California Official Court Reporters Association

Category Archives: Electronic Recording

Alliance of California Judges Opposes Commission’s Court Reporter Recommendations

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 | Comments Off

ER Bill Fails to Leave Committee

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.

Shane Gusman
COCRA Legislative Advocate
Broad & Gusman

Posted in Campaign for Officials, Court Budgets, Court Reporter News, Electronic Recording, Legislation | Comments Off

Bill Introduced to Allow ER in Family Law

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 | Comments Off

COCRA Files Opposition to ER in Family Law

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.

Sincerely,

Anne M. Hall
President, California Official Court Reporters’ Association

CC:
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 | Comments Off

ER In Family Law: Alliance of California Judges Opposes

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 | Comments Off

Governor’s 2016 Budget Mentions Electronic Recording In Family Law

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 | Comments Off

COCRA Releases 2013 PAJTF Report

Posted on March 28, 2013 by admin

COCRA is pleased to announce that it has updated its Preserving Access to Justice Task Force Report (PAJTF).

In addition to providing a brief overview about the importance of court reporters in the courts, the PAJTF Report also lists the “true costs” to litigants and the judicial system where ER is involved.

This report has been proven to be a valuable tool and reference paper for reporters in California and throughout the nation. COCRA urges all court reporters to utilize the PAJTF Report when promoting the profession of court reporting in California’s courts.

Click here to download the 2013 edition of the PAJTF Report.

Posted in Campaign for Officials, Court Budgets, Court Reporter News, Electronic Recording, Legislation | Comments Off

SEIU Urges Lawmakers to Oppose ER In Family Law

Posted on March 28, 2013 by admin

Michelle Castro, SEIU Director of Government Relations, has sent a letter to members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee respectfully requesting that they oppose the latest ER bill by Donald Wagner (R). AB 251 would see the expansion of electronic recording (ER) into family law courts.

In the letter, Ms. Castro lays out in stark detail some of the shortcomings found with ER. Quoting from the letter:

“There are many instances where the use of audio recordings have jeopardized the accuracy of the verbatim record. Further, these electronic recordings have real and serious problems with inaudibles and inaccuracies, a sound such as ruffling of papers or a cough could muffle several words.”

The letter also goes on to promote the advantages of having a court reporter which includes the ability of court reporters to provide live realtime translation of court proceedings.

You can read the letter in its entirety by clicking here.

Posted in Campaign for Officials, Court Budgets, Court Reporter News, Electronic Recording, Legislation | Comments Off

COCRA Sends Letter Urging Legislators to Oppose ER Bill

Posted on March 20, 2013 by admin

The following letter was sent by COCRA Legislative Advocate Shane Gusman on behalf of COCRA and Professional and Technical Engineers, IFPTE Local 21. The letter urges members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee to vote against the ER bill introduced by Donald Wagner (R).

——————————————————————————————————

To: All Members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee

From: Barry Broad, Shane Gusman

Date: March 18, 2013

Subject: AB 251 (Wagner)—OPPOSE

Clients: California Official Court Reporters Association/Professional and Technical Engineers, IFPTE Local 21

The above organizations oppose AB 251 by Assembly Member Donald Wagner.

AB 251 would 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.

We are very sensitive to the fact that courts are failing to provide the services of official court reporters in family law proceedings. Failing to do so ensures that there is no accurate record of the proceedings and virtually no appellate rights for these litigants. Given what’s at stake in family law proceedings, we should be requiring that an official court reporter be available for every proceeding like we do in criminal court. Unfortunately, this bill takes the opposite approach and creates a lesser standard for reporting family law proceedings.

(more…)

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Assembly Member Wagner Pushes (Again) for ER in Superior Courts

Posted on February 7, 2013 by admin

Having failed in the spring of 2011 to get his bill to pass that would have phased in ER in California’s Superior Courts, Assembly Member Donald P. Wagner (R) returns two years later with the exact same bill.

Wagner’s bill seeks to “implement electronic recording in 20% of all superior court courtrooms” at a minimum and provides for an additional 20% phase-in annually thereafter.

The following text regarding the bill was taken from the legislative counsel’s digest.

AB 251, as introduced, Wagner. Electronic court reporting. Existing law authorizes a court to use electronic recording equipment in a limited civil case, a misdemeanor or infraction case, or for the internal purpose of monitoring judicial officer performance. Existing law requires a court to obtain advance approval from the Judicial Council prior to purchasing equipment. Existing law also requires each superior court to report semiannually to the Judicial Council, and the Judicial Council to report semiannually to the Legislature, regarding all purchases and leases of electronic recording equipment that will be
used to record superior court proceedings.

This bill would instead require the Judicial Council, by July 1, 2014, to implement electronic court reporting in 20% of all superior court courtrooms, and to implement electronic reporting in at least an additional 20% of all superior court courtrooms annually thereafter. This bill would also require the Judicial Council to report to the Governor and the Legislature on the efforts undertaken to implement electronic court reporting, as provided, by January 1, 2016. The provisions of the bill would not apply to felony cases.

COCRA’s legislative advocate, Shane Gusman of Broad & Gusman, Sacramento, is currently monitoring the situation and will be filing an official opposition to both bills.

COCRA representatives will be providing the latest Preserving Access to Justice Task Force report to the legislators and will also continue to work with all parties involved in the fight to protect the court reporting profession, and more importantly, protect the public’s access to justice.

Posted in Campaign for Officials, Electronic Recording | Comments Off

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