California Official Court Reporters Association

Category Archives: Legislation

Renew Your 2017 COCRA Membership Today

Posted on January 17, 2017 by admin

My name is Anne Hall, I’m an official reporter in Monterey County Superior Court, and I’m the current president of the California Official Court Reporters Association. (COCRA)

When I moved back to California in the late 90s, I realized that the issues that official court reporters faced were very unique to our profession. I also realized that our profession needed an association made up of members who were not only concerned about official court reporters, but were able to address those unique issues, as well as protect and promote court reporting in California’s superior courts. That is why I became a proud member of COCRA.

It is undeniable that since the Great Recession official reporters have had some very difficult times. We’ve seen the spread of electronic recording into more and more courtrooms. We’ve faced removal of official reporters in civil courts resulting in layoffs in many counties. We have seen transcript rates remain frozen for almost three decades!

As if all these negative situations weren’t enough, official reporters are now facing another possible threat to our transcript income. Many counties across the state have begun the process of converting their management systems to the online case management system Odyssey. What this means for official reporters is that we will eventually be required to file transcripts online which will be a welcomed change that could have unintended consequences.

So what’s the consequence? Courts could require that officials pay for filing our transcripts. COCRA believes officials should be able to electronically file transcripts with the court bearing any associated costs, such as software licenses.

We also believe that any electronic filing procedure the courts put into place should not result in the imposition of additional work duties without proper compensation to officials. Especially in light of the fact that official reporters have not seen an increase in our transcript rates!

In the future, COCRA will work openly and transparently with all unions, associations, and stakeholders to ensure that the concerns of official reporters about e-filing transcripts are addressed and that the final e-filing procedure is one that is fair and equitable for official reporters, the legal community, and the public at large.

If you believe the same as COCRA does, then won’t you please join me by renewing your membership with COCRA today? Join California’s only court reporter association created For Officials, By Officials.

Posted in Campaign for Officials, Court Reporter News, Legislation, Uncategorized | Comments Off

Official Reporters and E-Filing Transcripts: COCRA’s Position

Posted on December 7, 2016 by admin

Benefits of E-Filing Technology Should Not Come
at a Cost to Official Reporters

My name is Anne Hall, I’m an official reporter in Monterey County Superior Court, and I’m the current president of the California Official Court Reporters Association. (COCRA)

When I moved back to California in the late 90s, I realized that the issues that official court reporters faced were very unique to our profession. I also realized that our profession needed an association made up of members who were not only concerned about official court reporters, but were able to address those unique issues, as well as protect and promote court reporting in California’s superior courts. That is why I became a proud member of COCRA.

It is undeniable that since the Great Recession official reporters have had some very difficult times. We’ve seen the spread of electronic recording into more and more courtrooms. We’ve faced removal of official reporters in civil courts resulting in layoffs in many counties. We have seen transcript rates remain frozen for almost three decades!

As if all these negative situations weren’t enough, official reporters are now facing another possible threat to our transcript income. Many counties across the state have begun the process of converting their management systems to the online case management system Odyssey. What this means for official reporters is that we will eventually be required to file transcripts online which will be a welcomed change that could have unintended consequences.

So what’s the consequence? Courts could require that officials pay for filing our transcripts. COCRA believes officials should be able to electronically file transcripts with the court bearing any associated costs, such as software licenses.

We also believe that any electronic filing procedure the courts put into place should not result in the imposition of additional work duties without proper compensation to officials. Especially in light of the fact that official reporters have not seen an increase in our transcript rates!

In the future, COCRA will work openly and transparently with all unions, associations, and stakeholders to ensure that the concerns of official reporters about e-filing transcripts are addressed and that the final e-filing procedure is one that is fair and equitable for official reporters, the legal community, and the public at large.

If you believe the same as COCRA does, then won’t you please join me by renewing your membership with COCRA today? Join California’s only court reporter association created For Officials, By Officials.

Posted in Campaign for Officials, Court Reporter News, Legislation, Page Rate | Comments Off

Governor Vetoes Transcript Increase Bill

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.”

Sincerely,
Edmund G. Brown.

Posted in AOC, Campaign for Officials, Court Budgets, Court Reporter News, Judicial Council, Legislation, Page Rate, Uncategorized | 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

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

Governor’s Proposed Budget Brings Some Good News for Courts

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.

Proposition 47

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.

Amnesty Program

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.

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Audit of AOC is Released: Worst Suspicions Confirmed

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 | 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

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