Getting a trial transcript can be a difficult and lengthy process that requires having the proper information on hand, and likely making an up-front payment. At a minimum, you will need to know where the trial took place, the date, or case number. The clerk of court’s office may be able to help you locate some of this information. Also, some court records may be sealed and unavailable for review for years.
The most important step in securing a trial transcript is having the basic court information. Although the filing system varies by jurisdiction, the case number or gives the clerk’s office a clue as to what case you need. In some cases, the civil division may be in a different location than the criminal division, so check ahead of time before you go.
Once you have given the clerk of court the necessary information, the clerk will research the case and likely give you contact information for the court reporter. That person would be in charge of transcribing the proceedings and furnishing a copy to you. Some reporters may have turn around times of a month or longer so plan accordingly.
After establishing contact with the court reporter, getting a trial transcript is usually fairly easy. If the case information is still available, then the court reporter will quote you a price. If you are interested in a particular day or a particular witness, tell the court reporter that. It could save you a significant amount of money. Payment arrangements vary, but you will generally be required to pay a down payment of at least half the estimated cost, with the rest due upon delivery.
Another way to save on the cost of getting a trial transcript is to request a copy of a trial transcript that is already completed. Typically, these are only available in readable format if someone has already requested it. In that case, that person has paid for the labor involved in the transcription process, and you could be the beneficiary. You will still likely need to pay copy costs, plus a service or processing fee.
Some jurisdictions may not provide a printed copy of trial transcripts to the general public, even if court information is on public record. In Alaska, for example, those wanting trial transcripts may not be able to get a printed copy, but can go to the county where the court proceeding took place and obtain an audio recording. This could be very time consuming to transcribe, but ultimately it does provide the information as mandated by open records laws.