Court reporters provide a very specialized skill that is acquired through many rigorous hours of training and practice. After perfecting their craft, they rightfully want to be paid a salary that is comparable to their invested time and provided services; not to mention the financial investment that it takes to get to the point of being a start-up reporter. For this reason, many reporters understandably eschew working for a salary that is not commensurate with their skill set.
Entities that hire court reporters must realize that it is “penny wise and pound foolish” to price court reporters out of the legal industry. According to a recent WBTV article, state budget cuts (which have allegedly lead to court reporters’ salaries being cut in half) are greatly affecting Mecklenburg County’s (North Carolina) ability to fill court-reporter positions. The article states that low salary offers are deterring reporters from filling the vacant positions.
According to WBTV, a North Carolina attorney has astutely expressed, “not paying court reporters enough money could end up costing the state more in the long run. ‘In our case, there was a several hour delay where we were trying to make arrangements for a court reporter,’ said Monnett [an attorney]. ‘During that time, the state was paying the bailiffs, the clerks, the jurors, the judge, and all that money was wasted.’”
Earlier in the year, a convicted murderer was granted a new trial due to a court reporter’s error. According to ABC News, a Florida man who was sentenced to life in prison for murder, had his conviction thrown out when it was discovered, during an attempt by the convicted man to file an appeal, that hardly any transcripts of the trial existed.
The court reporter who took down the proceedings reportedly failed to use paper to record the trial; although paper usage is a requirement in the Miami-Dade court system, along with stenography machines that have an internal-disc memory.
While the reporter asserts that the transcript was saved onto an internal disc on her steno machine, and a back up on her computer, she erased the data from her machine, and her computer got a virus. Thus, the transcript was rendered permanently lost. The court was only able to recover one pretrial hearing and the trial’s closing arguments.
This Florida case blunder brings up quite a few questions regarding data storage and data collection. How will this rare occurrence of data collection effect the paper vs. no paper debate/transition?
Court reporters provide a specialized and very necessary service to the judicial system. Also, human and computer errors are bound to occur no matter how careful an individual is. This unfortunate situation will make us all a little sharper on how we protect and save our notes.