Welcome to CSR Nation
Covering the Courts
What Agency and Freelancers Need to Know
The California court system is in crisis. Courtrooms across the state are closing due to lack of funding, and dozens of official court reporters have been laid off. In 2011, San Francisco Superior Court laid off 24 official court reporters, and in Los Angeles Superior Court alone, 56 courtrooms will be shut down. On May 15, the Los Angeles Superior Court will no longer provide court reporters for civil trials. In addition, after June 18, 2012, court reporters will be available for civil law-and-motion matters on a limited basis.
So what does this mean to freelancers and firm owners? While you might welcome an increased volume of calls from clients asking for a reporter in court, it’s not as simple as merely sending a reporter, producing the transcript in your freelance format, and charging freelance rates. There are strict rules governing court transcripts and page rates, and if you think they don’t apply to private reporters, think again.
“Freelancers should beware of rushing into a California state court without knowing applicable statutes.”
- Court Reporters Board of California, CRB Today newsletter
If you think…
you can work in L.A. courts without prior approval of the Court...
court rules and codes don’t apply to agencies or freelancers...
you can bill freelance rates for court work...
you can produce transcripts using your deposition format...
then you may be putting your license in jeopardy. Get the FACTS first!
WHAT YOU WILL LEARN
Brava, Helen, and All Involved!
I heard some of this at the DRA conference. That's why I was saying in an earlier thread that the DRA and the CSR board of California will not back you up if you charge freelance prices for court transcripts. Well, if we can't do that, who would take such work? (Remember we are not getting pensions/benefits). Another reason why California is sooooo messed up. Of course, the market will bear the price. Who wants a crappy CR to do their trial? Of course, if CRs refuse to do the work for less, then the court reporter as an employee will heal thyself. How short-sighted of the cost cutters. But their backs are up against the wall.
Yes, Martha, you're spot-on on your comments. I'm a LASC official that will be laid off off June 30, 2012. LASC is offering us to be listed on a "court-approved" list of reporters that will be posted in the clerk's office, on the court's website, in a newspaper, blah, blah, blah. Here's the catch. To be on the approved list and work in court, you have to agree to do many, many things, such as abide by the court's page rate, archive your notes to the court's archiving site, the notes becoming their possession, being available for readback at any time, comply with appeal rules, which you wouldn't believe those rates, and too many things to list here. They're going out of their way to try to get us continue reporting for them minus the salary, pension, office, health insurance, etc. They do this because they want their cake and eat it too. If depo reporters, along with us, chose to cover court, you will be signing a document saying you will do all these things and abide by the court's rules in order to be sworn as a pro tem to report anything in court. Kinda sound like a conflict of employee/independent contractor language? Again, they want their cake and it too. I DON'T THINK SO!!!! Lawyers are looking at this, so stay tuned.
In case you're like me and can't believe it until you see it for yourself, attached is the Court's Notice to Attorneys, 15 pages that you have to read and sign and agree to, everything I stated above.
Thank you for posting this. I read the whole thing but don't see anything about charging the same rates. Do you know where to find that information?
Deborah, it's the general portion that says you have to comply with the "government" rules. That's where the government rates come in.
Does all this apply if an attorney wants a reporter to go to LASC to do a debtor exam?
I skimmed through the notice to attorneys document. It also says that if requested, reporters are to leave a copy of notes with the court. I don't think so, not if I'm a freelancer and not an employee of the court.
This is ridiculous. I'm not their employee. How can they force me to do anything?
I remember back in the day when municipal court was separate from superior court. Municipal court did not have "official" reporters. The reporters that reported the prelims and criminal calendar calls all came from one agency because of a contract. But if an attorney had a motion or trial, they could hire anybody they wanted to hire. The reporter would go in, take the proceedings, bill their client, and that was that.
I actually have a client that has a trial coming up in a month or two in the Long Beach court. He asked me if I could report his trial. I told him, sure, no problem. But if I have to jump through those hoops for what the court thinks is acceptable remuneration (without benefits!), you couldn't get me to step foot into that court.
Judy, the way they're going to "force" you to comply with their demands is make you sign that agreement before you are sworn as a pro tem for the day. Simple as that.
I retired from LASC four years ago and my experience was most reporters in civil/family charged far above the rate set out in the Government Code. The freelance rates are often less than what officials charge, depending on the agency, of course. Criminal transcripts are strictly regulated but civil and family law are not, and reporters charge what they like. The prescribed rate for copies is also universally ignored.
Margaret, looking at my rate charts for LASC, Criminal is 2.55 a page and Civil/Family Law is 3.00 a page. I've heard stories of reporters in court charging more, but if an attorney complains about it, and sometimes they will, those "most" reporters that you refer to will be held to answer by LASC management. The reporters I've discussed this with say they charge the $3.00 understanding you are getting salary, benefits, vacation, pension, etc. Are you saying that freelancers are now below $3.00 a page?
No, not at all, though a lot of work is priced at 3.25 a page, and that's without the big salary and benefits and often a very long wait for copies to be paid.
I remember a furious atty in family law questioning me why my transcript was half what another reporter charged in the same case, and I just referred him to the reporters' office to complain, which he didn't do probably because it's a major hassle and the reporters' office just refers complainers to the CR Board saying "It's a 1099 issue and we have no jurisdiction over that."
I'm stunned that you believe most reporters charage 3.00 a page. When I was working only a handful charged that, and I don't think that has changed. And you must be aware of the rates they charge on dailies which definitely is far north of 4.50 a page.
$3.00 a page? Find me more than five people in Stanley Mosk who charge 3.00 and I'll eat my hat.