In Part One of our Court Reporter Shortage series, we discussed some misconceptions and more recent data related to stenographic court reporter shortage debate. In this article, we will dive deeper into the impact at a state level.
It is true that the severity of the court reporter shortage varies by market and region. Stenographer advocates claim that staffing shortages are mostly due to low pay rates and that this has led to courts replacing stenographers with digital solutions 1, but this is misleading. Courthouses offering competitive pay and benefits are still facing issues with recruitment and statutory limitations.
Crisis in California
Recently, 54 California court CEOs released a statement highlighting the challenge of finding enough court reporters to cover mandated criminal felony matters, let alone civil cases, despite having an annual budget of $30 million to hire court reporters.2 Despite 71% of the state’s 58 courts actively recruiting court reporters, over 50% of the California courts have reported that they are unable to routinely cover non-mandated case types including civil, family law and probate. To ease some of the pressure the shortage is creating, in November, a Judicial Council recommended by a 17-7 vote, that the California Legislature should amend the law to allow electronic recordings in all case types when a court reporter is not available, and by a 16-8 vote, recommended that California should increase the use of electronic recording to protect a party’s right to appeal.
A November 2022 report to the Judicial Council states, “Both court reporters and court interpreters play a vital role in access to justice within our system. While many civil litigators and well-funded parties have become acclimatized to supplying their own court reporters or interpreters for proceedings, there is an unfortunate imbalance where parties cannot afford such services (and the court can no longer provide them). With sufficient technology and safeguards, remote proceedings have the potential to allow for greater parity and equity in access to reporters and interpreters, insofar as it could permit California courts to share pools of these talented and qualified individuals, potentially providing them to parties who cannot otherwise bear the cost themselves.”3
Given that the rules of the Californian Courts for electronic recording were last updated in 2007, the California CEOs laid out statues and limitations that should change for courts to meets their needs:
- Government Code § 69957, which prohibits the courts from providing electronic recording in civil, family law and probate courtrooms.
- Government Code § 69959 and Code of Civil Procedure § 367.75(d)(2)(A), which mandates court reporters to be present in the courtrooms – rather than taking advantage of emerging technologies that would allow the court to provide this service remotely to multiple courtrooms throughout the county, and provide more services with existing resources while making the profession more available to potential court reporters.
- Government Code § 69942, which requires all court reporters who work in a court to be certified in California which restricts courts from hiring out-of-state independent firms to provide this service.
A January 2022 report for the California Trial Court Consortium said that courts across the state, on average, have 19% vacancy rates for their court reporter positions, but that only gives a glimpse of the problem and how technology can help:4
- Butte County employs only two of the seven court reporters they need but have been able to avoid delaying proceedings by securing remote reporters and implementing electronic recording.5
- San Bernardino Superior Court employs 73 court reporters and has 29 vacancies, a 28% vacancy rate, according to Julie Van Hook, court public information officer.6
- Riverside Superior Court has 71.5 court reporter positions filled with 14 vacancies, a 16% vacancy rate, according to Marita Ford, Riverside Superior Court public information officer.7
In 2021, only 36 applicants passed the California Certified Shorthand Reporter Exam, compared to a high of 309 in a single month in 1995.3 California also faces issues with having enough stenographic court reporters certified each year to cover demand, despite some counties, like San Bernardino offering open positions for court reporters that pay $93,011.36 – $118,849.54 annually.8
How VIQ is helping with end-to-end technology
VIQ Solutions (VIQ) has had many conversations with court professionals that are currently facing a staffing shortage and having difficulty filling court reporter roles. The problem is real for courts beyond California.
Justice cannot wait and many court administrators are finding creative solutions to ensure the wheels of Justice keep turning. Some jurisdictions share transcription and court reporter resources, which means traveling to multiple courthouses in their district to cover cases, but with a limited pool to pull from it is only getting more difficult. In other states, court administrators have implemented digital reporting technology, like CapturePro, to avoid a backlog of case hearings. However, if a transcript is needed, the pressure of the shortage is still felt.
VIQ helps fill the stenography and court reporting gaps with technology to improve the efficiency of current human roles, backed by best-in-class support. With CapturePro™, court reporters can have confidence in the quality and security of the record captured within a reliable, flexible solution. Malfunctions are rare, but if they do occur, there are processes in place and support available to quickly resolve the issues. The benefit of the digital record is court reporters from other courts or AAERT certified transcriptionists can be employed for help. With NetScribe™, typists can more quickly accomplish manual processes to ensure transcripts are created in a timely manner, with high accuracy. With the proper training and the assistance of speech recognition, stenographic court reporters have improved their turnaround time for transcripts up to 50% and improved their transcriptionists’ job satisfaction. Read the whole story here of how a U.S. Judicial District eliminated their backlog and are using technology to help when recruiting has been stagnant.
Regardless of what different challenges courts face state-by-state, VIQ has the technology and services to help navigate current systems and improve capture, access, and creation of the court record. Contact us today to learn more about how we help courtrooms across the country.