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.
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.
Assemblymember Reggie Sawyer-Jones (D) has introduced AB 648 which would amend GC 68086 to clarify the collecting of a fee for court reporters services in California’s superior courts. Among other things, AB 648 specifically calls for the reporter fees collected in each county to be restored back to the courts that collected the fees.
Language from the Legislative Analyst’s digest on AB 648:
AB 648, as introduced, Jones-Sawyer. Court reporters.
Existing law requires the charge of an official court reporter fee, in addition to any other fee required in civil actions or cases. For each proceeding lasting less than one hour, a fee of $30 is required to be charged for the reasonable cost of the services of an official court reporter. Fees collected pursuant to this provision may be used only to pay for services of an official court reporter in civil proceedings.
This bill would require the charge of a fee of $30 for each proceeding lasting one hour or less in a civil action or case to offset the costs of the services of official court reporters in civil proceedings. The bill would require each party that files papers that require the scheduling of a proceeding lasting less than one hour to pay the fee, regardless of whether the party requests the presence of a court reporter. The bill would require the fee to be paid for each separate proceeding, regardless of whether the proceedings are scheduled at the same time on the same calendar. The bill would provide for the deposit of the fees collected into the Trial Court Trust Fund and would provide for the distribution of those fees, upon appropriation by the Legislature, back to the courts in which the fees were collected.
On February 14th, Assembly Member Kevin Mullin (D) introduced AB 365 on behalf of the Deposition Reporters Association of California. (DRA)
According to an analysis by the Legislative Counsel, AB 365 seeks to “clarify” three points.
First, in order for a transcript of a court proceedings to be considered “prima facie evidence of that testimony and proceeding,” the transcript would have to be prepared by a certified shorthand reporter.
Secondly, currently in a deposition setting if a proceeding is being reported by a court reporter and videotaped at the same time, it is the transcript from the court reporter that is the official record of the deposition. AB 365 would “clarify that the testimony recorded stenographically at the deposition is recorded by a certified shorthand reporter, as defined.”
However, COCRA has questions about the third point this bill seeks to clarify which we believe may conflict with how official court reporters view electronic recording.
Again, language taken from AB 365:
Existing law authorizes a court to order the use of electronic recording of an action or proceeding where an official reporter or an official reporter pro tempore is unavailable to report an action or proceeding in a court in a limited civil case, a misdemeanor case, or an infraction case, as prescribed. A transcript derived from an electronic recording is authorized to be utilized whenever a transcript of court proceedings is required.
This bill would require that the electronic recording be transcribed by a certified shorthand reporter, as defined, in order to be utilized whenever a transcript of court proceedings is required.
COCRA has serious concerns about AB 365 especially as, at first glance, the bill seems to advocate for the use of ER as long as the recordings are transcribed by a “certified shorthand reporter.”
The concern COCRA has with this language is that it is completely contrary to what we have been working for: opposing and preventing the privatization of court reporter services in superior courts and the spreading usage of ER.
COCRA and its Legislative Advocate Shane Gusman will be contacting the parties involved with AB 365 in order to address our concerns with them. We will keep you apprised of any and all developments regarding AB 365.
You can read the language of the bill in its entirety here.
Assembly Member Bob Wiecskowski has introduced AB 566, a new bill that appears to address the privatization of court services. This has become a very important issue for court employees, especially official court reporters, in light of the actions taken by Placer County Superior Court to replace the court’s staff of official reporters with services provided by an outside court reporting firm.
The bill seeks to add a new section to the Government Code labeled GC 71621.
Of particular interest to court reporters is the new language found in Section 71621 (a)(3) which reads:
“The contract shall not cause an existing trial court employee to incur a loss of his or her employment or employment seniority, a reduction in wages, benefits, or hours, or an involuntary transfer to a new location requiring a change in residence.”
Shane Gusman, COCRA’s Sacramento Legislative Advocate, will be monitoring the progress of this bill and offering support as needed. Your COCRA Legislative Committee will also be offering assistance as well.
You can read the bill in it’s entirety by clicking on this link.