California Official Court Reporters Association

Category Archives: Word Count

“Elimination” of Civil Official Reporters Planned for San Diego Superior Court

Posted on July 5, 2012 by admin

San Diego Superior Court announced today that reduced funding for their court will result in a planned cut of $14 million in the next fiscal year. The court plans to make up for the cuts with a combination of negative solutions that have been or will be implemented in other superior court jurisdictions.

Of particular concern for official court reporters is the “elimination of all court provided reporters from civil courtrooms.”

The cuts will result in:

All business offices will close to the public at noon on Friday.
•A total of 10 courtroom will close. That includes six criminal courts and one civil courtroom in the downtown courts.
•Probate court operations in the Vista court will close and all cases will transfer downtown. A juvenile dependency court in Vista will also close.
•The Ramona branch court will be shuttered.
•Layoffs of 75 non-courtroom staff positions and a “significant reduction in management employees.”
•The elimination of all court provided reporters from civil courtrooms at some time. Litigants who want a transcript of their cases would have to hire their own reporters.

In the following year the cuts will go deeper:

• A total of 30 courtroom are targeted for “closing and restructuring.”
• All civil business offices in El Cajon and South Bay courthouses will close, transferring operations to downtown and Vista courthouses.
• Layoffs of about 90 positions. All court workers would take two furlough days beginning July 2013.

As if the news couldn’t get worse, it did when the court also announced that it will have to make an additional $40 million cut to its budget in the year 2013-2014.

You can read more by clicking here.

Posted in Page Rate, Word Count | Leave a comment

Word Count Abolished! Folio Rates Restored!

Posted on June 29, 2012 by admin

TODAY THE NEWS IS GOOD FOR OFFICIAL REPORTERS!

CCRA and COCRA are pleased to announce that we have been successful in securing language in the California budget trailer bill that protects official reporter transcript income and ends the unfair and cumbersome Word Count practice recently implemented in multiple jurisdictions.

SEIU Lobbyist Michelle Castro has confirmed that the language was approved by Legislative Leadership and inserted into the trailer bill which allows previous page-folio conversion agreements in effect as of January 1, 2012, to remain unchanged.

Newly amended Government Code 69950.

(a) The fee for transcription for original ribbon or printed copy is eighty-five cents ($0.85) for each 100 words, and for each copy purchased at the same time by the court, party, or other person purchasing the original, fifteen cents ($0.15) for each 100 words.

(b) The fee for a first copy to any court, party, or other person who does not simultaneously purchase the original shall be twenty cents ($0.20) for each 100 words, and for each additional copy, purchased at the same time, fifteen cents ($0.15) for each 100 words.

(c) Notwithstanding subdivisions (a) and (b), if a trial court had established transcription fees that were in effect on January 1, 2012 based on an estimate or assumption as to the number of words or folios on a typical transcript page, those transcription fees shall be the transcription fees for proceedings in those trial courts, and the policy or practice for determining transcription fees in those trial courts shall not be unilaterally changed.

Literally every jurisdiction in California has had a long-standing agreement between court administration and reporters for transcript payment based on the presumed number of folios (100 words) on a page based on each individual courts transcript format. Reporters were previously paid for transcripts accordingly. After AOC auditors determined this was contrary to the intent of the statute (GC 69950), many administrators launched a unilateral and widespread effort to implement Word Count as their cost-saving solution in the budget-weary court system.

The AOC Court Assistance Review Team (CART) team has actively promoted this practice to courts as a cost-cutting tool. Unfortunately, they chose to ignore the definitions of both a folio and a word set forth in the Government Code, which sparked heated debates about what constituted a word and the time-consuming export/import process involved, which resulted in a reported 30% loss of reporter income. The amendment to 69950 maintains the status quo with regard to billing practices.

Your COCRA Team

Posted in Page Rate, Word Count | Comments Off

Sonoma Officials Meet with Court: Word Count Implementation Placed on Hold

Posted on April 26, 2012 by admin

COCRA has received word that the official reporters in Sonoma County have been sent a letter stating that the word count multiplier, which was to be imposed May 1st, has been placed on hold at this time.

A group consisting of officials and their union rep met with the two administrators of Sonoma Superior Court this past Monday in order to discuss the word count multiplier. Apparently the meeting was a cordial and informative one in which the officials laid out for the administrators all of the problems that would arise should the WCM be implemented.

The officials must have been very convincing in their arguments as evidenced by the letter sent to them today.

We will be updating this story as we get more info and those of you attending the Summit for Officials on May 5th will be able to hear a full report from the official reporters representing Sonoma.

Posted in Page Rate, Word Count | Comments Off

What happened to COCRA’s page-rate bill in 2006?

Posted on April 24, 2012 by admin

AB2305 (Klehs): The Solution that Hit a Brick Wall
What happened to COCRA’s page-rate bill in 2006?

The following information is from a bill that COCRA introduced back in 2006. If AB 2305 had passed, statewide billing for court transcripts would have become standardized and more user-friendly.

Here are the highlights:

*Transcript billing by the page
*Universal transcript format
*Prohibition on loaning transcripts

Wait, there’s more!

*Originals: $3.57/page
*Copy: .63/page
*18% premium for civil
*50% premium for all daily service

The Brick Wall: An agreement between the Legislature and the Bar to a three-year moratorium on civil fee increases . The Bar successfully argued that new transcript rates were subject to the fee moratorium; therefore, the AB2305 was pulled until the moratorium was over.

Would AB2305 have been the solution to our current word count woes? YES!! COCRA still believes page rate is the answer. The civil fee moratorium is over. Now is the time for serious reform.

Bring back AB2305, The Transcript Reform Act!
(more…)

Posted in Page Rate, Word Count | Comments Off

GC 27360.5 Is No Silver Bullet – Reform Is Needed

Posted on April 13, 2012 by admin

Government Code Section 27360.5 is surely no silver bullet, but it may keep the wolves at bay. This is the statute enacted in 1963 that defines a folio in just one sentence. Yes, it’s been on the books all along as the basis and the origin of the folio conversion method of payment for official transcripts. And, yes, it may help in your local negotiations as this problem arises, but it’s not the be all and end all of this debate.

“GC 27360.5. As used in this code, the word “folio” means 100 words. Each figure, character, symbol, and initial, excluding punctuation marks, shall be regarded as a word for the purpose of computing fees by a recorder.”

Word-count software measures and counts words in a variety different ways. The usage of the specified word-count software program offered by the AOC excludes hyphenated words, numbers, and other characters, in effect counting fewer words than actually exist on a page. All CAT programs count words or folios differently. This GC statute declares the manner in which words will be counted to constitute a folio – it always has.

Uniformity in payment cannot be achieved using various word-count systems, and the answer is not in a standardized word-count software either and brings up payment issues regarding importing and exporting and additional work required. The transcript format remains the lurking evil. Until the format is standardized and a statewide page rate established, all counties will continue to pay at various rates throughout the state. Period.

It is COCRA’s firm belief that a standardized format and uniformity with a specific page rate – which is easily understood by the public, litigants, the courts, and the reporters — is the only way to restore the public’s confidence in the fact that our court system is charging them fairly and equally and also to assure reporters that they are being compensated fairly based on the work they perform.

Posted in 2012 Summit for Officials, Word Count | Comments Off

Email Sent Out to Courts Seeks Word Count Info

Posted on April 3, 2012 by admin

COCRA has received word that emails are going out to various superior courts from a court in Southern California asking those counties questions about the word count multiplier. COCRA knows of at least two counties that have had this email sent to them, but we wouldn’t be surprised if this email has found its way into the inbox of many more.

We laid out the questions in the email below.

1. Do you calculate transcript costs using the word count or folio rate method?
2. If transcript cost is calculated using folio rate, how many folios per page?
3. How many lines per page do your reporters court use?
4. If transcript cost is calculated using word count, what percentage of savings have you realized by switching from folio rate to word count method?
5. If you switched to word count method, what was the response from court reporters? What approach did you take to implement this change? What are some lessons learned from the experience?
6. If you are using word count to calculate transcript costs, are you auditing transcript claims submitted by the reporters to verify correct calculations?
7. If you are using the word count method to calculate transcript costs, on average, how much time per claim does it take to calculate costs?
8. If you are using the word count method, what application do you use (i.e. Microsoft Word, reporter’s individual software, or other)?

Early in February COCRA started hearing a rumos that there was a task force comprised of court CEOs that was working on a plan to implement a uniform response and/or procedure regarding the word count multiplier. The rumor is starting to look more and more like truth what with the rapid spread of the word count multiplier in the past two weeks and this email being sent out to courts.

Posted in Campaign for Officials, Word Count | Comments Off

COCRA Sends Letter to Chief Justice and AOC Directors Opposing Word Count

Posted on March 28, 2012 by admin

As part of COCRA’s ongoing efforts to protect the livelihoods of official court reporters, the following letter was sent today to Chief Justice Cantil-Sakauye and Interim Administrative Directors of the Courts Jody Patel and Curt Soderland.

In the letter, COCRA takes a very firm position against the implementation of the word count multiplier that has spread from county to county without consulting the unions who represent official court reporters.

We encourage all official reporters who receive this letter to pass it on to your fellow officials.

Wednesday, March 28th, 2012

Honorable Tani Cantil-Sakauye
Chief Justice of California
Supreme Court
350 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102

Jody Patel
Interim Administrative Director of the Courts for California
455 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102-3688

Curt Soderland
Interim Administrative Director of the Courts for California
455 Golden Gate Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94102-3688

Dear Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye, Ms. Patel, Mr. Soderland:

The California Official Court Reporters Association (COCRA) is a professional association representing official reporters who work in the trial courts of California. COCRA is receiving complaints from a growing number of official reporters throughout the state that trial courts are unilaterally altering long-established, negotiated transcript rates. This unilateral action by the trial courts undercuts the trial courts’ obligation, confirmed by a recent PERB decision, to meet and confer with official reporters about transcript rates.

Further, the courts’ action forces transcript compensation “down” to levels which are unsustainable for official reporters due to a 22-year freeze on transcript rates and ongoing costs associated with realtime technology. COCRA therefore requests the AOC to direct the trial courts to cease their unilateral action with respect to transcript rates and to restore the formerly agreed-upon rates.

Statewide transcript compensation reform by way of converting folio-based rates to a standard page-based page rate is far overdue. In 2003, The Reporting of the Record Task Force (RRTF) found that a standardized transcript format and costs would improve the public’s confidence in the courts.

In 2006, COCRA introduced AB 2305 in compliance with the RRTF’s recommendations. AB 2305 also provided a reasonable adjustment to transcript rates which had been unchanged for 15 years. AB 2305 was defeated by a “fee moratorium” between the courts and the bar that was in effect at the time. Today, transcript rates have remained unchanged for 22 years and the same folio-page rates continue in existence statewide.

(more…)

Posted in Campaign for Officials, Word Count | Comments Off

Word Count Spreads to Fresno Superior Court

Posted on March 28, 2012 by admin

The official reporters of Fresno Superior Court were given notice today that as of May 1st, Fresno Superior Court would be switching from a folio-based rate to a word-count rate in order to calculate compensation for transcripts.

Below is a portion taken from the notice explaining when and how the word count would be implemented.

“…court administration has decided to discontinue use of the folio standard to charge parties and the court for transcripts. Instead, effective May 1, 2012, the court’s new method for calculating the amount court reporters may charge for transcripts will be the “word count” method, which is consistent with the requirements of Government Code section 69950. As part of the transcript preparation, each reporter must include on the reporter certification page the number of words contained in the transcript.

This new method will be used for all transcripts requested by any party or the court after May 1, 2012, including criminal, civil, family law, juvenile, and probate. The court will apply this new method prospectively for transcripts requested or ordered on or after May 1, 2012. However, as independent contractors for the express purpose of preparing transcripts, court reporters should use their own best judgment as to whether to provide recalculations of transcript costs for parties making such requests with respect to previously ordered transcripts. In addition, if a reporter is preparing a lengthy transcript over time and has already billed a party for a portion of a transcript at the folio standard rate, the new rate should be used at least for the portion of the transcript that is prepared on or after May 1, 2012 although court reporters may want to consider recalculating the entire cost of the transcript to reflect the new word count method.”

COCRA will be advising our members in Fresno to refer to the PERB’s decision in Santa Cruz regarding the implementation of word count  which stated that the court could not implement the word count multiplier without first consulting with the unions representing the affected official reporters.

We encourage all official reporters, especially those represented by SEIU, to contact their SEIU reps about this issue.

COCRA is currently evaluating what steps we can take on a legislative and local level to address this issue.   We will keep COCRA members and all California official reporters informed of any action we take that touches on this subject.

Posted in Campaign for Officials, Word Count | Comments Off

Santa Cruz Official Reporters File Grievance Regarding Word Count

Posted on March 24, 2012 by admin

The Public Employment Relations Board (PERB) issued a notice earlier this month requesting a response from the Santa Cruz County Superior Court in regards to a grievance filed on behalf of the official reporters by SEIU Local 521.

In January of 2011, Santa Cruz Superior Court (SCSC) informed the official reporters in that court that they would not follow the long practiced procedure of using folio rates to calculate payment for transcripts. Instead, SCSC informed its reporters that they would be calculating payment with a word count multiplier. The word count multiplier is a system that was first implemented in Marin Superior Court in which official reporters are compensated for every 100 words instead of folios per page.

SEIU Local 521 requested to meet with the court in order to negotiate the implementation of the word count. The request to meet and confer was denied by the court.

In its filing Santa Cruz stated that the SCSC “failed and refused to meet and confer in good faith in violation of Government Code section 71634.2 and committed an unfair practice under Government Code section 71639.1 (c) and PERB Regulation 32606 (c).”

The PERB filing also found that in refusing to meet with the union, the court “interfered with the rights of bargaining unit employees to be represented by Charging Party in violation of Government Code sections 71631 and 71635.1 and is an unfair practice under Government Code section 71639.1 (c) and PERB Regulation 32606 (a).”

There is no word yet as to when SCSC plans to meet with the official reporters in Santa Cruz to discuss the implementation of the word count multiplier, but COCRA will definitely provide any updates on this issue if any arise.

Posted in Campaign for Officials, Court Reporter News, Word Count | Comments Off

Alameda Superior Court Becomes the Latest Court Attempting to Abandon Folios for Word Count

Posted on March 13, 2012 by admin

COCRA received word last week that the remaining official reporters in the Alameda County Superior Court unaffected by layoffs were sent an email from Pat Sweeten, Court Executive Officer, informing them that as of April 1st, Alameda County Superior Court would implement a word count procedure and would no longer follow “the long-established standard that there are 2.5 folios per page, or $2.13 per page for an original transcript.

The letter goes on to explain the new word count procedure:

The Court will discontinue use of the folio standard to charge parties and the Court for transcripts. Instead, effective April 2, 2012, the Court’s new method for calculating the amount court reporters may charge for transcripts will be the “word count” method which is consistent with the requirements of Government Code section 69950. As part of transcript preparation, each reporter must include the number of words contained in the transcript on the reporter certification page.

This method will be used for all transcripts requested by any party or the Court and for all case types, including criminal, civil, family law, juvenile and probate. Transcripts requested or ordered prior to April 2, 2012 will be processed and paid according to the “folio” rate currently in use.

For those of you who are unaware, Marin County was the first county to implement the Word Count procedure for calculating payment for transcripts. It is COCRA’s understanding that Napa County Superior Court and Imperial County Superior Court may also be following in the steps of Marin and Alameda. Santa Cruz had tried to follow in Marin’s steps but SEIU, the union representing the official reporters in that county, filed a grieveance against Santa Cruz Superior Court and the issue is now in the process of being heard before the Public Employment Relations Board. SEIU also represents the official reporters in Alameda and it is COCRA’s understanding that the official reporters there are in consultation with SEIU.

Of particular note for freelance reporters who have begun to work in civil courts formerly staffed by official reporters is that Alameda Superior Court is including civil transcripts in the word count procedure, although they give no instructions or hint on how they will get freelance reporters to follow the word count procedure.

Posted in Court Budgets, Word Count | Comments Off

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