The topic today is “verbatim report of proceedings,” or often referred to by appellate lawyers as the “VRPs.” What are they? What purpose do they serve on appeal? This blog post intends to answer these questions and more as we dive into the world of verbatim report of proceedings and the record on review.
An appellate court considers only the record before it on appeal. Thus, appellant’s counsel must prepare an adequate record. An inadequate record risks the appellate court from reaching the merits of the dispute. In my experience clerking at a state appellate court, I saw firsthand the consequences of a party’s failure to perfect an adequate record. For instance, in Marriage of Schubert, the appellant challenged the trial court’s initial decree and modification order awarding spousal maintenance to his ex-wife. 2015 WL 4610900, at *2 (Wash. Ct. App. 2015) (nonprecedential). The appellant provided only three and one-half hours of the verbatim report from a five-day trial. The record provided concerned his ex-wife’s testimony about her employment prospects. But the record failed to include the appellant’s testimony or any testimony regarding his economic circumstances, such as his past earnings and prospects for future income. The court in Schubert failed to reach the merits of the appellant’s challenge to the “trial court’s fact-based discretionary rulings” because the appellant failed to provide an adequate record. Id. at *2–4.
The record on review generally includes a report of proceedings. The report of proceedings is the record of what occurred in the trial court, such as witness testimony and argument of counsel. The most commonly used type of report is a verbatim report of proceedings. The verbatim report is a fancy term for the transcribed account of what was said, word-for-word, in the trial court. A verbatim report is normally based on the official court reporter’s stenographic notes and is transcribed, at a party’s request, by either the court reporter or a transcriptionist hired by the reporter. While parties are encouraged to order only those parts of the verbatim report necessary to address the issues raised on review, prudent appellate counsel will liberally transcribe the verbatim report to ensure an adequate record on appeal.
A party that files a verbatim report of proceedings must arrange for transcription and payment for an original and one copy of the verbatim report within 30 days after the notice of appeal was filed or discretionary review was granted. The party must also file a statement of arrangements, which explains to the appellate court and opposing counsel what arrangements the appellant has made for the verbatim report. The statement of arrangements must be served on all parties and court reporters and filed with the appellate court.
A report of proceedings must be filed by the clerk of the trial court within 60 days after the statement of arrangements is filed. A copy of the report of proceedings must be served on the adverse party with a copy of the opening brief.