“…Court reporters who provide transcripts of hearings have been eliminated for civil cases in many counties, making it more difficult for the losing party to appeal.”
“…recession-driven cutbacks in California’s huge court system have produced long lines and short tempers at courthouses throughout the state. Civil cases are facing growing delays in getting to trial, and court closures have forced residents in some counties to drive several hours for an appearance.”
(Don Barletti, Los Angeles Times) Amanda Lugo, a legal processing assistant, searches for a case file in the criminal clerk’s office at the Superior Court in Victorville, Calif. Budget cuts recently closed the Barstow Superior Court, bringing hundreds of cases to this court.
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.
In a move welcomed by officials in San Francisco Superior Court, notices from court administration went out early last week to the remaining five official reporters on the court’s holdover list giving them the opportunity to accept the offer and return to full-time employment.
Although the court has given no explanation as for the reasons why the remaining reporters were called back, the move by the court was seen as a positive development by IFPTE Local 21, the union representing official reporters in SF Superior Court, and the San Francisco Official Court Reporters Association (SFOCRA). Both organizations have been working diligently for the restoration of all the reporters that were laid off by SF Superior Court when it eliminated the positions of official reporters from the civil courts.
Of the original twenty-four officials laid off in the fall of 2011, ten officials remained on the holdover list at the start of 2013. Five officials were called back by the court over the summer, and the remaining five officials were called back last week.
For those of you keeping tabs on the attempts of Placer County Superior Court (PCSC) to privatize court reporter services, the latest news is that the entire staff of official reporters will receive layoff notices early in the new year.
PCSC posted requests for proposals on its website this past fall in which they were seeking to have court reporter firms take over the court reporting services within the court. It appears that PCSC has chosen a firm, although the name of the firm is unknown at this time.
COCRA will be contacting PCSC to determine the reporting agency that has been selected and we will in turn be contacting said agency to determine what their plans, if any, will be for those officials to be laid off.
COCRA has stated it before, and we will reiterate once more, that COCRA believes that superior courts have a moral and professional obligation to provide in-house court reporting services to litigants, defendants, and the general public who walk through the courthouse doors of California.
This should also be a wakeup call to ALL court reporters throughout the state that this is yet another attempt by courts to outsource the work of public employees. And COCRA will work diligently with all parties to ensure that this “solution” does not spread.
Although we acknowledge the budget constraints that courts have been under these past years, COCRA still firmly believes that there are budgetary and legislative solutions to assist courts that will prevent the outsourcing of the work of official reporters and offer reporting services free of bias and conflict to all litigants.
The following is a press release issued by San Diego Superior Court:
San Diego Superior Court To Stop Providing Court Reporters In Civil Proceedings
Following the lead of many other courts around the state, effective November 5, 2012, the San Diego Superior Court will provide court reporters only in criminal felony, family, and juvenile matters during regular court hours. Official court reporters will not normally be available in probate or other civil matters. In addition, effective December 28, 2012, official court reporters will only be available in family matters for Domestic Violence Restraining Order hearings, Contempt hearings, and Request for Order hearings of 40 minutes or less.
If you’re not a subscriber to the Court Reporters Board newsletter, you may want to check out the most recent issue. There’s one article in particular we think will be drawing a lot of comment by both officials and freelancers.
Click on the link which will take you the CRB’s website, and then under the “What’s New” link, click on “CRB Today – Board Newsletter, Spring 2012.”
You’ll find the article entitled, “Pitfalls of Privatizing Court Reporters on page 3.
The following is a quote from the article.
“With several of the courts across the state no longer providing court reporters in civil courtrooms, attorneys and litigants are being forced to make their own arrangements to bring in a court reporter. Freelancers should beware of rushing into a California state court without knowing applicable statutes.“
COCRA received word late Friday afternoon that Ventura Superior Court is preparing for layoffs with a proposed 20-30 employees to be laid off July 1st, followed by another 20 layoffs effective some time in December of this year. The proposed budget plan for Ventura courts also include a plan to shut down the East County Courthouse in Simi Valley.
Ventura County Superior Court Presiding Judge Vincent O’Neill said he regrets the inconvenience and hopes the public understands why plans to close the East County Courthouse are necessary.
“We are still hoping that we won’t have to,” the judge said.
O’Neill said Gov. Jerry Brown’s proposed budget will be revised in May, and he is hopeful there will be some budget relief between now and then. However, the judge said courts throughout the state have to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
The budget must be approved by June 15, O’Neill said.
“There is a lot of lobbying going on like crazy” in Sacramento, he said.
COCRA has not received a firm account of whether court reporters will be affected by the layoffs and COCRA will be providing further updated information as we receive it.