Digital recording systems sometimes seem to be less expense – the thought being that it’s a one-time purchase that will help alleviate the costs of human salaries and error. However, a digital recording system has to be purchased, hard-wired, and like all technology, updated every few years. The initial purchase of the equipment ranges in the mid $2,000 range, while hard-wiring a courtroom can cost up to $20,000. Network upgrades to store the large digital files can cost upwards of $50,000.
Court reporters are often contracted or freelance employees. They carry the responsibility of managing and paying for their own equipment, alleviating municipalities of those costs. Though digital recordings themselves do not demand an hourly wage, they do need to be managed by a paid monitor or manager. The need for human management over digital recording devices can often be complex. Think of a dedicated IT professional whose job involves a myriad of issues involving the wiring, audio, software, and data storage issues that come along with switching over to a digital system.
Beyond equipment costs, court reporters are paid per case, as well as per page of transcript. According to national reports, the average court reporter’s compensation per page is far lees that the cost to transcribe a digital recording. Some California courts are paying a reported $9 per digitally transcribed page. The supposition that alleviating stenographers will save the courts money is false. Though staffing requires less spending, hard-wiring courtrooms and purchasing the necessary technology is a hefty up-front expense, and the cost of transcription of digital recordings is typically equal to or much more expensive than that of hiring a court stenographer.
Cost is not the only perceived upside – increased accuracy is also touted as a feature of digital court reporting systems. However, this perceived benefit is also usually laden with potentially costly landmines that can result in increased litigation costs and even mistrials. Automated software simply does not have the ability to react to the emotions and contentious dialogue that occurs during court proceedings. Digital recordings cannot stop proceedings or separate out noises from each other if mumbling, sobbing or heavy accents make a testimony inaudible. Further, digital recording equipment cannot discern between what is on the record and what is off the record.
Here are a few examples:
In high impact cases, as well as cases with heavy transcription needs, there is simply no substitute for the presence of a live stenographer. Many courts that have made the switch to digital systems citing accuracy and cost concerns are now finding it more costly than originally anticipated. The costs to install and maintain the technology and additionally, repeat proceedings where audio is inaudible or inaccurate, and in a worst-case-scenario, retry a case, are proving to not be worth it.
A study done by the California Court Reporters Association
About the author:
Lance Brusilow is the owner of a Philadelphia court reporting agency called Brusilow+Associates. He has been serving the Philadelphia area for over 30 years.]]>
I thanked Sergey for their Panda updates which is a filter meant to stop sites with poor quality content from working their way to the top of a Google search.
Sergey took another picture with his Google Glass of my blog url and then put his Glass on me. He touched the glass rim and voila, I could see my pink steno machine floating up on the right corner of the Glass; then he hit tapped it again, and I saw the screen shot of my blog’s url. He sent the two pictures to his phone/computer (who knows where).
I have been thinking since my meeting with Sergey, how could Google Glass help a court reporter be more efficient? Here are my ideas so far:
I would like to emphasize one important point. People respect what a court reporter can do. Sergey Brin, one of the most brilliant minds of our time, was fascinated and very interested in how we are able to write what people are saying with tremendous speed and unbelievable accuracy. Being a great court reporter is something to be very proud of and not to be taken lightly. Think about it, one of the founders of Google is in awe of what a court reporter can do.
Our first event was in March at Balboa Park. Linda invited a personal trainer, Angel Chelik of Sea Level Workouts, to lead us in a two-hour exercise course with an emphasis on shoulders, necks, and posture. Because court reporters spend the majority of our day hunched over a machine or staring at a computer, we have a tendency to have neck, shoulder, and back stress.
Last Saturday, Team Kramm met in our conference room, and Angel gave us a lecture on The Myths of Health and Fitness. I asked the participants to send me their top take-away from the day, because I wanted to share the fantastic information with the rest of the world. Here are the responses:
Top Take-Aways from our Health Initiative Bonanza Seminar
I love the idea of surrounding ourselves with happy, healthy people and promoting wellness. Our next month’s event is going grocery shopping – becoming educated on making the right choices. I invite everyone to come along. I believe a trait of a great court reporter is the desire to be healthy and happy. It takes one step at a time to achieve being great.
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GUIDE FOR OFFICIAL REPORTERS PRO TEMPORE
The San Diego Superior Court does not provide court reporters for certain proceedings (see Policy Regarding Normal Availability and Unavailability of Official Court Reporters [SDSC Form ADM-317]). The following information is being provided to official reporters pro tempore concerning their appearance at court.
Forms, policies, and sample transcripts will be available on the court’s website at www.sdcourt.ca.gov.
1. Court Reporter Appointment Process
Pursuant to policy of the San Diego Superior Court (see Official Reporter Pro Tempore Policy [SDSC Forms
#ADM-315]), when an official court reporter is not available, parties may, by stipulation*, arrange for the appointment of a privately retained certified shorthand reporter to serve as an official court reporter pro tempore for a proceeding. Before the reporter can serve in this capacity, the judicial officer presiding in the department where the proceeding will occur must approve the reporter’s appointment by way of an order. It is the parties’ responsibility to pay the reporter’s fees for attendance at a proceeding.
*Note: A stipulation is not needed if the reporter is on the Court-Approved List of Official Reporters Pro Tempore
(SDSC Form #ADM-321).
The San Diego Superior Court has four divisions; Central (downtown), East County (El Cajon), North County (Vista), and South County (Chula Vista). A listing of all courthouses, judicial officers, and departments, along with addresses and phone numbers, may be found on the court’s website at www.sdcourt.ca.gov.
Familiarize yourself with public parking facilities around the courthouses. There is no discounted parking rate for court reporters. Parking can be difficult to find, so plan accordingly.
3. Reporting Equipment and Supplies
You are responsible for bringing with you all the equipment and supplies you will need to perform your work. The court does not provide stenographic paper or other court reporter supplies and will not have any copying equipment available to pro tempore reporters. You may or may not have access to power in the courtroom, so be prepared to operate solely on battery power.
You may leave your equipment in the courtroom during breaks and lunch recess, but note that if you do so, the court will not be responsible for your equipment. You may not leave your equipment in the courtroom overnight.
4. When You Arrive at the Courthouse
Arrive at the courthouse in advance of your scheduled proceeding, and allow for time to pass through security at the entrance of the courthouse. You will need to pass your equipment through the security machines.
5. When You Arrive at the Courtroom
Arrive to the courtroom at least 20 minutes before the proceeding is scheduled to begin. The set-up for your equipment will be different in every courtroom, so allow ample time for this. The court does not provide technical support. You may or may not have access to power in the courtroom, so be prepared to operate solely on battery power. It is essential that you be on time and be ready to report the proceeding, because the court will not continue a matter or wait for you to be ready. In the event of an emergency, you must inform the party or attorney who hired you that you will be late or unable to attend the proceeding.
When you arrive at the courtroom, if the doors are locked, wait outside until the doors are unlocked. Upon entering the courtroom, introduce yourself to the courtroom clerk and bailiff.
Sit in the audience section until the clerk or bailiff direct you where to go.
If you are reporting a law and motion matter, look at the calendar posted outside the courtroom door to see when your case will be heard. The judicial officer, however, may change at any time the order in which the cases will be heard, so you need to stay in the courtroom. There may be several reporters there to report other matters. Ask the clerk or bailiff where you should wait until your matter comes up. If for any reason you leave the courtroom, inform the attorney(s) or party(s) who hired you of your whereabouts.
Give your business card to the lawyers appearing on your matter and to the courtroom clerk.
Read, complete, and sign your portion of the Appointment of Official Reporter Pro Tempore form (SDSC Form #ADM-316). This form must be turned in to the clerk before the proceeding begins. The parties must stipulate* and the judicial officer must appoint you as an official court reporter pro tempore before you may report the proceeding.
*Note: A stipulation is not needed if the reporter is on the Court-Approved List of Official Reporters Pro Tempore
(SDSC Form #ADM-321).
Do not cross the “well” (the space in front of the bench) without permission of the judicial officer or bailiff.
Do not enter the secured back hallways of the court, unless specifically authorized by the clerk, the bailiff, or the judicial officer, to report a matter in chambers.
Ask the judicial officer or clerk if there are any special procedures or practices about which you should be aware.
Restroom facilities are available in the public areas of the courthouse.
6. Real-Time Transcription
The parties may require and/or the judicial officer may request the parties to provide real-time reporting. The court provides judicial officers with a stand-alone laptop with West Case Notebook (Formerly LiveNote) and Bridge 2.0 software loaded. Reporters may connect using one of the three following connectivity options:
9-Pin Serial Cable with USB adapter; 9-Pin Serial Cable with the following configuration: Bits per second: 2400;
Data bits: 8; Parity: None; Stop bits: 1; Flow control: None
Bluetooth Receiver and Bluetooth USB device and Device driver software. Wireless connections are not available.
Be aware that it is the responsibility of the Reporter to configure the cable or Bluetooth receiver with the correct COM Port to connect to the court laptop. The court does not provide technical support and the court is not responsible for viruses, malware, or adware that could be potentially transmitted between devices. You may or may not have access to power in the courtroom, so be prepared to operate solely on battery power.
7. Depositing Notes or Electronic Copy of Notes with the Court
Gov. Code § 69955 provides that reporting notes are “official records of the court,” and must be kept by the reporter in a place designated by the court or, if ordered by the court, delivered to the clerk. The San Diego Superior Court requires you upload your electronic notes to ACORN in a timely basis in accordance with the Court’s Official Reporter Pro Tem Policy (SDSC Form #ADM-315).
If you do not have an account established with ACORN, you must contact the Office of Court Reporting Services at email@example.com or (619) 450-5616, as soon as possible to get a user name and password. You will need to provide them with your name, CSR #, email address, and CAT software.
See Official Reporter Pro Tempore Electronic Notes Upload/Archiving Policy (SDSC Form #ADM-319) for additional information on uploading notes in accordance with the court’s policies.
Pursuant to Gov. Code § 69955(d), court reporters are required to maintain an additional back-up copy of all notes.]]>
The key to successful streaming is not only does the reporter have to be a clean, proficient writer, but the reporter needs to be proactive and have the different software(s) that allow for the streaming to take place reside on their laptop. Many of us wait for the call, “Tomorrow can you do a realtime streaming job with LiveDeposition,” or “Remote Counsel,” or “Livenote Stream,” or “TeleView,” or “MyView,” or “Speche,” and because we don’t have the software tested and ready to go on our laptop, we have to turn the job down or show up and nothing works.
Most of the software for the products mentioned above is free to download, and the companies have free technical support to help the court reporter get their ports configured correctly so the streaming software works in conjunction with their CAT (computer-aided transcription) software.
Court reporters have an amazing talent and ability that the world is fascinated with. Having the ability to send a realtime text feed of everything that is said in a deposition, arbitration, or a trial is mind-blowing. I challenge all court reporters to be ready for the next opportunity to show off your skill. The world is fascinated by you.
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The answer might seem straightforward when a court reporter reads the Federal Rules or the California Code of Civil Procedure 2025, but in practicality there can be a lot of confusion by court reporters and attorneys as to when someone is off the record.
As a working court reporter and firm owner, I have been challenged by attorneys who thought they were off the record or wished they were off the record or hoped to have been off the record.
It would seem obvious that when an attorney says, “off the record,” in a proceeding and no one immediately says, “No, we are still on the record,” that everyone in the room is in acquiescence. But litigators are smart and things can happen suddenly that can result in a court reporter’s nightmare.
Recently I heard of a situation in which the one attorney said, “off the record,” and everyone got up, started moving around, and one of the attorneys was walking out the door and said to the other, “You are a (blank).” Immediately the attorney who was called a (blank) turned to the court reporter and said, “Did you get that?” The reporter replied, “No, we were off the record.” The angry attorney retorted, “I never said we were off the record.”
In my opinion, court reporters need to be proactive, and having been in the line of fire for the past 29 years, I have learned a couple of best practices:
Bottom line: Part of being a great court reporter is to be proactive and let the attorneys know they are off the record.
Great court reporters and legal videographers are always ready for the odd things that might happen at depositions. Sometimes we are in the middle of a hostile environment, and being ready is the key to success.
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I get inspired working with smart lawyers, experts, and great legal staff. I am very proud of my team of reporters and staff and what we have created.
People often write me asking if they should become a court reporter. My answer is if you are very disciplined, have a natural talent for typing or shorthand, and you love hearing about different subjects every day, you should go to court reporting school. Voice recognition software in my opinion is still very far off in the future. People speak poorly, at the same time, and with heavy accents. Great court reporters will be a valuable commodity for the next two decades and beyond.
What are the challenges of being a great reporter? You have to sit a tremendous amount. You have to be under a constant stress of being perfect. You have to work long hours sometimes unexpectedly because a witness has a late night flight to catch. You might have expedites that ruin your weekend plans. With organization (getting a great scopist) and clean writing skills, you can mitigate the challenges.
I highly recommend court reporting as a career. The only thing is, you have to be great.
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An issue that has come up lately around the country is court reporters are not noting the fact that an attorney during a deposition asks that the transcript be designated CONFIDENTIAL and/or ATTORNEYS’ EYES ONLY. The transcript is turned in with no notation on the cover page or the job worksheet, and the comment from the reporter when asked is, “I forgot.” The other situation I have seen is the court reporters assume every deposition in a case is CONFIDENTIAL and/or ATTORNEYS’ EYES ONLY, and past title pages with the designations to the new deposition.
I would suggest that reporters note the request as soon as possible in their deposition notebook or right then and there add the language on their cover page. This is serious business. Not only can a firm lose a client, but in a worst case scenario, a court reporter could be sued.
I am thinking when a whole transcript is designated CONFIDENTIAL and/or ATTORNEYS’ EYES ONLY, it is easier to forget because the reporter is not required to break up the transcript in different segments. A court reporter’s dream is to have the whole transcript marked CONFIDENTIAL and/or ATTORNEYS’ EYES ONLY as compared to breaking it up in sections.
I believe 98% of the reporters have never made this mistake. At the same time I have seen this happen in the last couple of months with very seasoned, excellent, fantastic court reporters in different parts of the United States.
Court reporters who write patent, trademark depositions typically work extremely hard, and most of the depositions are expedited with video. They are extremely stressful and difficult jobs to get out. This post is a helpful reminder to all of the great court reporters out there. Designations are critical.
The attorneys are calling witnesses to examine, direct examination, cross-examination, redirect… BUT then one of the attorneys asked to call a hostile witness on cross, even though he was the first to ask the witness questions. So is this cross or direct examination?
I asked one of the arbitrators, a retired Federal Court Judge, if I should designate the testimony as direct or cross. He raised his eyebrows and said, “There is no real answer,” and changed the subject.
Then I asked two court reporters who have been working in court for the past 19 years in San Diego Superior Court. They looked at each other and said that the court reporters in San Diego actually had hired an attorney to get an opinion, and the opinion is not clear. The official court reporters suggested if the attorneys actually use the phrase, “I am calling the witness on cross-examination,” or someone says, “Hostile witness,” they use the cross-examination designation.
I finally suggested to the arbitrator that I would make it generic, like in a deposition, and write, “EXAMINATION OF JOE SMITH.” He agreed that would be the best way to handle it.
I am curious if there are others who know what is appropriate and what a court reporter should use in this circumstance. We never learned about this in court reporting school.
Los Angeles and Bay Area traffic is legendary, and San Diego’s is not far behind when traveling south in the morning. Witnesses show up at depositions late with the excuse of traffic and not knowing where to park. Attorneys are oftentimes “stuck” in a hearing and are “running late.” Does the court reporter or videographer have the “luxury” of being late because of traffic or parking issues? I would postulate that a service provider can never be late. It might not seem fair, but that is the way it is.
And the responsibility of a court reporter/legal videographer is not only to be on time, but to be 30 minutes/one hour early. The legal videographers I work with consistently arrive an hour early and start their setup. Unless there is a mistake in scheduling, I rarely have come across a late-arriving videographer.
Court reporters have less gear and need less time to set up and, I believe, push the time envelope. Secretaries, paralegals, and attorneys start checking for the court reporter’s arrival, and if there is no one there at 8:45 for a 9:00 a.m. start, they begin panicking, calling the court reporting firm they hired. There are few calls the staff of a court reporting office hates more than, “Didn’t we book a reporter? Is someone coming? Should we call another firm to make sure we have someone here on time?” The clients panic, and then the court reporting firm panics. It is a terrible way to start the day.
I know when I do get to a job early, 45 minutes or so, I love the feeling of getting set up, having my title pages done, and time for a cup of coffee. I am relaxed. Everyone is relaxed. Sometimes if I am working at a doctor’s office, and I am not allowed to set up, I will sit in the reception area, turn on my computer, and work on the title pages. I walk into the conference room with my computer on and at least the title pages done.
I am sorry to say attorneys don’t ever want to hear excuses about being late. If there is a catastrophic accident or a person gets sick, fine. Being late should happen maybe once every 12 years. My advice: If you are going to be late, call your firm and let them know. They can call the client and give them the assurance the court reporter will be there.
Let’s all be incredibly great in 2013. Relaxed court reporters are happy court reporters.