Judy E. BREDTHAUER, Appellant (Plaintiff),
David J. BREDTHAUER, Appellee (Defendant).
Representing Appellant: W. Keith Goody of Cougar, Washington.
Representing Appellee: James A. Eddington of Jones & Eddington Law Offices, Torrington, Wyoming.
Before KITE, C.J., and HILL, VOIGT, BURKE, and DAVIS, JJ.
[¶ 1] The appellant and her husband sought a divorce and the matter proceeded to trial. Neither party timely requested the official court reporter to report and transcribe the proceeding pursuant to Rule 904 of the Uniform Rules for District Courts. Consequently, the official court reporter was unavailable for trial. Although the parties arranged for alternative court reporters to attend, the district court would not permit any resulting transcript to be considered an official transcript. The trial was held without a court reporter present, a divorce decree later issued, and this appeal followed. The appellant challenges the divorce decree and order denying her motion for a new trial, arguing that the district court erred by refusing to allow the trial proceedings to be transcribed by an unofficial court reporter. We find the district court abused its discretion in refusing to allow the appellant to use a substitute reporter to transcribe the proceedings and prepare an official transcript, but affirm because the appellant was not prejudiced by the ruling.
[¶ 2] Did the district court abuse its discretion by not permitting an unofficial court reporter to prepare an official transcript after the appellant did not timely notify the official court reporter of the proceeding as required under Rule 904 of the Uniform Rules for District Courts?
[¶ 3] Appellant filed a complaint for divorce and a one-day trial was held. However, the parties neglected timely to request the presence of the official court reporter as prescribed by
Rule 904 of the Uniform Rules for District Courts. Approximately two days before trial, the parties realized this oversight and contacted the official court reporter, who by this time was unavailable to attend the trial. The parties then sought out another district court judge's court reporter as well as an independent court reporter, both of whom were available to report and transcribe the trial.
[¶ 4] On the day of trial, a brief pre-trial conference was held, during which the district court informed the parties that its official court reporter was unavailable. The district court told the parties that, although it would not prohibit an unofficial court reporter from reporting the trial, if an unofficial reporter " transcribed the proceedings, any resulting transcript would not be the official court transcript and could not be used for official purposes, such as an appeal."  The court reasoned that counsel could not " in effect, make an end-run around the notice requirements of U.R.D.C. 904 by hiring an outside reporter." The parties proceeded to trial without a court reporter present.
[¶ 5] Several months later, the district court entered a decree of divorce based upon stipulated facts and exhibits. Pursuant to W.R.C.P. 59(a), the appellant then filed a motion for new trial based on the issue concerning the court reporter. The district court denied the motion, concluding:
6. The lack of an official transcript of the trial does not affect the parties' ability to file an appeal in this ...