Public will have to find and pay for own court reporters in many LA civil cases

According to Service Employees International Union 721, daily, private court reporter fees can cost upwards of $2,000.

Sophie Flay Image
Thursday, November 3, 2022
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According to Service Employees International Union 721, daily, private court reporter fees can cost anywhere between $800 to $2,000.

LOS ANGELES (KABC) -- Starting this month, Los Angeles Superior Court will no longer provide official, free court reporters for some civil cases.

The change means those cases will no longer have an official written record, unless the participants are willing to pay fees to hire their own reporter ranging from $800 to $2,000 a day.

The court says there is a shortage of reporters, forcing the available employees to be prioritized for criminal cases, as required by law.

The change starts Nov. 14 and affects family law, probate and writ and receiver courts.

A court reporter's job is to create a verbatim transcript of what is said during trials and hearings.

Court reporters and union leaders held a press conference on Wednesday to highlight the change and emphasize the need to save jobs and protect the public from more fees.

"We don't want them to walk into a courtroom and not have one of us there to guard their record," said Diana Vandyke, a court reporter at L.A. Superior Court.

According to the L.A. Superior Court, the court is now prioritizing court reporters in criminal cases due to a reporter shortage. And if participants in a case want a court reporter present, they have to find a private court reporter and pay a large fee.

According to Service Employees International Union 721, daily, private court reporter fees can cost anywhere between $800 to $2,000.

"To take one tool away from families, from communities that is critical to the court process means that they're going to have to pay for it, but also means that full justice won't be served," said Assemblymember Miguel Santiago.

ABC7 reached out L.A. Superior Court for an interview but were provided with a statement from Sherri R. Carter, Executive Director and Clerk of Court for the Los Angeles Superior Court. She said it is not a shortage of funding, but of people. She advocated for changes in the law to allow recordings of court proceedings when a reporter is not present.

"We are facing a crisis in our justice system. Our top priority is to provide access to justice - and a critical part of that is litigants having an accurate record of court proceedings - especially the most vulnerable litigants.

Our court reporters are a vital part of our court family. There are simply not enough of them in our county, in California, or across the nation. With the court reporter shortage reaching crisis levels, the court has been forced to redeploy reporters to legislatively mandated hearings in felony and juvenile cases. This leaves us with no alternative but to move those reporters from non-mandated areas such as family law, probate and civil. In these areas, due to current statutory prohibitions, our litigants and courts are left without a court record.

We need real solutions to this real crisis. Money is not enough when there is no one to hire.

We need laws that have been adopted in many other states and the Federal court system that allow digital recordings in all courtrooms when a court reporter is not available.

While protests and press conferences have their place, real legislative public hearings are what we need."

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