Covering the Courts

What Agency and Freelancers Need to Know

Saturday, June 2, 2012; 10:00-4:00 p.m.

LAX – hotel to be announced soon. Please watch our web site for details

Pricing: $99 DRA members - $149 nonmembers

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!


• Transcript formatting, including transcripts on appeal and pagination

• What transcript rates the Government Code permits

• Scheduling/coordination – what you need to know when assigning reporters

• Court forms

• How the Court Reporters Board views private reporters covering court

• How to get approved to work in the Los Angeles court system

Views: 1926

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

The Court and California code "forgot" that official reporters are paid an annual salary of $80K to $100K+ with benefits and pensions; depo reporters are not. Depo reporters are paid strictly by number of transcript pages, so for a depo reporter to do a court/trial work for the mandated court rate, it's totally not worth it.

I haven't worked in court in a long time, but I had done a few trials here and there.  I always got the going page rate plus a court per diem, just like an arbitration per diem.  So that would make up for the low rate.  I wonder if they can still do that.

Per-dieming in court is a lose-win situation.  Historically, reporters used to "endure" the low per diem rates in return for the experience working in court, but most importantly to have the court get to "know" the reporter and hopefully to hire them.  This is no longer the case.  Reporters are being released, not hired.


Per-dieming in court is VERY DIFFICULT, DEMANDING WORK, requiring a skillset, much different from the freelance world.  In exchange for a great salary and benefits, reporters endure long hours, restriction, no freedom, many times jealous, nasty, two-faced court workers, etc.  Unless the per diem rate is high enough that it equals a reporter's daily salary, plus benefits (usually a third of the salary), then court work is not desirable.


It's a lose situation for the reporter, and a win for the court - UNTIL the per diem reporter "can't be found" to produce the transcripts.  At that point, it becomes a lose situation for the court, as well.


I wasn't talking about per-dieming in court for the court system.  I was talking about the one or two days an agency sent me in and I'd get the page rate plus a per diem or $200 or $300 or $400 for having to go work in court for the day.  I think I did a muni trial once (long time ago!) and part of a famous baseball player's divorce.  And then of course JD exams, but I can't remember if I got per diems for those.

Should be fairly easy to learn what the yearly salary is for an employee, multiply it by 33.3% (generally, the cost of benefits), then divide that figure by 52 weeks, then divide that figure by 5 days, and have that amount be paid as the per diem to the reporter, NOT to the agency, but to the reporter.


If reporter is not receiving that amount, I'd suggest not taking the court job.

Agreed, Deanna.  I did it for a year and a half, but got out and am now in the freelance market.  I'm much better off and much happier (and making more money).  

Congratulations, Keith, on finding your niche!  Life is short.  Glad you found a path that is happy!

For sure, Quyen.  Court work is nice when you have all the benefits, but without them, uh no thanks.  And then they expect me to pass up jobs to be available for readback and receive no compensation?  Um, nope.  Not doing it!

Helen, I am so sorry that happened to you.  We all feel your pain.  I hope things work out with you.  The freelance world is wonderful.  I'd suggest getting the hell away from the court and the way it treats reporters these days.

A friend of mine told me he interviewed for a part time position with a court in Superior Court in New York.  A requirement of taking the part time job was to be available on his days he was not working for the court to go in and read back. He said they would not pay him for being available or for going in to read back.  He said what was mentioned above, the court wants all the benefits of having employees, but doesn't want employees.  He said it was too much work, getting his work ready as readable transcripts and not getting paid for any rough drafts or expediteds.  He said no way was he giving up his days he was not being paid by court to prepare unpaid for transcripts for a possible read to the jury. 

Deby, it's Superior Court of NJ and Supreme Court of NY.

But whichever you're referring to, of course it's completely BS and unacceptable to be forced to be available on non-working, non-paid days and anyone who would agree to that is nuts, as your friend appears to not be, thank goodness.

Lesson learned, Keith.  I was only there for five years.  It's grueling work and you are treated poorly.  Though it is hard being separated from all the friends I've made, I am already feeling excited to get out of there.   By the way, where's all the depos needing coverage on this site?  LOL

Totally agree.  I was a pro tem in court for almost two years and am so glad to be out of there.  Freelance is going much better.  You'll love it.  You need to join cover depos.  Click the link on the top right in the blue banner with the links.  Find your geographic area and click.  Then join the group.


© 2024   Created by Kelli Combs (admin).   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service