Search Supreme Court Cases






No. 91-7604. Argued March 30, 1993-Decided June 7,1993

Petitioner's appeal from a federal-court bank robbery conviction was delayed four years because respondent court reporter failed to provide a trial transcript. In his civil damages action against respondent and her former employer, also a respondent here, the Federal District Court granted summary judgment in respondents' favor on the ground that court reporters are entitled to absolute immunity. The Court of Appeals affirmed.

Held: A court reporter is not absolutely immune from damages liability for failing to produce a transcript of a federal criminal trial. Respondents bear the burden of establishing the justification for the absolute immunity they claim, which depends on the immunity historically accorded officials like them at common law and the interests behind it, Butz v. Economou, 438 U. S. 478, 508. Since court reporters were not among the class of persons protected by judicial immunity in the 19th century, respondents suggest that common-law judges, who made handwritten notes during trials, be treated as their historical counterparts. However, the functions of the two types of notetakers are significantly different, since court reporters are charged by statute with producing a "verbatim" transcript for inclusion in the official record, while common-law judges exercise discretion and judgment in deciding exactly what and how much they will write. Moreover, were a commonlaw judge to perform a reporter's function, he or she might well be acting in an administrative capacity, for which there is no absolute immunity. Forrester v. White, 484 U. S. 219, 229. Because their job requires no discretionary judgment, court reporters are not entitled to immunity as part of the judicial function. See Imbler v. Pachtman, 424 U. S. 409, 423, n. 20. pp. 432-438.

950 F.2d 1471, reversed and remanded.

STEVENS, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

M. Margaret McKeown argued the cause for petitioner.

With her on the briefs was Alice D. Leiner.

William P. Fite argued the cause for respondents. With him on the brief for respondent Ruggenberg was Mark


M. Miller. Tyna Ek filed a brief for respondent Byers & Anderson, Inc. *

JUSTICE STEVENS delivered the opinion of the Court. This case presents the question whether a court reporter is absolutely immune from damages liability for failing to produce a transcript of a federal criminal trial.


In March 1986, after a 2-day trial, a jury convicted petitioner of bank robbery. Petitioner promptly appealed and ordered a copy of the transcript from respondent Ruggenberg, who had served as the court reporter. The court ordered Ruggenberg to produce a transcript by May 29, 1986.

Over two years later, Ruggenberg had yet to provide a transcript, despite a long series of hearings, court orders, and new filing deadlines. In July 1988, Ruggenberg finally explained that she had lost many of her trial notes, though additional notes and tapes were later to come to light. At one point in the proceedings, Ruggenberg was fined and arrested as the Court of Appeals sought to obtain this and other overdue transcripts. Eventually, making use of Ruggenberg's partial notes and materials submitted by the parties pursuant to Rule 10(c) of the Federal Rules of Appellate Procedure,l another reporter produced a partial transcript

* Denise Meyer, Michael J. Brennan, Dennis E. Curtis, Judith Resnik, and Charles D. Weisselberg filed a brief for the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers et al. as amici curiae urging reversal.

Jeffrey P. Altman filed a brief for the National Court Reporters Association as amicus curiae urging affirmance.

1 Federal Rule of Appellate Procedure W(c) provides in relevant part:

"Statement on the evidence or proceedings when no report was made or when the transcript is unavailable.-If no report of the evidence or proceedings at a hearing or trial was made, or if a transcript is unavailable, the appellant may prepare a statement of the evidence or proceedings from the best available means, including the appellant's recollection."

Full Text of Opinion

Powered by Justia US Supreme Court Center: ANTOINE v. BYERS & ANDERSON, INC., ET AL - 508 U.S. 429

Official Supreme Court caselaw is only found in the print version of the United States Reports. Justia caselaw is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect current legal developments, verdicts or settlements. We make no warranties or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of the information contained on this site or information linked to from this site. Please check official sources.