I just wanted to share some information with this board about the SoCal Stip. I'm sure we are all familiar with it, and the more we give in to it, the more it becomes perpetuated in Southern California. We personally fight it at every request at Maverick Reporting, and I thought it might be beneficial to share how and why.

Essentially, Plaintiff's counsel is attempting to gain a free copy of the transcript by stipulating that the original transcript be sent to them, and that a certified copy may be used in court in lieu of the original. Why? It's simple- Plaintiff's counsel does not work on a retainer agreement like defense counsel does; they take a huge percentage (30-40%) of the judgement or settlement on the back end in lieu of a retainer up front.

Here's where the SoCal Stip comes into play. By receiving the original and being able to use a certified copy in court, plaintiff's counsel can now rip apart the bound original, scan it, copy it, and use it to benefit their case. They pay no fees up front on behalf of their client for the transcript, thereby saving potentially thousands of dollars in transcript fees, which would come out of their final percentage of the settlement or judgement. Pretty smart. However, it goes against the Business and Professions Code whereby we are obligated to provide all services at an equal rate to all parties.

Here's what we have found to be very effective in killing the Stip- we tell the attorney that they have the option to pay for the original if they would like to receive it, or they can pay a lower rate for the copy. The language looks something like this:

"Dear Attorney X,

Thank you for the follow up. If you are requesting the original transcript, you will need to be billed for the original transcript. If you’d prefer to receive a copy, you can be billed at a lower rate for the copy. We are familiar with the Socal Stip and unfortunately, we do not honor providing free copies of the transcript. It goes against what we are legally bound to do by the Business and Professions Code, which is to provide all services at an equal rate to all parties. If you were to receive free copies of the transcript, it would give you an unfair financial advantage over the other parties in this case. The party that receives the original transcript is responsible for making payment on the original transcript. Please let me know how you would like us to proceed."

Be forewarned- I've been screamed at, hung up on, called every name in the book, and the attorneys at times are extremely angry, but I believe this is the right thing to do. We have also had attorneys quickly give in and order a copy. As reporters and agencies, we cannot give any party a financial advantage as officers of the court. I hope this is helpful information, as I get calls from reporters and agencies all the time in this regard, and just thought I would post in a broader forum. I welcome your thoughts and feedback.

All My Best,

Jason Buktenica

Maverick Reporting, Inc.

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Nice ...!

Jason,

You deserve a medal.  You are absolutely correct, and California reporters should disseminate this information far and wide and each and every court reporter must begin this practice.  

Bravo!

Perfection!!!

Amen, Jason.  I've complained about this practice multiple times to agencies and they just cow down.  I've even suggested putting in uncopyable paper so no copy can be made from the original; it puts a gray streak down the middle of the page.  Nope, they would not do it.  

When I went on one job when I lived in Southern California, five of my original transcripts were copied and sitting on the table.  I was so pissed.  I try to educate the noticing attorney as to why they're funding opposing counsel's case, which is exactly what they are doing.  Ugh!!   If I know they are Southern California attorneys on a case, I usually decline the job.

Hey Jason, well done!  Like Kelli, I decline SoCal atty jobs

and I am sooooo glad to hear your solution.  You're the man!

If we in NorCal organize and use your approach to ALL attys

they will have to conform.  Thanks a million!

I live in Kansas.  I work in Kansas and mostly Missouri.  When I cover jobs for attys from California I tell the agency if they stipulate away the copy, I will be charging for an O&2.  If they do not agree, I do not cover the job.  They can stipulate till the cows come home, but I am not going to finance their litigation.

That's a great idea.  I just took a job yesterday for a SoCal agency and the plaintiff's attorney took the depo and they stipulated at the end for the defense attorney (we were taking his client's depo) to receive the original.  It pisses me off.  It's one thing if one side doesn't order a copy, but when they basically tell you they're stealing a copy from you on the record, it's infuriating.  I haven't asked the agency what they intend to do, but the last time this happened, another SoCal agency did nothing, just an O+1.  I'm going to add that STIPULATION to my rate sheet if I take another SoCal depo.  O+2 or no thanks. ;-)

Eileen, that's what I do.  If attorneys are going to steal a copy, we need to adjust our rate structure.  Court reporters do not need to be financing litigation for attorneys.  Our rates are set up for attorneys to buy their own copies.  Yes, occasionally an attorney will not buy a copy.  We understand that, but are rates are not structured for this to happen on a regular basis.

Bravo, Jason!

Have you seen the flyers that Lisa Michaels had made that we can bring to depositions and disseminate in order to attempt to dissuade attorneys from engaging in this hideous habit?
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Thank you, Lorrie, and thank you to everyone that has taken the time to read this and respond. I have not seen those flyers before, Lorrie, but I think where this information really has teeth is in letting defense counsel know that they are essentially providing an advantage to Plaintiff's counsel and putting their case at a disadvantage. We can educate them all day long about how this goes against the duties we have as uninterested third parties, and about how this violates the code, but until it is personal to the attorney and they understand how it affects their individual case and client, I don't think the information holds the same weight. We've had a lot of success taking this approach lately- more than we expected, frankly- and if more agencies and reporters are willing to speak up and fight against this, we can make it a thing of the past. I understand this is the way it has been for a very long time in Southern California, but some traditions need to be changed, and agencies need to step up to support and advocate for their reporters in this regard. We have added this language to all of our worksheets that go both to reporters and to clients, and though we may just be one small agency fighting this, it's a win if we can motivate others to get involved as well.

I find sending a simple email to the attorney's legal assistant, to the effect of, "would your attorney like to provide a free copy of the transcript to Plaintiff's counsel?", can be a very effective way to gain attention ;)

I fully concur, Jason.  It takes a village, and I will go to battle for our village.  :-)

Lorrie, can't the electronic version be printed over and over if it's sent?

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