Another Court Closure Day: Open Thread

Another third Wednesday, another court closure day. Leave your comments on today’s court closures or any other court-related topic here on this open-thread post.

31 responses to “Another Court Closure Day: Open Thread

  1. I scheduled 3 medical appointments today so as not to interfere further with the time my jurors are putting in on the trial we started last week. If today were not a forced closure day, we at least would have been able to do a few hours of trial (between the appointments) and keep things moving.

    As it is, I’m reviewing jury instructions in an effort to use at least some of the time on judge stuff.

  2. JusticeCalifornia

    I have a few questions. How much money is presently in the unspent AOC “court construction fund”?

    How much money is in that other trust account/special fund the Judicial Council has? What exactly is that, anyway?

    How much has been spent thus far, year by year, developing and implementing, and paying employees and outside consultants for, the AOC’s CCMS system? Is it working as planned ANYWHERE yet?

    How much money is spent each year on the Judicial Council’s/ AOC’s public relations and lobbying efforts?

    • To answer some of your questions, I recall seeing the figure $462 Million having been spent on CCMS as of last June 30th. That data sheet has been taken down from the AOC Web site. With a $90 Million expected expenditure through this fiscal year, that would total about $520 Million so far. CCMS is not working as planned anywhere, with one of the signficant omissions being the failure to exchange data with justice partners such as sheriffs, police, etc. It is also not sharing data between counties, which is actually an easy task to accomplish, but just not the way they are going about it.

  3. SF Court Observer

    The following article appears on the Court Reporters Association website—-Marin County now encourages parties to retain their own reporter—-The AOC is looking for a blank check from the legislature—provides pay raises to their own staff while Judges like Hon Fall attempt to make the best of the closure —I am very curious about the real strategy involved in the closure days—-

    Marin Superior Court Pools Remaining Officials Not Affected by LayoffsPosted on March 15th, 2010 by admin

    After issuing layoffs last month for court staff which included four official reporters, Marin Superior Court administration struck out again against officials when it sent a letter to the remaining officials informing them that as of March 15th, 2010, they would no longer be directly assigned to a judge as has been the past custom and practice.

    Instead, the new letter informed the officials they would all be separated from their judges and assigned to a new pool of reporters.

    The following is taken from the letter by Marin County Executive Director Kim Turner to the officials in Marin Superior explaining the court’s reasoning for putting officials into a pool system.

    On March 15, 2010, the Court will implement a pooling system for the assignment of court reporters. Pooling has been proven to be a cost effective way to manage court reporting resources and to contain costs. While this will be a significant change for the Court and for all reporters, it is, without question, an effective fiscal strategy, given our recent budget constraints. Many courts that have changed from direct assignment to pooling have seen significant cost savings and have been better able to ensure that all reporters have the opportunity for transcript work and varied assignments.

    Additionally, the Marin Superior Court administration encourages attorneys and parties to hire a freelance reporter in court proceedings for which a staff official reporter is not available due to their reassignment under the new system. Many courtrooms will not be staffed by officials at all.

    We want officials to know that Marin Superior may not be acting out of a vacuum, as COCRA has been aware for some time now that various superior court administrators and personnel have been consulting each other asking about what courts are not mandated by law to be staffed.

    It is our understanding that SEIU is currently working on responding to the recent decision to lay off officials and the court’s decision to pool its officials. We will keep you apprised of any further updates.

    If you would like to read the letter that Marin County Executive Director Kim Turner sent to the officials announcing the pooling system, you may do so by clicking here to download the document or click on “Read the rest of this entry” link below to read the text of the letter embedded in this blog post.

    • Of course, even though the idea might not be popular with some folks, an even more efficient way to keep costs down is to use digital multi-track recording + transcription to electronic records. If this were done for criminal trials, the cost savings would be quite large. Enough to save all the court workers’ jobs.
      Those currently working as reporters would become transcribers. Fewer people would be needed but the transcribers would cover more cases.
      The technology to do this exists right now. The resulting digital oral proceedings transcripts could be incorporated into electronic case records which could be available on computers at courthouses. The records would include all pleadings, minutes, etc. in searchable electronic form. And the technology to handle all that exists right now, too, much of it on the computer being used to write this comment.
      The entire, comprehensive system would replace CCMS, cost far less, run at dazzling speed, have an entirely different architecture than CCMS, and could be put in place in a few months.
      Or, we could all just sit around and watch the judicial system implode while the answer is right in front of us.

      • COLORADO SPRINGS, COLO. — A group of homeowners in one Colorado Springs neighborhood is upset with El Paso County’s court system after a recording device inside the courthouse failed to capture a trial, forcing the homeowners to reconstruct it more than a year later.

        Cherry Creek Springs’ Homeowners Association originally filed a lawsuit in July 2007 against eight of their homeowners over budget issues.

        The two parties went to trial in the fall of 2008 in front of Judge Thomas Kane who, after four days, sided in favor of the defendants.

        Soon after his decision, the HOA decided to file and appeal.

        But, when the courts went back for the transcripts from the trial, none could be found.

        For Dave and Lori Holly the past year and a half has been a nightmare, trying to find out what happened to the recordings taken during their trial. What they have found is there are none.

        “There are three buttons that the judge has access to, an on-and-off switch, he has a panic button in case it gets unruly, and there is a mute button so when items are discussed off the record they stay off the record, and evidently that button had been engaged,” Lori Holly said.

        According to the state administration office in Denver there was a problem with Judge Kane’s recording device during the Holly trial.

        Officials there said the people who were supposed to be checking the recorder each morning were not doing so.

        “There were some procedures in place that we call confidence monitoring of those FTR systems. However I will tell you that we discovered that there were some failures in doing that confidence monitoring in several areas of the court,” District Court administrator Vicki Villalobos said.

        In a work order obtained from LVW Electronics by the Hollys, the technician writes that he “turned the judge’s microphone back on.”

        It goes on to say the other microphones in the courtroom were working properly, but according to Villalobos there is no record of any audio from the trial.

        “There was no sound coming from any microphone in the courtroom,” Villalobos said.

        And to complicate things even more, Villalobos said there is no record of audio from any proceeding heard in front of Judge Kane from Sept. 19, 2008 through Oct. 10, 2008.

        Officials in Denver said that is around 200 proceedings with no audio on file.

        “No disciplinary action was taken because I did feel at that point that it was more of an administrative failure on my part, that I needed to step up the training and step up the tools at their disposal, so no disciplinary action was taken against that staff,” Villalobos said.

        Villalobos said if any transcript is requested from that time period, one cannot be provided. She said if any of the cases are appealed, the courts will have to find some way to reconstruct the trial piece by piece.

        “I do not know all the legal in and outs of it, but it is a hearing where the judge goes through from trial notes and a variety of other notes from clerks and defendants, and gets the parties to agree on what was said during the original trial,” Villalobos said.

        That is exactly what the Hollys and their pro-se co-defendants are being forced to do.

        The only difference for them is a third party in the audience apparently captured some of the trial on a small, hand-held recorder which is now being used to help reconstruct the trial, much to the dismay of the Hollys.

        “What the Court of Appeals is going to do is anyone’s guess. We would like to see it go forward, but I am kind of at a loss as to what to do because we have had to go forward with this recording that should have never been taken, and that is the record we are stuck with,” Lori Holly said.

        The Hollys said the other frustrating part of their situation is that they, along with their co-defendants, were never informed by the courts that their audio was missing.

        As for the checks and balances at the courthouse, Villalobos said new procedures and training have been implemented to make sure the recorders do not fail again.

      • A Comparison of Transcript Costs: Court Reporters vs. Electronic Recording
        There is a common myth that courts can save money by merely replacing court reporters with electronic recording equipment. Doing so actually costs more for several reasons:
        • Electronic recording does not eliminate the need for paper transcripts or text files. Reviewing a tape takes 4-5 times longer than reading a transcript, and courts of appeal demand transcripts.
        • Electronic recording equipment does not operate itself. The court must hire and train additional staff to serve as recording monitors because the demands of tracking courtroom proceedings and caring for the equipment are beyond the capacity of the courtroom clerk, the judge or bailiff to assume.
        • The usability of analog or digital audio or visual recordings are directly proportional to how well the recording is indexed. In order for indexing to be accomplished there must be additional staff to serve as the recording monitor.
        • Court reporters in California are state licensed and risk loss of licensure unless they comply with state- and court-imposed standards for accuracy and timeliness.
        • Court reporters are able to supply Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) services as mandated by the Americans with Disabilities Act.
        • Court reporters produce transcripts faster and cheaper than electronic recording. Courts attempting to pay “statutory” fees for electronic recording transcripts find that transcription services charge more because it takes longer to transcribe compared to merely editing the court reporter’s computerized text file.
        • High volume courtrooms must rely on court reporters to keep up with timely transcript preparation. Preparing transcripts from electronic recording takes more time. A typical court reporter using CAT produces 25-30 or more pages of transcript an hour, while a typical electronic recording transcriber can produce no more than 8-10 pages an hour.
        • The indirect costs to produce transcripts from electronic recording are substantial. Courts do not have to manage court reporter transcript production because court reporters act as independent contractors and therefore do not require supervision. Conversely, courts must manage transcript production resulting from electronic recording. Courts must also pay the costs associated with materials, supplies, staffing and delivery for electronic recording transcript production.
        • Court reporters are highly computerized and their Computer-Aided Transcription (CAT) technology transforms the verbatim record into digital text files that offer a wide array of conveniences and cost efficiencies.
        • Most analog electronic recording equipment used in courts today does not provide benefits such as electronic storage, transmittal, or retrieval. Even those few courts using digital recording equipment cannot provide the full array of cost effective, computerized benefits that court reporters do.
        • Court reporter CAT technology enables REALTIME instant display of the verbatim record that is capable of annotation by judges, attorneys, litigants and court staff. Electronic recording cannot produce this productivity tool.
        • Expanding the use of ER will hamper future cost savings associated with increased use of computers.
        • Courts DO NOT pay for court reporter equipment — computers, software, transcription equipment, transcribing personnel or supplies. These costs easily exceed $10,000 and are not one-time costs. Reporters constantly upgrade equipment, software and other related supplies in order to keep up with changing and advancing technology. Court reporters privately fund these activities acting as independent contractors.
        • Courts MUST pay for electronic recording equipment, tape duplicators, related supplies and ongoing maintenance.
        • Electronic recording is not foolproof, and there are many high profile examples of equipment failure or tape erasures.
        • Electronic recording requires huge initial expenditures to purchase all necessary equipment.
        • Choice in reporter technology is made available to federal district court judges, 95 percent of whom reject the use of electronic recording and use stenographic court reporters.
        • The Illinois State Bar Association passed a resolution in December 2002 opposing the use of recording equipment in lieu of court reporters for reasons of the quality of the verbatim record.
        • Two separate New Jersey Supreme Court advisory committees recommended use of stenographic court reporters in jury and multi-party hearings.
        • In Washington electronic recording is used largely in rural court jurisdictions. In the more populous jurisdictions stenographic reporters are used overwhelmingly. Spokane County shut down three ER courtrooms in favor of shorthand reporters.
        • In Indiana the most important cases are required to use stenographic court reporters. Timely delivery of transcripts is a serious problem when produced from recording equipment. Indiana is trying to hire more stenographic reporters.
        California courts currently use electronic recording equipment in some courtrooms. Statewide transcript costs for both court reporter and electronic recording exceed $25 million annually. Shifting to more electronic recording equipment will INCREASE transcript costs and REDUCE the productivity of judges, attorneys, litigants and court staff.
        Imposition and collection of a verbatim record keeping fee in civil matters is prescribed in Government Code section 68086, but is largely unenforced by the trial courts. The annual statewide additional revenue from this source is estimated to exceed $40 million annually. Minor rule changes would net substantially more revenue.
        The California Legislature appointed an advisory committee to review and report their recommendations on the use of electronic recording. Their 1992 report only recommends audio recording in those courts that do not have testimony and only if there is a trained monitor present with no other duties.
        Several other commissioned studies have concluded that electronic recording is more expensive than a stenographic court reporter using computer-aided transcription technology. These reports include Justice Management Institute (2002), Levy and Associates, (1992), Thomas F. Cunningham (1996), Peat Marwick (1992).
        The proponents of tape recorders overstate customer satisfaction with the use of electronic recording equipment to produce verbatim transcripts

  4. Oh Richard if you only knew! The court reporters in California have one of the strongest lobbies in the state and even though better cheaper technology that human court reporting exists, it won’t happen while they have the political power that they do.

    I know I will get nasty posts about this but I suspect that courts like Marin are using the opportunity of a budget crisis to break the hold that court reporters have in working with individual judges, and using the more efficent way of court reporter usage like the pool. The pool model would eliminate or at least reduce the double dipping that goes on with court reporters (i.e. if their judges are on vacation, they cant be used in a pool so they prepare their transcripts of which they own the copyright, on paid time by the court).

    Yeah, yeah, I know reporters work so hard and not have their words per page increased since the begining of time yada yada but if you look around, you will find that more often that not, the court reporter is the most highly paid of personnel in a courtroom. Not to mention, all staff of a court wheather in a courtroom or in the clerks office work really hard and tough jobs too, court reporters don’t own that moniker!

    If the public only knew of the the double dipping and the horse and buggy technology that supports court reporters and their tax dollars going to purchase transcripts AFTER the court reporter gets paid a salary by the court for their work , they would be shocked. Oh yeah, sure they have real time reporting, etc. but you can’t tell me that that is more high tech than the technology Richard mentions.

    And no, court reporters cannot differentiate between folks talking over each other, etc. But a good audio tape with multi track (or other technology that I have absolutely no clue of, but others do)probably would. Not to mention, the judge should tell the parties, not the reporter if they should stop speaking over each other.

    I dont want to see a lot of folks of a job. I am just saying that through attrition, that the courts should move to a better more accurate way of making the record. And if other court employees were doing (i.e. the double dipping like court reporters and their transcripts) we would be fired.

    I recognize that court reporters have had their place in history with the courts, but soooner or later, it is going to be time to move on. Just like the steno machine replaced the quill and pen.

  5. Wendy Darling

    California Judges Play An Ever Bigger Policy Role, by Dan Walters, published today in the Sacramento Bee :

    • And Wendy, there’s another big waste story inside what you cited to. Look at the in-home care matter. The lawsuit over it was filed in federal court in Oakland. Judge Wilkens. Look at the declarations filed, using PACER. They will spend millions just trying to reprogram computer software back and forth to accommodate the rulings. Total nonsense because replacement modern software could be written in a week or two at minimal cost and it would allow regular line workers to make most of such changes in minutes with IT personnel making certain other changes, likewise in minutes. This is another big drain on the state general fund, totally needlessly.

  6. Oh Courtflea I do know. I have written about the subject a number of times in my Daily recorder freelance newspaper columns. I wrote extensively about the special legislation that blocked the use of modern technology in our courtrooms. And the heck of the situation is that, if everyone worked together, those CSRs who remained in the business as transcribers could actually make a very decent living, with those who transcribe very fast still breaking the bank. There would simply be fewer personnel needed.

    The overall cost could drop dramatically. Paper would not be used. No shipping or mailing. This is only one of numerous things that could be done in the courts with modern technology. I have already created most of the technology necessary. It’s sitting right here on this computer right along with a tentative system (at least parts of it) that could totally replace CCMS at a tiny fraction of the cost of CCMS. And my system would go way beyond what CCMS is supposed to do, encompassing modular interlocking software that would permit easy exchange of data between the courts and justice partners including even possible rewrites of justice partners’ local software to make the data cross-accessible and/or poolable. And my approach would also include totally electronic oral proceedings transcripts and clerk’s transcripts (I have the enabling software already written) which would be fully searchable and indexed and this, mind you, would be included in the cost of the justice data management system (JDMS) concept I have already created. It would replace what I currently estimate will run up a tab of about $5 Billion before those in charge realize their approach has failed.

    Those in charge of CCMS have simply been given horrible technology advice and thus refuse to look at what is possible because they are told it can’t work. And I hear, “Oh, Richard, you just don’t understand.” That’s what those in charge say because they hear that nonsense from their “experts” who in fact aren’t even close to being experts. Those in charge don’t know who to believe. What many see as malfeasance I see as simple ignorance of the technology possibilities.

    If you don’t know who to believe, ask my customers.

  7. JusticeCalifornia

    We can all look back and say “coulda, woulda, shoulda”.

    The CA Judicial branch is extraordinarily well funded, and has the expertise and means to do the job right, the first time.

    Unless the massive branch , with its $4 billion budget, wishes to tell the CA legislators, and the public otherwise? “Sorry, we spent a half billion without knowing what we were doing, we will do better next time, trust us”?

    No. With all due respect, let’s follow the money. Let’s take a look at who was calling the shots, and look at who made money from the decisions made. Let the auditors look at the reported expenses, and then look at the actual checks cut. Let’s then connect the dots.

    Like any other ethical, respectable business would.

  8. JusticeCalifornia

    And by the way, I am waiting for the answer to these questions, posed earlier:

    How much money is presently in the unspent AOC “court construction fund”? (I read somewhere it is $5 billion–more than an entire year’s judicial budget–is this correct?)

    How much money is in that other trust account/special fund the Judicial Council has? What exactly is that, anyway? (And I am NOT kidding, I want the answer to this question.)

    How much money is spent each year on the Judicial Council’s/ AOC’s public relations and lobbying efforts? (And how is this hidden, in the budget submitted to the legislature/public?)

  9. In 1994 or 1995 multi track audio visual recording devices were installed in the Family Courts in Riverside County.

    It was a smash. They worked better than expected. The copies were immediately available and “instant replay” was there if needed. No longer were judges and clerks limited to memory or notes of a matter.

    Counsel loved it as well. There were multiple stacked recorders in every department and attorneys could have a tape of a proceeding made on his or her own cassette or could obtain a copy of the tape for a modest fee. The record on appeal was complete and ready for transcribing at the conclusion of the hearing. The reporters continued to work just in case, but it became immediately and painfully obvious that they were about to become obsolete.

    So what did they do? The sent their union reps to Sacramento and they came back with a law prohibiting the courts from spending any budget money maintaining or repairing the equipment. As far as I know, that law is still on the books.

    Don’t get me wrong, I love court reporters. Their historical benefit to the system is huge. But sadly and realistically, their time has passed.

    In these days of tight money and advanced technology, making our records one word at a time is a huge waste of time and money.

    • JusticeCalifornia

      Okay. But if you are going to trim the budget, you trim it from top to bottom, all the way up and down the line, right?

    • JusticeCalifornia

      And don’t get me wrong. Across the board, attorneys and litigants want inexpensive audio /visual records of court proceedings ( not just audio, to be clear).

  10. WiseEmployee

    Is this blog AOC Watcher or court reporter watcher? For all of you who just can’t help yourselves from taking shots at court reporters let me remind you that those court reporters and their unions that you reference with such disdain are carrying the water and politics for alot of the things that many have raised as serious issues going on in the judiciary. I say thank goodness that the court reporters and their unions have such political clout that they can get things done in Sacramento. Keep your eyes on the prize and quit letting yourselves get distracted. The real problems in the judiciary have nothing to do with court reporters so please leave them alone until a peace treaty is reached in the judiciary and then we can all go back to our micro-battles.

  11. To WiseEmployee and Dos Perros, I am well aware of the earlier experiments in Southern California. And those in Florida, Pennsylvania, and elsewhere. I wrote about them extensively in my columns. And because of that, I was approached by court reporters attempting to get me to back off the truth. But I didn’t. But still no one really listened. Technology was available that could have saved immense amounts of money and the court reporter/recording matter was only a small portion of the total electronic solution. As we are witnessing now, the court reporters got what may turn out to be a Pyrrhic victory for them. Because the whole system is now broke.

    And there were several lawsuits brought by reporters to stop the advances in technology from being used. And the prohibition against using modern technology was sneaked through on the 99th page of a lengthy appropriations bill. But the truth is the truth, no matter how much people may attempt to suppress it. Recording + transcription technology has advanced to the point where a huge percentage of the current cost of reporters is being wasted right along with the huge waste of money on CCMS. An updated system could still employ many of the same people as now but it would look different. Everyone has an axe to grind and the reporters have inadvertently – along with many others – helped to create the current judicial branch budget crisis.

    A total modern technology solution would encompass all of these areas and it’s possible right now. If challenged to do so, and given the necessary cooperation, I could create it from scratch within months. It would knock you off your chair. A modern solution would look vastly different, with multi-track recording + transcription, all electronic pleadings, totally electronic appellate records, digital exhibits records, digital jury instructions, all-electronic minutes and linked records, remote filings of pleadings via the Internet, electronic records identifying general case information, quick accessibility to records from far-flung counties, quick accessibility to records from other states, storing of total backups of everything that happens in the largest county in the state in a space no bigger than a shoebox quick preparation of daily calendars, access in a common format to data from associated agencies, their cross-access to court system data, etc., etc. Few people I have spoken with have even an inkling of what is possible. And the cost of all this? Miniscule. The ongoing savings would swallow the initiation cost in no time flat. The gap is that wide. The ongoing savings would knock your eyeballs out. Do I sound frustrated watching this financial disaster unfold? You have no idea.

    But then there is lobbying. And a sea of special interests. And thus blockage of each and every aspect of such a judicial data management system. California is broken financially but it’s not for lack of possible solutions. It’s the people. People who shoot themselves in the foot.

    It is interesting that the use of modern technology in our court system could impact the budget situation from so many different angles. It is at the heart of the solutions time after time. It is not just that the judicial branch could have saved about $500 Million by not shunning modern technology in favor of the antiquated approach known as CCMS, there could also be huge savings from avoiding shipping, storage, paper, etc. costs. And efficiency of action could be greatly improved too.

    Any county that is willing to investigate what I am saying just has to call and say “We’re ready. Let’s go!” And then don’t argue. Don’t tell me about all your friends who are “IT experts” and who told you what I’m advocating won’t work. Just participate, watch, learn.

    I find it fascinating to observe the contrasts between the judicial system and modern business and even ordinary folks, including even small children. Many lawyers cannot even run much of the software I have created because of hardware/firmware/basic software deficiencies. And they often refuse to install such basic items, railing against Microsoft, conspiracies, etc. But when bowling leagues secretaries have called about advanced software I created to handle complex scoring events, it has been rare to find they didn’t have the required basics. Once in a while they need to get a more recent version of something but that’s about it. And an engineering tech friend had all the basics on his field-hardened portable computer so I created software for him to use while all the engineers around him were using paper and hand calculators to make engineering calculations on field test samples.

    Ever heard the saying, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem? We need for people to get together on this, drop their defenses to modern technology, and allow progress to get into high gear. To court reporters I would say, the answer may not be what you envisioned and it might not fit your “druthers” exactly, but there is an answer and you would still be working, but just not the way you’re working now. And court clerks would be working, but not with all that paper. And judges and courtroom clerks would have to spend a few minutes getting used to working with modern spreadsheets and pooled data. And lawyers would have to get used to the world of Microsoft.

    But in the end, we all come out ahead.

  12. I hope my post did not exhibit “disdain” for court reporters. It was certainly not my intent. I harbor no such feeling nor emotion. I apologize to all who may have drawn a different conclusion from my remarks.

    To place them proper context, I believe there are three great issues in this entire series of debates:
    1) the efficient operation of the various trial courts;
    2) the wise and frugal use of public money; and
    3) the determination of primary responsibility for 1) and (2.

  13. And likewise I will state it’s not the people (court reporters) who are necessarily a problem, it’s the outmoded court-reporting process and the often-encountered fierce resistance to progress. The people are a problem only if they insist on not adapting to modern technology progress. Just like buggy whips gave way to gasoline and auto tune-up shops, the court reporter system must give way to electronic recording plus transcription if we are to become efficient in the operation of our courts. That transformation of the process would be a key ingredient in creating a totally electronic, highly efficient new electronic system to manage our courts. And note carefully that court reporters already have a unique set of skills that would fit in extremely well with a modern approach. If they are willing to adapt, I am more than willing to create all the necessary technology to smooth out the process.

    For those who love horses, we can’t go back to getting around everywhere on them. And we can’t hang on to outmoded ways of running our courts. But I still would like to see those old Hamilton Beach milkshake mixers make a comeback.

  14. Richard,

    I really don’t want to prolong this dialogue about court reporters, because, once again, it is off topic and not productive here, but I feel compelled to respond just this once. The court reporter/court “recorder” debate is not black-and-white and is taking place in other venues. While ER may be sufficient in certain types of proceedings, it is not the be-all and end-all for all purposes. I suppose tapes can be sufficient if all an atty needs is to listen back to the judge’s rulings in a family law dept so he/she can prepare a final written order.

    There are hundreds of judges relying on a realtime feed from their court reporters on a daily basis, not to mention attys in high-end trials who are relying on the same and/or having transcripts emailed to them same-day or overnight in PDF format, word-searchable, no paper involved. Also, ER is technically already allowed in certain misdemeanor and limited civil litigation matters. But when you need a daily transcript in death penalty or complex litigation cases, or a jury wants readback of specific testimony, a court reporter is essential.

    Live broadcast captioning cannot be produced by any other method than a court reporter. Yes, there are great captioners and mediocre captioners – just as in any other profession – but there are also other variables such as the type of event being captioned and the speed at which people are speaking. There is no piece of sophisticated electronic equipment that could do the same. I am sure the Deaf and hard-of-hearing communities are very thankful that steno reporters haven’t gone the way of the buggy whip.

    Please don’t feel the need to respond to my comments, much less with a lengthy diatribe on the obsolescence of court reporters or that the only reason they still exist is because of their successful lobbying efforts. There is a lot more to the issue than that. I just don’t see this as the place to highjack another thread with off-topic remarks that denigrate the value of an entire classification of court employee.

    • JusticeCalifornia

      I agree. And, in my litigation experience, many a court reporter has gone way beyond the call of duty in order to deliver crucial transcripts at the speed of light.

  15. SF Court Observer

    I owe everyone a huge apology…I was the one that took this off-topic with the Marin County article…my point truly was not court reporter “watching”….I was lamenting that court reporters have become the first things thrown overboard from the sinking ship.

    The reality is that there is no justification for the AOC that has evolved. Abuse of power—the absolute corruption of money—The AOC is a runaway agency now caught up by the arrogance of the leadership. This forum provides a vehicle for an exchange of information and creation of a focused response and coordinated efforts to bring about change.

    Court reporters really are a conversation for another time and place—they are also not the solution to court closures….only a distraction to what needs to be the proper attention on AOC raises–out of control computer projects and an AOC that has determned that it answers to no one, How much money is in the court construction funding?—-let’s get on topic—

  16. SF Court Observer

    Why don’t we keep the courts open and instead turn out the lights at the AOC for a week each month?—-

  17. Why have an AOC at all?

    Really … let’s cut off our noses to spite our own faces! Although many courts are doing layoffs and have backlogs, let’s shut down the only organization that attempts to assist with that work. We can do our own HR, handle our own infrastructure, lobby for our own budgets, answer our own legal opinions, defend ourselves against litigation, arrange our own arbitration, handle our own security provider negotiation, pay for our own facility improvements and management, interpret all the laws we have to meet ourselves without assistance, provide our own mandated education to meet requirements, and handle all our own contracts, and more … in a way that ensures standard levels of equipment and service. Although we had a voice in giving this power up, we can totally do everything ourselves without the scores of overworked AOC employees who are working themselves ragged to politely assist us!

  18. Wendy Darling

    For those of you with access to The Daily Journal, the latest from Amy Yarbrough on the AOC, titled “Court Spending on Temp Work Soars Amid Hiring Freeze, published today, Tuesday, March 30th.

    • Judicial Observer

      According to the article, during their so called “hiring freeze” and over just the past 6 months, the AOC has used in excess of 55 temporary employees. The AOC’s contract with one temporary agency amounts to $3,026,454 since September 2008.

      The article also states that the AOC has continued to hire permanent employees since the publication of the last hiring freeze exposé by the Daily Journal. According to the AOC, all these persons are necessary so that the AOC could continue work on badly needed projects.

      Guess those projects are more important than financing the day to day operations of the trial courts. And AOC, just what is the correct definition of “hiring freeze?” Is it like “raises” not being the same as merit increases?

  19. Transcription services charge $70 to $100 per hour to transcribe a digital recording of legal proceedings. Court Reporters earn $45 dollars per hour. The difference in the quality of the transcript prepared by a typist versus a court reporter who studied for four years is like akin to having surgery performed by an EMT instead of a surgeon.

    • Julie,

      I, and others, have tried hard to drive a stake through the heart of this debate here. It is not the place. I beg of you not to revive it. It is a separate battle. No need to invite further court-reporter-bashing by trying to justify their existence or exalt their virtues over ER. In the end, I am confident those things will speak for themselves. But not here. Not now.