Category Archives: Court Budgets
Posted on September 25, 2016 by admin
California court reporters suffered another defeat in the years-long battle to get an increase in transcript rates.
COCRA will update members and supporters as to any future action to revive another transcript increase bill or an attempt to address the increase via the budget process as stated by the Governor.
Governor Brown released a brief statement yesterday stating his reasons for his refusal to sign AB 2629. Below is the text of his statement in full.
“To the Members of the California State Assembly:
I am returning Assembly Bill 2629 without my signature.
This bill would increase the fee that court reporters can charge for a court proceeding transcript.
This bill results in additional pressure to the General Fund by increasing costs to the judicial system. It covers spending that is more appropriately considered during the budget process.”
Edmund G. Brown.
Posted in AOC, Campaign for Officials, Court Budgets, Court Reporter News, Judicial Council, Legislation, Page Rate, Uncategorized |
Posted on August 23, 2016 by admin
The Commission on the Future of California’s Court System (Futures Commission) will be holding a meeting on August 29th in which a public comments session will be held to, “further its mission of identifying ways to improve the court system and increase access to justice for all Californians.”
Of the concepts presented by the Futures Commission, two concepts stand out that should concern all official court reporters.
- Concept 8. Explore Court Reporters’ Dual Status, Compensation Discrepancies, and Ownership of Transcripts
- Concept 10. Explore Court Reporters’ Dual Status, Compensation Discrepancies, and Ownership of Transcripts
COCRA will be lodging letters of opposition to both of these proposals as COCRA believes these “concepts” are yet another attempt by the Judicial Council to implement “concepts” that will negatively affect official court reporters and the public at large.
COCRA is not alone in this belief. Today, the Alliance of California Judges sent an email to the Judicial Council stating their reasons for opposing these two concepts. We are including some of the comments that the ACJ submitted in their email.
The ACJ on Concept 8:
“Concept 8 is a proposal to deprive court reporters of the money they make from preparing transcripts. We consider this proposal an attempt to nickel-and-dime our co-workers, hundreds of whom have already been laid off over the past few years.”
The ACJ on Concept 10:
“Concept 10 is an effort to promote the replacement of court reporters with digital recordings…..The inadequacy of electronic recording isn’t just a matter of speculation; it’s a matter of record.”
COCRA agrees completely with the ACJ’s assessments of these two concepts.
COCRA will be working diligently with Shane Gusman, COCRA’s Legislative Advocate, as well as all unions, associations, and supporters of official court reporters to defeat these concepts which diminish our profession and further erode true access to justice for all Californians.
We will be updating you in the future with the results of our efforts and we encourage you to follow us on our Facebook and Twitter pages.
Posted in AOC, Campaign for Officials, Court Budgets, Court Reporter News, Electronic Recording, Judicial Council |
Posted on March 29, 2016 by admin
COCRA Legislative Advocate Shane Gusman Shares the Good News on Wagner’s Failure to Get ER Bill Through Committee
Today the Assembly Judiciary Committee held a hearing on AB 1834 (Wagner) which would authorize trial courts to utilize electronic recording in family law matters. The three main proponents were the California Conference of State Bar Associations, the Association of Certified Family Law Specialists, and someone who referred to themselves as an electronic recording reporter (or something along those lines).
The author and his witnesses did not contend that ER is somehow better than having a live reporter. In fact, Assembly Member Wagner called having a reporter in the courtroom “the gold standard” for keeping an official record.
Instead, they argued that limited court resources have led to a diminishing number of official reporters available for family law proceedings despite the importance of having a record of those proceedings. They also argued that the technology has improved and that we shouldn’t let saving a few union jobs get in the way of the interests of family law litigants.
We had our usual coalition of union and reporter representatives opposing the bill on a variety of grounds including reliability, accuracy, cost, ADA access, etc. We also took the opportunity to agree that court reporters are the gold standard.
Picking up on that theme, the chair of the committee, Assembly Member Stone, asked the author if he would agree to amend his bill to instead mandate that an official court reporter be available for all family law matters in all 58 counties. The chair hinted that if Mr. Wagner chose to take his bill to a vote without that amendment, that it would fail to get sufficient votes to stay alive.
After much back and forth, the author chose not to take the chair’s suggested amendment and also chose to hold the bill in committee without a vote. This is a big victory for reporters as the momentum to do something in family law has been building for some time.
Chairman Stone was instrumental in defeating this bill and vowed to continue the fight to get reporters back into family courts. He promised to work with the Budget Committee and the Speaker of the Assembly in an effort to achieve this goal.
COCRA Legislative Advocate
Broad & Gusman
Posted in Campaign for Officials, Court Budgets, Court Reporter News, Electronic Recording, Legislation |
Posted on February 22, 2016 by admin
Assembly Member Donald Wagner (R Irvine) has taken the lead to introduce a bill that would allow the replacing of official reporters with ER in Family Law.
You may read the language of the entire bill by clicking the link below.
Please support our efforts to defeat this bill by renewing your COCRA Membership today or by making a donation to our legislative fund..
An act to amend Section 69957 of the Government Code, relating to courts.
LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST
AB 1834, as introduced, Wagner. Electronic court reporting.
Existing law authorizes a superior court to appoint official reporters and official reporters pro tempore as are deemed necessary for the performance of the duties of the court and its members. Existing law also authorizes a court to use electronic recording equipment to record an action or proceeding in a limited civil case, or a misdemeanor or infraction case, if an official reporter or an official reporter pro tempore is unavailable.
This bill would additionally allow a court to use electronic recording equipment in a family law case if an official reporter or an official reporter pro tempore is unavailable.
Read the entire bill by clicking here.
Posted in Campaign for Officials, Court Budgets, Electronic Recording |
Posted on February 4, 2016 by admin
The following letter voicing COCRA’s opposition to ER in Family Law has been filed with the Commission on the Future of California’s Court System.
This letter affirms COCRA’s belief that ER has no place in Family Law proceedings and that its implementation in those courts may have severe negative economic effects on litigants in Family Law matters.
February 2, 2016
Honorable Carol A. Corrigan
Commission on the Future of California’s Court System
455 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102
Dear Justice Corrigan:
The members of California Official Court Reporters’ Association, (COCRA), are in opposition to Concept 5’s proposal to allow for expanded use of electronic recording in our court system. We strongly urge the Commission on the Future of California’s Court System to remove that particular recommendation from their report.
We have attached COCRA’s most recent Preserving Access to Justice Task Force Report. As you can see from the report there are numerous cases cited of digital recording malfunctions across the nation.
In addition to malfunctions and incomplete transcripts, electronic recording is not a cost savings. The technology is expensive to purchase, to maintain and to operate. The transcripts that are produced often have “inaudible” portions throughout. The cost of the transcripts created from electronic recordings are more expensive that the ones produced by the official reporters. The transcriptionist needs to listen to the tape numerous times to decipher what is being said, thus taking more time to create a transcript and driving up the cost.
With an official reporter, if the reporter doesn’t hear what is said, the reporter can ask the speaker to repeat.
Having electronic recording in Family Law denies equal access to the litigants. Appealing a decision with an electronic recording that has been transcribed makes for an incomplete record. Every time an “inaudible” appears in the transcript some of the meaning of the testimony is lost.
Please review the attached PAJTF report. We believe you will agree that having a court reporter in court is the most efficient and cost-effective way to maintain the record.
Anne M. Hall
President, California Official Court Reporters’ Association
Honorable Jerry Brown, Governor
Honorable Kevin DeLeon, President Pro Tem of the Senate
Honorable Toni Atkins, Speaker
Honorable Anthony Rendon, Speaker-elect
Honorable Hannah Beth Jackson, Chair, Senate Judiciary Committee
Honorable Mark Stone, Chair, Assembly Judiciary Committee
Honorable Mark Leno, Chair, Senate Budget
Honorable Shirley Weber, Chair, Assembly Budget
Honorable Loni Hancock, Senate Budget Sub #5
Honorable Reggie Jones Sawyer, Assembly Budget Sub #5
Posted in Campaign for Officials, Court Budgets, Court Reporter News, Electronic Recording, Judicial Council, Legislation |
Posted on January 27, 2016 by admin
The following letter was sent out by the Alliance of California Judges voicing opposition to some of the concepts, such as ER in Family Law, put out by the Commission on the Future of California’s Court System.
Futures Commission Cloudy: Try Again Later
“Dear California Media (FYI, the following has been sent to our Alliance members),
In advance of a public comment session to be held next month, the Commission on the Future of California’s Court System just released its first batch of ideas. These proposed areas of study, a year and a half in the making, are grouped into 15 “concepts.” You can read them at this link.
We have a bad feeling about this. Many of these concepts—hatched in closed-door meetings with AOC support staff—look like the same tired old proposals that the AOC has been advancing for more than 15 years. The proposals include a “consolidated system” for juvenile courts; “systems to be implemented statewide,” including a “uniform statewide system of child custody mediation”; and a “transferable case management methodology to support all courts throughout the state.
Apparently the Commission sees the big problems confronting the branch as stemming from a lack of uniformity. The bulk of their proposed solutions involve an increase in central control—and in the power of the AOC. The Commission seems to have overlooked the spectacular failure of CCMS or the withering criticisms of our central bureaucracy by the Strategic Evaluation Committee in 2012 and the State Auditor just last year. If recent history teaches us anything, it’s that the AOC has the Midas touch in reverse when it comes to local court administration.[Emphasis added.]
Concept 4 involves “trial court employment and labor relations.” The authors point to the “great variation in trial court terms and conditions of employment” and urge the Commission to rethink “existing labor practices” in order to flatten out “court-to-court variations in employment terms and conditions.” The Commission will explore “the costs and benefits of different models of bargaining”—specifically including statewide bargaining.
When we recently suggested that the Commission was contemplating an expansion of the AOC’s role in local labor relations, including hiring and firing, our branch leaders went ballistic and quickly denied it. But the fact remains that the AOC can’t engage in statewide bargaining unless it has statewide authority over labor issues. It can’t bargain unless it has control.
Concept 5—a call for “a cost-effective official record in all case types”—also gives us grave concern. We sense it is a drive for more electronic recording in our courtrooms, fewer court reporters, and an attempt to deny reporters compensation for the transcripts they produce. This is dangerous. We firmly believe that a certified shorthand reporter provides the most accurate record for the parties and the strongest bulwark against bogus complaints of judicial misconduct. Anyone who has listened to an electronic recording of a court proceeding knows that it is no substitute for a reporter’s transcript. Moreover, further steps to reduce compensation to reporters will leave California struggling to find certified reporters, already a huge problem in states like Illinois and Pennsylvania, leaving courts with no option but to compromise due process by using unreliable and undecipherable electronic recordings.
There’s more. One statement in support of Concept 6, “Technology-Enhanced Court Proceedings and Online Transactions,” gives us chills: “Courts are unable to share information across jurisdictions and some are even unable to share information within the same jurisdiction, due to incompatible case management systems. . . .” [Emphasis added.]
In these words, the ghost of CCMS stirs. We are deeply concerned that the Commission will propose a statewide case management system along the lines of the one that cost us half a billion dollars and brought us to the brink of financial ruin. We are dismayed that the Commission contemplates an even greater role for our central administrators in technology management when past experience tells us they should be looking to vacate the field entirely.
The issues the Commission left unaddressed are just as disturbing as the proposals buried in these “concepts.” Nothing suggests that the Commission has considered an audit of the billions in court construction funds, scaling back the AOC’s staffing levels, moving toward a fee-for-service model for the AOC, or democratizing the Judicial Council. To the contrary, this set of “concepts” reads like an AOC wish list. The vast majority would entail an expansion of the AOC’s already excessive reach into local trial court affairs.
In his recent budget proposal, the Governor specifically mentioned that he was hopeful that the Futures Commission would come up with ideas that would “effectively and efficiently enhance access to justice.” With every proposal that expands the reach of the AOC, hope fades. We will do our best to prevent this Commission from “transforming” the judiciary into an inefficient statewide court system with centralized control and reduced flexibility and efficiency. Our trial courts and the public they serve deserve better.”
Directors, Alliance of California Judges
Alliance of California Judges
1817 Capitol Ave., Sacramento, CA 95811
Posted in AOC, Campaign for Officials, Court Budgets, Electronic Recording, Judicial Council, Legislation |
Posted on January 7, 2016 by admin
A suggested proposal from a commission to replace court reporters with electronic recording raises concerns about Governor’s proposed budget.
Governor Brown released his proposed budget for 2016 today and what will be of most concern to court reporters is that Governor Brown is proposing an “innovation” of using digital recording machines in place of court reporters in Family Law courts.
We are still in the early stages of the budgetary process, but rest assured your COCRA team will be monitoring the budget process as it progresses.
The following is an early analysis from Michele Castro, Director of Government Relations at SEIU California. SEIU represents the majority of court employees in California including official court reporters.
Earlier today the Governor released his proposed 2016 budget. It’s not as good as previous years in terms of reinvesting in the courts and it does have a few issues that could be particularly concerning to SEIU members.
In his last two budgets, Governor included a 5% increase each year for the courts. This year, he took a different direction. This year, the Governor cites the need to improve the trial courts by doing business differently. He makes reference to the Commission on the Future of the California Court System to recommend efficiencies and innovations.
From early information coming out of the Commission, we know that some of these proposals will not be good for workers, such as moving HR functions from courts and to the AOC and changing court employee status. The upshot is that any of these proposals would have to go through the legislative process where SEIU members have a strong chance of beating back bad ideas coming out the AOC.
Additionally, the Governor proposes to reform the current trial court budget reserve policy, which was recently instituted because courts were hoarding money while laying-off workers. Depending how this reform would occur it could be good for us or it could be bad. We’ll need to watch the details of the proposal closely.
The Governor proposes to increase funding to the trial courts by $95.8 million as follows:
- $20 million to the courts for discretionary spending.
- $15.6 million for the employer share of employee pensions and health benefit increases. The Governor also stated that he is committed to continue to cover the costs of employee pensions and health benefits in the future.
- $8.8 million to cover the loss of funds due to lower fee and fine revenues. Several fees and fines that are currently funding the courts are set to expire; however, the Governor is committed to extending those revenue measures.
- $21.4 million to cover increased Prop 47 workload demands in the trial courts.
- $7 million for language access for non-english speakers.
- $30 million in one-time funds in competitive grants to courts that implement innovations.
The Governor lists possible innovations such as implementing the use of kiosks rather than clerks in traffic proceedings and using electronic recording devices in family law proceedings rather than court reporters.
The Governor does not necessarily say this is what courts should do, only lists them as ideas that very likely came from the AOC.
Posted in Campaign for Officials, Court Budgets, Electronic Recording, Legislation |
Posted on January 10, 2015 by admin
Governor Brown has released his proposed budget and there appears to be some good news for the courts. COCRA will be monitoring the budget situation to assess whether the proposed budget will benefit court reporters.
Here are the significant adjustments to the judicial budget proposed by the governor.
Trial Court Funding
Consistent with the proposed two‐year strategy, the Budget includes an augmentation of $90.1 million General Fund to support trial court operations.
Trial Court Employee Costs
The Budget includes $42.7 million General Fund for trial court employee benefit costs, of which $10.8 million reflects funding for trial courts that have now made progress towards meeting the Public Employees’ Pension Reform Act of 2013 standard. The Administration is committed to funding future increases related to existing health benefits and retirement costs for trial court employees and retirees.
Trial Court Trust Fund Revenues
The Budget includes an additional $19.8 million General Fund to reflect a further reduction of fines and penalty revenues in 2015‐16. Coinciding with this adjustment, the Administration proposes permanently extending temporary fines and penalty revenue measures enacted as part of the 2012 Budget Act.
With the passage of Proposition 47 in November 2014, it is anticipated that trial courts will experience increased workload primarily in the early years of implementation due to the requirement that courts reclassify certain drug and theft crimes that involve less than $950 from felonies to misdemeanors.
The Budget includes $26.9 million General Fund to reflect a projected increase in trial court workload.
The Budget proposes the establishment of an 18‐month outstanding delinquent debt amnesty program that would be administered by the courts and counties. Courts and counties would recover their costs to administer the amnesty program utilizing revenues collected through the program.
Dependency Counsel Funding
The Administration recognizes the important role played by counsel who represent abused and neglected children and their parents in dependency cases. The Judicial Council’s current annual budget allocation for court‐appointed dependency counsel is $103.7 million. Over the last several years, the Council has evaluated the workload of dependency lawyers and recommended a basic caseload standard of 188 cases per attorney. An improvement in attorney caseload would reduce hearing delays and potentially shorten time to permanency for families. The current statewide average caseload is 248 cases per attorney. Many counties fall well within the standard but others far exceed it. Judicial Council allocations to courts are based on historical factors rather than on current caseloads. The Administration will work with the Judicial Council to develop a caseload‐based allocation methodology and explore ways to reduce the number of cases.
Posted in Campaign for Officials, Court Budgets, Court Closures, Court Reporter News, Legislation |
Posted on January 7, 2015 by admin
Critics of the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC), the government agency in charge of supervising the running of California’s court system, have long argued that the AOC was completely mismanaged and had grown so unwieldy in terms of size and scope and spending that an audit was needed.
An audit of the AOC indeed was ordered and today the California State Auditor’s office released its findings confirming all of the worst suspicions that the AOC’s critics had of the agency.
Some of the damning highlights of the audit released today revealed:
- The Judicial Council did not adequately oversee the AOC in managing the judicial branch budget, which allowed the AOC to engage in questionable compensation and business practices.
- Provides its staff with generous salaries and benefits—the AOC pays eight of its nine office directors more than the governor and many other high-ranking executive branch officials receive.
- Employs over 70 contractors and temporary employees and could save about $7.2 million per year by using state employees in comparable positions.
- Maintains a fleet of 66 vehicles without requiring its offices to justify the need.
- Made about $386 million in payments over the last four years on behalf of trial courts using funds appropriated to them but could have paid a portion of those payments from its own funds.
- The AOC has sole autonomy in deciding how to spend certain judicial branch funds due to the lack of Judicial Council’s involvement in the budgeting process.
- The AOC has few policies, procedures, or controls in place to ensure funds are appropriately used and spent and, unlike the executive branch, is not required to undergo an annual independent financial audit.
- Although it provides services to the courts, the AOC has never comprehensively surveyed the courts to identify the needs of the courts and ensure that services it provides are useful.
You can read the highlights of the audit here including some of the recommendations that the audit proposed. The full audit may be read here.
Posted in Campaign for Officials, Court Budgets, Court Closures, Legislation |
Posted on September 17, 2013 by admin
The official reporters of the San Mateo Superior Court appear to have dodged a bullet as court administration pull back from its original plan of laying off two official reporters.
Earlier in the year court administration initially said that the layoff of officials was a possibility due to budgetary constraints. However, after changes in their revised budget, court administrators have chosen to rescind its decision to lay off official reporters for this fiscal year. This move by the court could also be seen as a sign that San Mateo Superior Court sees the importance of providing official reporters for all proceedings.
According to court reporter sources in San Mateo Superior Court, layoffs were slated to begin this Friday, September 20th, 2013.
Posted in Campaign for Officials, Court Budgets, Court Closures, Court Reporter News, Reporter Layoffs |