-Justice Program? How did you become involved?
Sabina: The whole initiative started at the level of the European Union and Council of EU before our “Operation e-Justice.” On 20 December 2006, the Council Working party on Legal Data Processing got a temporary remit to carry out preparatory work on the subject of “e-Justice.” Then the Action Plan was prepared and work began. The idea came from the need to cross border communication.
“Operation e-Justice” is the central subject of the Strategy of Computerization and Modernization of the Slovenian Judicial System, 2008-2013. The Strategy prepared by the Ministry of Justice in cooperation with all stakeholders of our judicial system in the Republic of Slovenia represents a fundamental document with which we want to enhance and implement computerization of our judicial system in the mentioned period. We are working now on new Strategy for the period 2014 to 2020.
The Slovenian “Operation e-Justice” and its project are partially financed from the resources of the European Social Fund. To efficiently implement the projects, the Ministry of Justice established a Project Unit. The Project Unit e-Justice will uniformly lead all stakeholders of the operation towards the common goal which is computerization and modernization of the Slovenian justice system and its proceedings.
Gail: We have read that Slovenia installed digital audio recording systems in all of its 353 courtrooms. When did this occur?
Sabina: Slovenia has 353 courtrooms equipped with audio recording systems. The public procurement proceeding started in December 2009. The installations and training for the use of the system were concluded by 1 October 2010, although all the information gathering and analyzing of the use of audio recordings of court proceedings began in 2008.
Gail: How was the record of a trial produced before, and what prompted Slovenia to make this change?
Sabina: Before the recording of trial proceedings, every statement of a witness or other party was summarized by the judge and dictated into a written protocol. The court clerk was responsible for the written protocol which had to be signed by all the parties to confirm its accuracy. You can imagine all the lawyers’ and prosecutors’ objections and arguments regarding a correct or incorrect summary of statements. It could take a long time to get consent on the summary. So the proceeding in that courtroom could take three to four times longer than usual.
We started a pilot project at one district court where judges were prone to use new modern technologies. We wanted to shorten the time of a court session, to ensure that the exact wording of the witness or other party was written or recorded as some judges were not very skilled with summarizing. We assumed also that the discipline in the courts would improve and the lawyers would act more professionally before the judge as they are being recorded. The pilots results were: 30 to 40 % shorter court sessions, better discipline, and the feeling of increased transparency, but we also encountered some new problems.
Gail: Are transcripts normally produced from the audio recordings?
Who orders and pays for them?
Sabina: Normally court clerks prepare transcripts from audio recordings. It is done under the decision of a judge. He can also decide not to prepare a transcript and that the recording is enough. We are trying to do our best to avoid the transcripts and to get rid of that additional workload for court clerks. By the end of the year, all the records will be available through an internet interface and digital identification of the user. The original recording is digitally signed by the judge and stored on a central server in the government’s network. The courts do not charge for the transcripts, but this question could be a subject of further consideration.
Gail: What do you see as the advantages and disadvantages of digital audio recording?
Sabina: As a project manager, I see mostly advantages due to the legal security of a party or witness who made the statement, shorter court sessions, less backlog, availability of recordings anytime and anywhere. A prior statement can be played back and reviewed at the court session. I have observed better discipline at the court session raising the trust in the judiciary and courts’ work. There is less paper to be used, and more trees and forests will be saved. This is also a step towards paperless courts, e-File, and e-Archive.
As a disadvantage, I see duplicity in work of the court clerks. The transcripts are long, mostly hard to read, and there is no education in the field for preparing transcripts because we do not have any experts.
Gail: What do you like most about digital audio reporting? Like least?
Sabina: It is easy to use. Everything is recorded. You can also hear and imagine the mood in the courtroom. It shortens the proceeding, and it saves time for the parties and witnesses. If parties argue or a few speak at the same time, you can listen to one channel at a time as we record on eight separate channels. We use Lognotes to mark important minutes of the recording for an easier search. A short protocol can be made during the session with the use of Lognotes. With the use of the audio recording, all the courtrooms had to be sound adjusted. We have old courtrooms with different furnishings. Hence, we had to adapt the courtrooms to obtain clearer recordings. Some of the recordings are still not as clear as we would like them to be. Sometimes lawyers or others make noise intentionally, or accidentally, by touching microphones with papers or making noise or by pushing chairs when they stand up or sit down.
Gail: Do you feel that the installation of digital recording has been a success?
Sabina: We will be able to talk about success in more detail in a few years when the new Y generation of judges will be presiding in our courts. At this time I think it is a success, although not all the judges use the recordings. It is not mandatory that they do so. The judges who have started using digital recording report that it is an excellent tool. The judges can concentrate more on the proceeding itself instead of preparing the summary for the minutes. A civil judge once mentioned she could have eight witnesses heard in one day, what would normally take five to six ruling days. The judges also prefer to make a recording when a statement of a medical or other expert’s opinion is being heard because of the complex terminology used. They are fond of the using digital recording, but we notice these are mostly younger judges.
We still have not reached the peak of the project. For the optimal use of recordings, we would have to make some significant legislative change. For example, the judgments would have to be written differently with shorter explanations. The appeal process should be revised which would be a big change in the whole system. The appeal regarding the proceeding itself currently can be filed with almost no exact wording. It can just be stated that there was a mistake in the process and the court has to look for the mistake. Another step towards a better use of recording would be presenting audio recording systems already at the faculty in the process of education.
Generally, we think it is a success and we are still working to improve the system. It was a huge step in the work process of judges, many who have presided in the same way for decades. The mindset of all involved has to be adjusted by small steps if we want that the project to reach 100% efficiency. At this point, we are at a 60-to-70 % efficiency level in the courts, which is an excellent result to date.
Gail: Have you encountered problems with digital recording that need to be addressed?
Sabina: Mostly the problems are connected with the fear of using new technologies, fear that the judge will be recorded if he makes a mistake. There are long transcripts produced by court clerks who have other work to do. There is no education in the field of producing transcripts quickly and accurately. Lognote software needs to be more widely used in the courts. As I already mentioned, some have not yet addressed needed changes of the judiciary system.
Gail: Does all of Slovenia currently have Internet access? If not, when is it expected that all of Slovenia will have access to the Internet?
Sabina: Yes. All of Slovenia has Internet access. Some of major cities provide free WiFi Internet for a limited period of time during the day to all the visitors and citizens. In the courts, wireless connections are not allowed due to security reasons.
Gail: Do most Slovenian lawyers use the Internet?
Sabina: All Slovenian lawyers and law firms use the Internet. There are a few procedures where they are required to file only in electronic form.
Gail: You are currently working on providing Internet access to all parties of a court proceeding by means of encrypted and digitally signed audio recordings. What is the purpose of the project? Has the project been successful?
Sabina: Because of the long transcripts and time needed for the transcripts to be prepared, we decided to make the records available by Internet to all justified parties no later than the next day after the court session has finished. The lawyers and prosecutors and others do not have to wait for the transcripts in order to prepare their case further. They can start their work immediately.
The recordings are digitally signed by a judge proving the originality of the record. A lawyer can access the recording by identification with his smart card (e-ID) and can hear all the recordings with permission from the judge. Thereby, any and all access to the recordings is being noted. If there is a misuse of the recording, we are able to see who accessed the recordings and at what time. Everyone who wants to hear the recording and who has the right to do so has to access the recording through this Internet interface including judges and court clerks. The project is currently being used in the area of the District Court in Koper. Other areas in Slovenia will be covered by the end of 2013. In Koper the users like and access the solution in large numbers. So I can say it is a success. The next step will be to make the recordings accessible through other electronic devices.
Gail: The E-Justice and Access to Justice for Citizens Report explains that the Ministry of Justice and Public Administration has started a pilot project to implement a voice recognition system to transcribe recordings online for people with hearing disabilities.
What is the current progress of that pilot project?
Sabina: In the market, there is a system available that is used in the field of medicine and radiology. The speaker uses a Dictaphone, and the system recognizes the words and produces a digital written document. I think those systems have been available in the United States for a long time, but there was no such system available for the Slovene language. First, we wanted to test the use of the Dictaphones and dictation software with our judges. The judges usually dictate judgments and other writings on a Dictaphone, and their secretaries or court clerks produce the transcript or the written document. We asked the Supreme Court and all the other courts to provide 50 volunteers among the judges who would test the system for three months and later give us an estimation of the usefulness, quality, and efficiency of that system for their work.
At this time we are noticing very positive feedback. Our judges are fond of the system, and the translation rate is almost 98% accurate. If the pilot is a success as we hope for, we are going to provide the system first to the judges. At a later stage we are thinking of using the system at court sessions together with the recordings. We think this could be a great solution for people with hearing disabilities because they could use it while they are playing the recording at home.
Gail: Can you suggest ways that AAERT could be of service to you?
Sabina: We had an idea of letting the records be transcribed by people who are not court clerks. One plan was to give the records to companies who will prepare transcripts as soon as possible. They should have the records online as soon as the record is made and lawyers, prosecutors, or other parties with the rights of seeing the transcript or hearing the record could order a transcript and pay for it. All of the parties with rights would also have free online access to records. Currently, we do not have education in the field of preparing transcripts. Therefore, we would be grateful to learn what your training and education involve.
Now when the transcripts are made by court clerks, we get a lengthy paper with written language as it happened before the judge, and it takes a lot of time for the clerks to prepare them. The transcripts are in addition to their other work. In Slovenia we have more than 40 dialects. You can imagine how it is when you are reading the transcript. I imagine AAERT with its members has experience and expertise in preparing excellent transcripts. You know how to listen to a recording and how to type so fast that you do not make mistakes. I could imagine a change to good practices would be very welcome in Slovenia. Also, you could explain the organization of your courts and how the whole process is done in USA, how the judges trust you, and allow you to prepare appeal transcripts.
Gail: Any final comments you wish to add?
Sabina: An added value to the recording system I can mention is the recording of hearings through a video-conferencing system that is also connected to the audio recording system. We can record just audio or both audio and video at the same time through the VC system. We can obtain two recordings at the same time.
The modernization of the Slovenian justice system is a big contribution to better services for citizens particularly in providing and executing citizens’ fundamental rights. We hope to improve the trust in our justice system and improve the transparency of the work of our courts. The Supreme Court provides some information also in other languages through their web page. Constitutional court has its own webpage in English .
As a part of European Union, we need to take care of our citizens abroad. We are doing a lot in the field of cross-border exchange of documents, connecting business, insolvency and other registers. The European Union member states at times have a chance to present their modernization projects. We were able to do that at a conference organized by the European Fundamental Rights Agency. Here you can find presentation of a few of our projects: http://fra.europa.eu/en/node/4987
Gail: Thank you very much, Sabina, for volunteering your valuable time and expertise to participate in this interview. It contains a wealth of information and insight into the success now and in the future for digital recording in the courts of Slovenia. I am thrilled to have met you and had the honor of interviewing you. Najlepša hvala!
Click here for more information or feel free to contact Ms. Klaneček at:
Submitted by Gail Malm Armstrong
June 7, 2013
Sabina Klaneček was born on 30th May 1974 in Ptuj (the oldest city in Slovenia, ). She works at the Ministry of Justice of the Republic of Slovenia in Ljubljana. After completing high school, for one year she studied mathematics and computer science at the Faculty of Science and Technology. Then afterward she completed her studies in German language at the Faculty of Education in Maribor.
She then worked in the business sector and began working for the Ministry in the sector for analytical logistics in 2006 as a translator of German-speaking legislation to participate in and interpret the visits of foreign delegations and bilateral talks for the Ministry of Justice. She is a court interpreter for the German language.
Since 2008 she has been involved as a project manager and helped with preparation of the e-Justice Action Plan for 2007-2014. In the context of e-Justice, she is also involved in the training of judges and members of the judiciary. She is a project manager in the implementation of Video-Conferencing Justice, interviews with children using video-conferencing, implementation of sound recording in the courts, and the pilot project of voice recognition.
She is a representative of the Republic of Slovenia in the Council of the European Union e-Law (e-Justice), European Commission’s experts’ group of the EU e-Justice portal. She has been a speaker at many seminars and symposiums related to the topics of e-Justice projects, children, and victims of crime. She was a panelist at the Annual Conference of the Agency for Fundamental Rights in the European Parliament in 2012 and participates in international projects, such as the project “True to Life Video-Conferencing,” where the countries of Netherlands, Ireland, Czech Republic, Belgium, Romania, Lithuania, and Slovenia participated. Within the framework of this project, she participated in the education of Czech and Latvian judges through video-conference.
When I was a transcriber, I asked myself these questions frequently. I would always wonder who the reporter was that covered this job. Did they notice how far away the lawyer was from the microphone? Why didn’t they get that spelling?
It was a blessing in disguise because once I became a Certified Electronic Reporter, I knew exactly what was needed to make the transcriber’s life easier. TAKE GOOD NOTES! Your log notes tell the story of what is going on in the courtroom, deposition suite, or conference. Your log notes don’t have to be a novel, but they do need to contain pertinent information so the transcriber knows what occurred during the proceeding.
Often, people approach me and ask what I am doing. They think that I just push the “record” button on my laptop during the proceedings. After I explain to them that I am identifying speakers, keeping track of spellings and making sure the audio is excellent, I always get the, “Oooooh.” I further explain, “I am the eyes and ears of the transcriber.”
As a CER, your first concern is getting an exceptional recording. Make a habit of supplying detailed explanations in your log notes. If a phone rings, whose was it? It better not be yours. If someone enters or exits the hearing, put that in your notes. An exhibit gets marked, received, rejected, put that in your log notes. My log note software has time-stamp capabilities. Every time there is a change of speaker or I hit return, there a time-stamp appears.
I have trained other reporters. One of my first lessons is when you arrive at the job, briefly explain to your contact person how you will proceed. Explain to the parties that your microphones are for recording. They don’t amplify. When there are a lot of speakers sitting at the table, ask them to identify themselves before they speak. Get the correct spellings of all parties’ names. Make a seating chart of the persons present so you know who is seated where. This is really helpful when you “saw” who the speaker was, but can’t remember that person’s name.
Having covered a variety of hearings and meetings, I have reported in courtrooms, conference rooms, auditoriums, and cafeterias. The parties will usually defer to you on how to set up the room. Take charge! Give them some instruction on how to obtain an optimal recording: Speak one at a time; make sure you stay in front of microphone; answer audibly. If you don’t mind, it is okay to spell all those medical or technical terms, Mr. Expert Witness.
When I work in Tax Court, the first day consists of a lengthy calendar call. Each time a case is called, I start a new line with that case name and case number. My log note software automatically enters a time-stamp when I do this. Now there is a start and stop time for each case called.
Sometimes I cover hearings involving a panel or with public participation. I find it best to assign everyone on the panel their own arbitrary. An arbitrary is an abbreviation used to identify each speaker. Each public speaker is assigned the same arbitrary. The first time that person speaks, I immediately note their name and the company or party they represent. Later when I review my notes, I can change the speaker arbitrary to the person’s name. In the past when we utilized paper notes, I would assign each speaker a number and would then create a legend for each person. My method of taking notes may not be the best way for you to take notes. Through experience you will find what approach works best for creating your log notes.
I have found that knowing your job really instills confidence in the people you work with. The best compliment I ever received from a judge was, “It is always nice to have a court reporter that you forgot was even there.” Judges have their job, attorneys have their jobs, and witnesses have their jobs. If the truth be told, your job is the most critical. Without you, every word spoken at the proceeding would just be a bunch of hearsay.
If you don’t capture or make a good recording or take excellent notes, the transcriber will be calling or emailing you. Trust me. You don’t want that because they will be calling you at 2:00 a.m. with spelling questions. If you get a chance to transcribe before you become a reporter, I recommend it. It will make you a more skilled and thorough reporter.
In closing, I am the trained eyes and ears of the transcriber who will have the serious responsibility of transcribing the digital audio recording I produce. I am not a static observer or a mere sitter in the courtroom or deposition room. I am an active participant even if I do not speak. My eyes observe the attorneys, the judges, the witnesses, and the parties. Communication with all parties is crucial not only for my record but for the transcriber down the line. I will pass my log notes on to that person. The transcriber will see and hear through my eyes and ears.
My attentive eyes will see and my trained ears will hear the speech patterns of the attorneys, the witnesses, the judges. My ears send that signal to my brain. The neurons in my brain transfer electrical impulses and information to my hands. The transcriber will not have to strain his eyes or ears or guess to make sense of my audio recording or notes. In his or her mind, he will see and hear what occurred during that trial through my log notes just as authentically as if he or she were present in the courtroom at that very moment. The end result is a quality recording, a verifiable record, and an expertly prepared transcript that reflects exactly to the word what transpired that date and in that room. Indeed, my eyes, ears, hands, and brain are all in sync. The end result is exceptional.
Troy Anthony Ray was born in Houston, TX on January 11, 1969. He moved to California at the age of 6 years. He has a younger sister and brother, Terry and Tahirah. Troy graduated from El Monte High School in 1987. He has been employed in the Court Reporting Field for the last 11 years. His debut into the field occurred when he started doing transcription for Lutz & Company and then became AAERT Certified in 2007. Happily married since 2000 to his best friend, Julia Ray, he is the proud father of four great kids, Chelsea, Ella, Olivia and Troy, Jr. In Troy’s words, “I really feel honored to be working as a CER. The people I work for and with are all great. I am learning something new with each assignment I take. This is what I was meant to do. “
The marvelous human brain is able to perceive noise, sounds, and voices all simultaneously and filter out the noise from the voices. However, the limbic system and other parts of the brain, especially those devoted to language, only respond to one speaker at a time. Hence, digital audio recording preserves multiple voices at once separately and allows the human brain of the transcriber to later listen to each voice and successfully transcribe that speaker verbatim.
Try the experiment yourself. Click here for the video that shows clips of two people telling stories at the same time. Try focusing on one person, then the other. For more industry related news and current events stay tuned here or visit us at AAERT today.
Margie Wakeman Wells, Teacher nonpareil, has released her new book:
“WORD PARES, PEARS, PAIRS”
Margie gives a short review of her latest publication: You have a word in your notes that does not make sense in the context of the sentence. How do you know where to go in the dictionary to look up a similar word? You have “It was a naughty problem that had to be resolved.” How do you find the word that is “close” in sound or stroke to naughty and that makes sense in the context of the sentence? Does it always occur to you to look under exactly the correct letter in the dictionary?
You have enter, but someone is being buried; you want inter. You have “It didn’t phase him”; you want faze. You have children “gambling” on the lawn. I think they are probably “gamboling” on the lawn. Each of these words is in the pages of this book.
Pares, Pears, Pairs gives you grammar information, part of speech, definitions and synonyms, examples of how the word is used, and idiomatic expressions for the words in an easy-to-use format. This book is a “must-have” for anyone that deals with the English language.
If you wish to order this book, go to http://www.margieholdscourt.com
Stay tuned here for up-to-the-minute industry news and information on how you can become a member of AAERT.
The U.S. Supreme Court released the digital audio recording and transcript of the oral arguments in the Defense of Marriage Act and California’s Proposition 8 case before the court just hours after the arguments were completed. To listen to Hollingsworth vs. Perry case click here.
As always, stay tuned to AAERT for up-to-the-minute industry news and updates.
The Slovenian Ministry of Justice and Public Awareness in December, 2012, as part of its E-Justice and Access to Justice for Citizens project, issued a report entitled “Raising Legal Awareness: New Opportunities in the Age of E-Technologies.” All 352 courtrooms in Slovenia have now been outfitted with digital recording systems. In part from the report:
“The main objectives of the project are:
• Faster responses and elimination of court backlogs
• Improved control over the business processes of the courts, the
comparability of the courts
• Deal more effectively with older cases
• Help in creating a single case
• Effective planning and balancing of human resources for each court
• Rationalization of spending
• Relief of judges in the preparation of statistical analyzes”
“One of the major projects that are ongoing in Slovenia is audio recording of
court sessions. The recordings are digitally signed by the judge, encrypted
and stored in one database.
All the parties and participants of a particular court session which have the
permission to hear the recordings can access them through a web page
and listen to it at home.
They just have to identify themselves to the system with a qualified
certificate. The recordings are encrypted, so with the e-ID they get a key
for decrypting the recording. “
Slovenia is now represented to have one of the world’s most efficient court recording systems and is in a strong position to meet future demands for the administration of justice.
Sources:http://fra.europa.eu/sites/default/files/e-justice-access-2-justice-4-citizens-full.pdf http://www.avc-group.eu/news/news/audio_recording_in_courts/ http://www.fortherecord.com/news-items/ftr-solutions-installed-across-slovenia/