Welcome to CSR Nation
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!!
If by statute you are only allowed to charge so much a page, wouldn't just charging a bigger per diem solve the problem? Am I missing something?
In a perfect world, yes. In the real world of freelance reporting in Los Angeles, no. Unless you are on the court approved list (which has not come out yet and initially will be comprised of laid off officials), all attorneys in the case need to stipulate to the private reporter being brought in. So your good client may want to hire you at X per diem (to compensate for the low page rates), but another attorney in the same case wants to use big-box out-of-state agency or nonlicensed agency or even licensed agency that is ignorant as to statute and they are quoting much lower per diems than the USER FEE that was charged to counsel by the courts for civil trials. Of course, one can probably surmise they have no intention of following the statute if a transcript is ordered or else they are using some incompetent, ignorant reporters who are willing to lose money if transcripts are ever ordered. I'm told anecdotally by an official that about 40% of the civil trials go to transcript - have no idea if that's true or overstated. Any way you look at it, it's a mess.
Does all of this apply to judgment debtor exams also?
No, it does not apply to judgment debtor exams as those are not in court proceedings in a civil court. You report them in a private area of the courthouse.
How can anyone force anyone to give them a day for no pay? My rate agreement has a line item for a daily attendance from 9-5, an hourly rate for waiting time, and an hourly rate for before 9 a.m. and after 5 p.m. What kind of crap is this?
You certainly need to be paid for your time while waiting for readback. Who would sit there and not be paid?
All that matters is that the hourly fee for sitting there added up to a decent payday. That's why I like doing my rate sheet thing. I don't have to remember to ask what about this, what about that. If it turns out that I'm to sit there all day, the hourly waiting rate makes it an acceptable payday so I can take the attitude whatever it is it is.
Wow, I'm glad I stumbled upon this discussion. I'm a new reporter in California, and the trend I've been noticing is that many lawyers are getting court reporters through depo firms to cover trials and hearings. I've covered a few hearings myself, but mostly I do depo work and have no experience with court to know about any of what's been discussed here.
All the info about the statutes and things are very important, so thanks, Deborah, because I wouldn't have known all this otherwise. There doesn't seem to actually be a uniform set of codes that agencies are following, though, so I'm glad to know that I should maybe be taking better care to look out for myself because I guess if it comes down to it, I would be the one held accountable. How confusing is this all? I'm glad that the DRA is looking into this and looking out for us.
When I lived in New Orleans (1986) I went to court (sounded like an adventure) . Those courts are HUGE!!! I was overwhelmed just waiting for the hearing. Another reporter saw my demise and said he would do the hearing (which ended up not being heard). I did court work in Florida (little stuff and a few trials).
For all of you who can go into a courtroom and be completely at easy, you deserve extra recognition (and pay).
Court rates are just to tip of the iceberg. In our state we have lost transcript income in court, completely, in most of the circuits. Transcripts are only produced if they are ordered, period. That includes felony pleas, felony trials, etc. Plus, with many lower courts using electronic recording we are only being called to do things that absolutely have to be on the record. Which translates to no civil work and about a quarter of the transcripts on the criminal side. And, of course, then we have the problem of the lawyers sharing the transcripts by just paying for one and splitting the cost. I have let my license go to suspension and I am working three part-time jobs. I make more doing other work and I have insurance through one of the jobs.I love reporting but I hate the lawyers.