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Just wanted to get some feedback from the freelancers out there on what their feelings are on covering court work. I took on a 2-week trial for my agency before I was fully informed about what the requirements would be. I also just attended the DRA seminar put on this past weekend in El Segundo. Great seminar, very informative.
Here's my take: (Please correct me if I am wrong)
LA reporters are bound to the 3 folios per page, which equates to $2.55 per page for the Original
and .45 per page for 1 copy. Hence, O&1 max billing is $3.00/page
Note that expedite fees are limited to ONLY an additional .50 per page for daily copy. That's it!!
See statue wording below
COURT RATES FOR TRIALS
69950. (a) The fee for transcription for original ribbon or printed
copy is eighty-five cents ($0.85) for each 100 words, and for each
copy purchased at the same time by the court, party, or other person
purchasing the original, fifteen cents ($0.15) for each 100 words.
(b) The fee for a first copy to any court, party, or other person
who does not simultaneously purchase the original shall be twenty
cents ($0.20) for each 100 words, and for each additional copy,
purchased at the same time, fifteen cents ($0.15) for each 100 words.
69951. For transcription, in civil cases, the reporter may charge
an additional 50 percent for special daily copy service.
According to CRB representative present at seminar, code is silent as to how much we can bill for per diems or extra services such as real time, roughs. She did make it clear that we CANNOT add in special fees such as production costs or bump up the delivery fees. Postage must be at actual cost and any other overhead fees have to be built into the per diem that is quoted.
It also should be pointed out that some agencies may very well bill higher rates and get away with it, but the problem arises when an individual litigant complains to the CRB. It then falls onto the CSR to be held liable for the overbilling, not the agency. Our license is on the line in other words or the risk of getting sanctioned.
I'm not sure how many reporters would be willing to work for $2 to $3 a page. I'm sure the agency needs to keep a cut of the pie. If you've got a scopist, you might be able to make a cool dollar per page!!
I should also mention that part of the responsibility of covering court trials involves being available for the jury verdict.. I'm on Day 2 of jury deliberations. I've got to sit in the cafeteria and run down every time the jury has a question so we can put it on the record.
It will be interesting to see how all this is going to play out and how many reporters find it worth their time to cover trials.
Got to go. Jury has reached their verdict!!
How the hell do TPTB expect to pay the same for transcripts to freelancers without the paying the salary and benefits, too, and why would any freelancer willingly commit financial suicide by doing this?
It's a damn shame, Marge. I guess the answer is that reporters would commit financial suicide by accepting this work at these rates because there are, what, hundreds of official reporters now dumped into the freelance market now, even less work for them, and something is better than nothing? I know more than one official reporter who's been replaced by electronic recording and they're now transcribing the taped proceedings that they used to report for less than a couple bucks a page, no copy sale income. Hey, I guess it's a much easier gig than they had before because [inaudible] and they can also [inaudible] whenever they can't [unintelligible]. Oh, the [inaudible] judges and attys that they work for are [unintelligible] for saying this [unintelligible] is acceptable.
Amen, M.A. You get what you pay for.
Personally I don't think it's worth it and I won't be doing it. I talked to one agency today about it, and frankly, even with the per diem, it's not worth it. Plus are they going to pay your per diem for each day you sit around waiting for the jury? No thanks.
I was at the seminar also, and great recap, Deborah. The seminar was very informative, but I think many of us were hoping it would provide info on how to "safely" take these court jobs without violating the statute. Yvonne Fenner, Exec. Dir. of the Court Reporters Board, made it clear it's all on the reporter to ensure the statute is obeyed as to pricing that you listed.
Real world, how to do this?? Request detailed final invoice from agency? Request in writing a promise to bill statutory rates? Put in writing that you are reporting the court work on the express understanding that statutory pricing would be followed - Ms. Fenner did say this would be "one piece of the puzzle" but may not prevent the reporter from being disciplined for pricing that is higher than the statute.
At the seminar, a nonlicensed agency owner spoke and basically said they were going to compete in the free market with the big out-of-state agencies and would continue the historical practice of charging higher than the statute, which is the only way you can compete for this court work in the real world because LA has the stipulation requiring all parties agree to the private reporter. We are getting calls every day looking for low rates for court work from law firms. Charging a higher per diem in most cases will not be possible unless reporters stop doing the low per diem/higher rate (violative of the statute work) or enforcement takes place by the CR Board.
I have heard of some lawyers looking into the CR Board's authority to dictate to private market reporters what rates they can charge. I assume DRA has looked into this situation but have not heard anything from them about this. I have not heard of anyone challenging the position yet legally. That might be a good thing for the working reporter. Until then, I do know of several who are going to educate lawyers and bar associations throughout the state of what the statutory rates are for court rates and how they can complain if they are charged nonstatutory rates.
What a mess this is for reporters. Hopefully it will work itself out eventually.
A couple more delightful little tidbits I forgot to mention in my first post.
You pretty much MUST be a real-time reporter to cover court work. 99% require/demand real time. The reporter across the hall from me was booted out for not be equipped to provide real time to judge and clerk. Since you only get about 2 minutes to set up, plan on using cables to hook up as most are not equipped for the Stenocast wireless setup and there just isn't any time to troubleshoot if anything doesn't work right.
ALSO.... a different reporter across the hall from me was asked not to come back because she was found to have been recording. Apparently some judge decided he didn't like the practice of reporters hooking up our mics and recording with audio sync. If you go there and plan on recording, make sure your mic is not in plain view as you could be chastised or asked to leave.
Some clerks are not so nice either. When another reporter didn't have juror IDs set up in her real time as JUROR 1, JUROR 2, etc., the clerk complained. The reporter told her she would fix it in the transcript. The clerk grumbled that why couldn't the agency send a reporter with actual court experience.
Then maybe they should just hire their precious reporters back -- please!
The fast-and-easy answer: not. I would never do a trial at these rates. From what Deborah said, you'd have to provide free RT for peanuts/page. What a joke. Who ARE the freelance reporters doing these trials now? And WHY???!!!
A useful fight or bone to pick for the DRA would be to pass legislation that says these court rates cannot be applied to freelance reporters or reporters not directly employed by the courts. Freelance reporters/firms should be able to charge our normal rates. If they don't like it, they can hire the officials back.
I don't think the RT is free. I am definitely charging and expecting compensation for RT provided to judge and client. It's just all the other BS of waiting around and only getting 2 minutes to set up. Then to top it off, your transcript is most likely a HOLD NOTES, so be prepared to only receive your per diem + RT fees.
2 minutes to set up, totally impossible for me. No audio backup, who the hell are they to tell us how to do our job? And add no order to this BS? Someone has got to be kidding here. Double amen, Mary Ann. This is un(inaudible)'g believable.
You might thank your lucky stars about the HOLD NOTES because if it does go to transcript, you'll end up losing $$$ by taking days off and getting low rates for transcript.
And to top that off, now that the CR Board (with DRA's support) lost the US Legal case on gift gving (even though the judge said US Legal violated the gift giving regulation), the only person on the hook for violating any reporter-related statute, including the court transcript pricing statute, is the working reporter. Not good news.
So we have a well-thought-out diabolical plan, most likely orchestrated by people whose pockets will be lined by the outcome, to make life impossible for the shorthand reporter so that they will be able to say, "See? They don't want to do this work. We'll now HHHHAAAAVVVVEEE to go to this alternate plan of using tape recorders because we have no other choice." I wish all parties involved in this the worst karma possible. I also wish untold trouble resulting from the transcripts that they get from their tape recorders. Mistrial mistrial mistrial. Aggravation. Delays. All in combination. I just can't believe what is going on.