Court Reporter Transcripts Are Not Copyrighted: Get Them However You Can

court reporter transcript111 Court Reporter Transcripts Are Not Copyrighted: Get Them However You CanI still have not figured out how court reporters charge or what they are charging for. All I know is I generally pay something like $800 for an inch of double-spaced pages with 1.5″ margins in a large, mono-spaced font.

I do not mind paying the fee when I hired the court reporter, but those fees seem exorbitant if I am just buying a copy of a court hearing or deposition transcript. Even so, I never would have thought to use a public information request to get a cheaper copy of a hearing transcript.

One New Mexico attorney did, and the city and court reporter sued him for the higher fee. Not so fast said the Tenth Circuit. Court proceedings are public record, and forcing a lawyer to obtain them only from the court reporter would amount to giving the court reporter a copyright.

So when it comes to public court proceedings and public records, if you can get them cheaper, the light is green.

10th Cir.: Court reporters do not own a copyright in the transcripts that they prepare | Copyright Law Blog

(photo: Klaire_Lee)

Practice Management

  • http://www.ConsumerProductsLaw.com Nena Street

    Fascinating!

  • Jacob Chang

    This begs the question: What are some of the ways of alternatively getting the transcripts? Also, since they are public hearings, can we just audiotape them?

  • http://www.veritext.com/holiday/index.html Kristina Hanson

    I have to comment that, no, a reporter does not “own” a transcript. However, this is her life-blood and she trains just as long as you, sometimes longer to engage in her profession. Additionally, she invests much in equipment as well. So, similarly, when someone devalues your profession (aka, i’m just paying this lawyer so much for his TIME! it’s ridiculous! what exactly is he doing to charge ME $1000 for half of a day’s work). Your clients pay you for your training, your knowledge and your expertise. You do the same for the reporter.

    Secondarily, this is also a protection mechanism. Imagine 10 parties to a case and a reporter gets 10 people all splitting the cost of one transcript. It greatly limits her income producing capacity. And, yes, they make a pretty penny for what they do – but, their work-span is short (very hard on hands and joints) and they are held to the utmost perfection (you know you’d be upset if even one sentance was wrong).

    So, consider the other side of this, please. And perhaps mitigate your costs by calling around and ensuring that your copy rate is fair, often times clients never think to ask about this. Or call the reporting agency as soon as you know who’s handling and ask BEFORE the deposition what the copy rate is…and, you can and should negotiate with the “Rule of 5″ (more than 5 depos in one case or more than 5 parties, call and ask for a discount up front).

    Thanks, Kristina

  • http://lawyerist.com Sam Glover

    In this case, the court reporter worked for this city or county, so he or she was presumably paid a salary for preparing the transcript. Selling to lawyers was just gravy.

  • krittersnort

    Mr. Glover –

    This article and your comment show a complete lack of understanding of the business of court reporting. Court reporters that work for the government are paid a salary to work in court making a verbatim record of the proceedings in case a transcript is needed in the future (not to produce transcripts). Court reporters are paid a salary to type correspondence and whatever other legal typing that the judge requires him or her. Court reporters are paid a salary to answer phones, deal with the public, open courtrooms, fetch mail, keep their judge’s calendar, be a confidante to the judge, support the law clerk in his or her duties, etc. The list of things we do for our salary is endless. Those duties take up most of a court reporter’s time at work. If all of the work at the office is done and the judge doesn’t need assistance of the court reporter, then there are times that a court reporter can work on a transcript at work. I assure you, however, that most of the transcripts that lawyers request are done after hours at home in the evening and on weekends. Producing transcripts in the evening and on weekends after putting in 40 plus hours at work is exhausting. It is tedious and incredibly time consuming. Court reporters don’t just have one boss, our judge. We have multitudes of bosses that come in the form of attorneys and private citizens that require us to produce transcripts. Frankly, many of us would like to say “no thanks” to that work, but our day job requires us to have a night and weekend job as well. We cannot say no. So our lives consist of working all day long in court and then working most nights and many weekends providing the transcripts that you seem to think are just “gravy” for us. Your suggestion that court reporters are paid too much for transcripts reminds me of the three different tax preparers I have used over the last 20 years who have suggested that I quit this “part time night/weekend job” because after time and expenses I am just not making enough money from it to make the “part time job” worthwhile. I can also assure you that the state that pays our official court reporter salaries has figured out that it is less expensive for them to allow us to bill a page rate for transcripts than to have to pay us overtime and other leave benefits to make up for all of this extra work that we produce on our “free time”. My salary is also kept artificially low to compensate for all of this “gravy” money that I’m getting from my evening and weekend job. Court reporters also have to invest thousands of dollars in equipment to do the job we do. That “funny little machine” we type on costs each of us approximately $5,000. The software we use to translate our transcripts cost us between $4,500 and $6,000. Not to mention the $1,500 computer, $500 printer, toner, paper, transcript covers, and all of the other accessories we pay for to produce these “gravy” transcripts. We also must update our equipment reasonably often, so these fees are not one time fees. And here’s the shocker for many people: The state doesn’t pay for this equipment that we use in our jobs in court. The individual court reporter pays out of his or her pocket for this equipment. I, personally, have invested over $20,000 of my own money in equipment to produce the transcripts that you call “gravy” on my evenings and weekends for you and other customers of the court system. When you look at a one-inch transcript and only see an outrageous $800 fee…I see a lot of hard work and time that I wish I could have spent with my husband and children. It is always easy to look at another person’s job and say how “their job is easy” and “they’re overpaid,” but the reality is each person is generally paid market value for their hard work and nobody truly understands the complexities, stresses, costs or time consuming nature of another’s work that justifies that fee. I have to go. I am exhausted after working all day in court and I have an evening of transcripts that need to be prepared to protect your client’s rights.

    (These comments do not represent the view of all court reporters and are only the opinion of the writer.)

    • Judy Henderson

      Krittersnort, don’t kid yourself, your comments fairly and accurately represent the views of every court reporter I have ever met, myself included.
      I would love to see this guy attempt a simple transcript with a judge who sits way way back in his chair and talks to his tie while hold his hand firmly over his mouth, a prosecutor with bad dentures that click and whistle, a defense attorney with a very heavy accent who mumbles. Haha.
      Oh, and the public records trick wouldn’t work in Virginia – sorry guy.

  • krittersnort

    p.s. An attorney I know once said, “A lawyer complaining that a court reporter
    makes too much money for their work is like a turd telling a burp it stinks.”

  • http://miglioreassociates.com Lisa Migliore Black, CCR-KY

    “These comments do not represent the view of all court reporters and are only the opinion of the writer.”

    I would suggest that while your statements may not represent the view of all court reporters, your thoughts are definitely not only the opinion of the writer, Kritter.

    So much of what we do as court reporters, freelance included, is done outside of the view of others. For every hour on the record, there is two to three hours (sometimes more) of post-production work involved to make an accurate final record.

    Just in dollars and cents, our records save attorneys time, and as a result, the litigants money. If attorneys needed to review eight hours of trial audio or video at, say, $300 a billable hour, do the math.

    The problem is that some of the unitiated view those of our profession as mere typists when what we do is more similar to that of an IT professional and concert pianist, all rolled into one.

    Outsourcing our transcripts to mere typists? What’s next in order to save money? Paralegals and secretaries making legal arguments? Like law, court reporting is a skill, an art, a profession, not just a job.

  • middleroader12

    Ho-boy, I don’t want to be you at your next depo or court proceeding, once your court reporter reads what you’ve written here! Have you ever said something stupid while you were on the record? Yep, you’re gonna see that stupid remark blasted all over the internet. Serves you right, too.

    Guess you’ve never heard the saying: “Never pick a fight with somebody that buys ink/toner by the barrel.”

    On another popular legal blog you would be called a douchbag by your professional peers for posting this. Just sayin…

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

    Don’t worry, you aren’t invited to my next depo or court proceeding. Also, you misspelled “douchebag.”

    I am not sure you read the article, specifically this part:

    I do not mind paying the fee when I hired the court reporter, but those fees seem exorbitant if I am just buying a copy of a court hearing or deposition transcript.

    (Emphasis added.)

    I concede the original may be worth the high price we pay, but is every copy really worth the same price? At that point, the labor has already been compensated, and we are just paying for paper.

    • lvcourtreporter

      An attorney should not be charged the Original price when he orders a copy. He shoudl be charged the “copy” rate, which is lower. I am a court reporter, and have never been paid at the “original” rate for a copy.

  • Certified Court Reporter

    Sam, to answer your last comment, yes, every copy is worth the same price, although many, if not all, agencies give a discounted rate to the attorney who orders a copy, which is a practice that I don’t agree with. At that point, you are paying per page for the transcript despite whatever labor has been expended, so whether it’s a copy or not, you’re still receiving the same high-quality product. You should not get a break on the price when the ordering attorney has to pay full price for the exact same product. Same product, same price, period.

    • http://lawyerist.com/author/aaronstreet/ Aaron Street

      I think the problem here is that Sam has identified a legitimate criticism of a court reporter/transcript system that has been in place for a very long time.

      The people who operate (with a lot of skill, without a lot of compensation, and often under a lot of stress) within that system are clearly very protective of their hard-earned source of income. But that doesn’t mean that it is an appropriately-designed system or that the compensation incentives—as they currently exist—make a whole lot of sense.

      I don’t think Sam is trying to hurt court reporters.

      I think he’s trying to raise the question of whether our professional court reporter/transcript compensation system is structured in a sensible way. Just because it’s been this way for a long time doesn’t mean it’s unfair to have a conversation about whether there could be better ways to structure it.

  • Brenda Schmelz

    I’m interested as to where you practice that the court reporters are charging the same price for the original as for the copies. Certainly, here in Missouri copy rates are much lower than that charged for the original, probably averaging one-third of the cost of the original. I’ve done work for a number of firms here in Missouri; I’ve done work for out-of-state reporting firms; and that’s been the norm.

  • Josh

    I’m a court reporter in Texas, and at least at my firm, copies are roughly a $1.50 a page compared to the $4 to $5 a page you would pay for an original. Not sure why you’re paying the same for a copy.

  • http://miglioreassociates.com Lisa Migliore Black, CCR-KY

    Mr. Street/Mr. Glover,

    My industry’s billing practices are certainly a question to be pondered. Some states have legislated what is a fair price to charge the parties in litigation, like Texas’s one-third rule. In most locales, it is typical that the taking attorney pays a higher portion of our charges. If copy sales were to diminish, the result will likely be a higher price for the original, or perhaps as an industry, we will migrate to billing by the deposition/hearing hour, a price that reflects the unseen hours we spend elsewhere producing the final transcript.

    National court reporting companies that engage in contracting seem to think that the copy attorneys should pay the highest portion of the bill; offering a low price to the taking attorney gets the bookings in the door, but it leaves opposing counsel feeling
    –well — screwed, to put it bluntly. Problem is, these national firms do not have staff in all of the locations where they gobble up work, and their only option for labor is to utilize local vendors and add an extra layer of profit to their overall bill. If calling one vendor nationally for all of your depositions is a service you are willing to pay for, you are paying for it, and dearly. For those complaining about what a copy costs when doing business with these companies, you’ll probably not even hear dissention from other court reporters.

    For more information on how to be an informed consumer and to avoid any pitfalls, please visit the website I have created for the purpose of educating the bar on a number of issues involving my profession: saveourcourtrecords.org

    Respectfully,

    Lisa Migliore Black, CCR-KY

  • Caroline

    Court reporters prepare Reporter’s Records of court proceedings per written request and arrangements to pay by parties requesting same. The cost of preparation of the proceedings is the work product of the reporter and copies may be sold to parties which does help to keep the cost of the original transcript down. Stenograph machines run around $5,000 together with new technology in computer equipment and the yearly fees to keep up your software support, machine support, and computer equipment support make being in the court reporting profession very expensive. Court reporting rates are very competitive in the legal community.
    Would you call on a plumber and then not pay them for providing competent and reliable services?

    • X

      Competitive? Normally there is only 1 court reporter per session! So how is that competitive when you can only get the report of a session from one reporter?

      • Christopher Day

        All due respect to you, Mr. X, and obviously this varies dependent upon the state and city one calls home, Caroline was probably referring to the competition seen in deposition reporting. While even in deposition reporting, there is normally only one reporter present, the competition comes in the form of reporting companies and the practices of gifting, better deals for bulk work, or better deals for jobs that sell copies.

        This leads into all kinds of variations in pricing, where it’s fair to say that some law offices are given outstanding rates while others are overcharged. It’s also fair to say that that disparity exists with individual reporters as well, who may be making 90% of the total fees charged for a deposition, or they may be making 44%.

        It’s an odd market where the complexity of it is in the compensation rather than the services rendered. I’m a reporter. I value my skill. And I regretfully report that there are firms paying the appearing reporter less than a transcriber would make while charging whatever they charge.

        I do acknowledge that Mr. Glover’s initial post seemed pointed to official reporters. I acknowledge that Mr. X’s post may be pointed the same way, so I’m eager to see a continued discussion here, and hopefully an official reporter’s views as to competition.

  • jeff

    I’ve been practicing law for over 30 years. It seems to me that, independent of the increasing per page cost, which is simply a matter of inflation, the amount of printed text on each page of transcript has been shrinking over the years. I see increasingly very wide right hand side margins, and major indentations for non-dialogue notations. I suspect that there are some industry standards here, and I would be curious if those standards have changed over the years, resulting in more pages for the same amount of transcribed testimony.

  • http://miglioreassociates.com Lisa Migliore Black, CCR-KY

    Jeff,
    The standards for page formats varies greatly, from very strict guidelines in certain states like Texas and California, voluntary guidelines promulgated by NCRA and the various state associations, and ABSOLUTELY NO STANDARDS WHATSOEVER. I agree; it’s a problem for consumers and a problem for the reporters who fill the page who are trying to compete. If price is a deciding factor for attorneys when choosing their court reporter (it shouldn’t be the only factor), with no standards in place, a consumer is certainly at a disadvantage in determining whether the price that is 10 cents less a page is actually a good value if there is only half the text included for that lower price. Ask when traveling and using a new provider and stick with a local reporter who provides you a good value for your dollar.

    And for those who haven’t taken notice of the class action suits filed regarding the charges for inclusion of word indices with transcripts, here is some text from one of the educational flyers my volunteer organization distributes:

    Is your transcript half-full or half-empty?

    Page formats can be easily manipulated so that fewer characters and words appear on the transcript page. Additionally, some court reporting firms choose to add a word index at full transcript page rates at the end of the transcript. Both of these practices adversely affect your bottom line by artificially increasing the volume of pages for which you are being charged, leaving your wallet half-empty.

    To avoid unnecessary expense, choose a reporter that adheres to the National Court Reporters Association’s transcript format guidelines.

  • Soon-to-be-CCR

    You have to understand who you are dealing with. Not to sound brash or even rude but court reporters have obtained a very difficult skill of writing up to 225 words a minute. Even though you may be able to type really fast on your keyboard, it takes 100 times more skill to listen, write on their machines with puntuations and keep up. They deserve the money– they have earned it!! Before trying to cheat the system try doing a little more research than just getting upset beacause of the price. It is a legal document and you should treat it as such.

  • Kansas CSR

    Please, Jacob, do audiotape your court proceedings. Then hook up the earphones and type up the transcript & have it certified to be admitted in court.

    • lvcourtreporter

      Right on.

    • KG

      Yes, please sit there and type it up knowing you have to have it completed in so many hours and then look a court reporter in the face and tell them their transcripts are not worth the money.

  • Richard Castillo

    Just so you’re aware Florida Rules of Civil Procedure 1.300 state that you should get the transcript from the court reporter, so to tell people, “the light is green”, to get transcripts from other sources is advocating violating the Rules of Civil Procedure, at least in Florida

  • Kate

    This is just too good to pass up. While I am biased as a court reporter, I can understand both sides’ arguments.

    On the topics of cost and transcript format standards, here’s something that attorneys could benefit from before jumping to conclusions about a court reporter’s morals —
    You speak. We type.
    There’s a pamphlet from NCRA entitled “Making the Record” that we strongly encourage all court officers to read. If you’re going to chime in on the record, you may want to think long and hard about what you say before you say it. As lawyers, I know strategy is a huge part of your game. But all too often, I see attorneys make false starts — sometimes three or four in one question. They cut off the judge, which is not only rude, but adds additional lines to the transcript. They don’t clearly have the witnesses’ indications described, so more clarification is needed later, resulting in even MORE lines on the record.

    I don’t mean to sit here and throw sticks and stones, but in addition to the hours I put into my work on my own time, I adhere to NCRA and local guidelines for my transcripts. And if it turns out to be longer than you would prefer, perhaps it’s because you made it that way. We do not add or detract one single word. We just punctuate and research it to the best of our ability.

    I am with Kansas.

    Oh, and a note on recording: I was never a fan of needing a digital backup as a reporter. That is, until my friend was sued by an attorney who claimed he “never said that.” Well, when she sat in that witness box and played her recording for the judge, you guess whether he said it or not. That’s why we’re allowed to record in multiple forms — Our transcripts aren’t the only things that need to be covered.

    One last thing — Sam, since you seem to be fond of correcting others, I’d just like to inform you that when you speak of a city or state as a corporate entity, it is proper to capitalize the words “city” and “state”. So, in your article, it should read, “One New Mexico attorney did, and the City and court reporter sued him for the higher fee.”

  • Vivianne

    Jacob, you have no idea how much work and time goes into a transcript. Law schools need special classes to educate their young attorneys in this area. They’re usually clueless. (I guess that’s obvious here, though, isn’t it?)

  • http://lawyerist.com/author/samglover/ Sam Glover

    Kate, “city” should not be capitalized in that sentence. It may be court reporter convention to do so, but that doesn’t make it right.

  • Tony

    Having worked as an operations manager in the court reporting field (not a court reporter), I can see both sides of the fence. I agree that the pricing structure of Originals vs. Copies does not make sense. In my neck of the woods, O+1s go for approximately $4.50 to $5.00 when copies go for $3.00.

    My suggestion to the owner of the firm I work for was to calculate an average price paid per page based on the numbers of O+1s and copies sold throughout the previous few years. By bringing the prices close together (if not the same) we are able to accomplish a few things. We are taking away hesitation from attorneys to play chicken with each other over ordering transcripts. We are also charging like price for like product. Let’s not forget, we are ethically bound by NCRA guidelines to be impartial. This would provide the same amount of revenue plus what ever is gained by eliminating the hesitation. The idea was unfortunately shot down as to “not rock the boat.”

    With that being said, I do believe that court reporters are paid fairly for the job they do (even though the pricing structure to get there may be skewed). It is true that a copy sale doesn’t take much more work to produce than an original. However, you can view several industries where all of the work is done at once, and copies are sold later for the same price. A couple that come to mind are software and magazines.

    Court reporters also have to “pad” their income with the anticipation that attorneys in general, pay slowly. The fault of the slow payment doesn’t always fall on the shoulders of the attorney. A lot of times it’s due to the insurance carrier. Firms such as ours are obligated to pay our subcontractors on a set schedule. We are forced to do this to retain reporters in our market. The problem is getting paid in the first place. Attorneys often use the excuse “I’ll get you the check as soon as my client pays.” Well, unfortunately your relationship with your client is your business just like our relationship with our reporters is ours. The only way we can combat this cash flow disaster is by either becoming more profitable or tightening our accounts receivable policies. As a means of providing better customer service, we chose to take the profitability option and do as much “background checking” as possible when accepting a new client.

    Many attorney’s don’t realize what goes into a transcript and who gets what as far as the money goes. Here is a typical scenario:

    1. Court reporter shows up to a depo and is paid $50 per hour for 8 hours (minus an hour for lunch) to take down testimony. The reporter only receives about 65% of the hourly rate.
    2. Attorney orders an O+1 of a 200 page transcript @ $4.40 per page of which the court reporter is obligated to pay 35% to the firm who they received the job from.
    3. The court reporter then sends the transcript to a scopist that charges around $1.25 per page.
    4. The scopist sends the transcript to a proofreader for $.25 per page.

    The cost to the attorney for 7 hours of billable time and a 200 page transcript would be approximately $1,230.00.

    Of that $1,230, $430 goes to the firm for services such as soliciting the work, scheduling the job, confirming, hosting the facility, producing the job and exhibits, billing and invoicing, and collecting bills, and most important to the court reporter, guaranteeing the payment of her portion.

    Of the remaining $800, the court reporter pays a scopist approximately $1.25 per page to relisten to the audio and make any corrections. The scopist is the “second set of eyes” on the transcript an for this scenario would amount to about $250.00

    Now the reporter is down to $550 for her day of work, which she then has to pay a proofreader $.30 per page to correct any punctuation, grammar, and anything that the scopist may have missed. The proofreaders charge for this transcript is $60.

    The court reporters gross take-home pay for a day’s work (of a decent job) $490.00. For that, she had to make it through a technical school that had an attrition rate of over 95% (was your law school that selective?). Since the court reporter is a subcontractor she doesn’t have any benefits such as health care or a 401k. She is required to pay income taxes of approximately $150 on this transcript. So after all is said and done the court reporter made a little over $300 today.

    Can you imagine if she only had a 15 minute hearing? In this industry we take the good with the bad. A court reporter would only make $32 for an hour hearing that didn’t order (which happens way too often).

    Take it for what you will…

  • Norma Chase

    Copying a transcript would not violate the Florida Rules of Civil Procedure.

    Rule 1.300 is titled Persons Before Whom Depositions May Be Taken and says
    nothing about how a transcript is to be obtained.

    Rule 1.310, Depositions Upon Oral Examination, says the following in
    subsection (f)(2):

    ***Upon payment of reasonable charges therefor the officer shall furnish a
    copy of the deposition to any party or to the deponent.***

    This defines the officer’s duty to fulfill transcript requests. There is no
    mandatory language directed to the person ordering the transcript.

    And subsection (g) says:

    ***A party or witness who does not have a copy of the deposition may obtain
    it from the officer taking the deposition unless the court orders otherwise.
    If the deposition is obtained from a person other than the officer, the
    reasonable cost of reproducing the copies shall be paid to the person by the
    requesting party or witness.***

    All this tells me is that if I make a copy of my transcript for another
    person, I have the right to ask for copying costs. Presumably, I can waive
    this right.

  • Lisa Migliore Black, CCR-KY

    Ms. Chase,

    Are you an attorney or a Kinko’s copying center? Not to sound flippant, but if you’re an attorney, it sounds counterproductive to your role to help aid your opposition and defray their litigation costs.

    I require a signed contract from attorneys that prohibits their sharing my work product with their opposition. I remind attorneys that sharing our work product with opposing counsel does not allow us to fairly distribute costs of our services between the parties. Should copy sales diminish, the likely result is a rise in cost of the original transcript.

  • Norma Chase

    I am an attorney in Pittsburgh. I don’t practice in Florida. I do have a
    habit of asking, when I am told something is prohibited, “What law says
    that?”

    I do this in some contexts that have nothing to do with transcripts. For
    example, I’m still waiting for someone to tell me what law prohibits —
    “strictly” or otherwise — sharing an email that I am sent by mistake.

    If some law or rule is cited to me, I look it up to see if it really says
    what I have been told it says. I looked at the Florida Rules of Civil
    Procedure, and they don’t say what Mr. Castillo thinks they do.

    Lawyers cooperating to reduce costs is not, in and of itself, a bad thing.
    And there is no reason one party should have an expense just because the
    other one does. Costs can be allocated at the conclusion of litigation.

    The question is whether it violates a reporter’s rights when attorneys copy
    transcripts for each other. I don’t see how. Such restrictions on copying
    transcripts violate the First Amendment and federal preemption of copyright.

    Calling it “work product” doesn’t change anything. There is an attorney
    work product doctrine but it is a confidentiality doctrine. The idea that
    intensive labor may be the basis for copyright has been rejected by the
    United States Supreme Court.

    I deal mostly with official reporters employed by courts. I recognize that
    expectations about copy income factor into salary decisions. Once the myth
    that court reporters have the right to restrict copying of transcripts is
    laid to rest, I would hope that court systems raise reporter salaries.
    Where freelance reporters are concerned, I would expect to pay more when I
    take a deposition. I accept that.

    No, I am not a copy shop. These days, if I give someone a copy of a
    transcript, it is going to be an electronic copy. I scan most of my
    transcripts, if nothing else for archival purposes. If I want to give
    another attorney a copy of a transcript (or any other document) that I
    haven’t scanned yet and don’t have time to scan, the deal would be that I
    take it to Kinko’s, they copy it, colleague picks up the copy and pays for
    it, and I pick up the original. I only recall manually copying a transcript
    for an opponent once; he offered half of our cost if we made him a copy. I
    cleared it with the client before I agreed.

    Now here’s a question for you: suppose Reporter A takes testimony at a
    homicide trial that is receiving little media attention, and Reporter B
    takes testimony at a simple assault case involving a celebrity. They both
    end up transcribing the testimony. Same length of trial and of transcript,
    same number of barely intelligible witnesses, same level of cross-talk, same
    frequency of air conditioner malfunctions. More people will take an
    interest in Reporter B’s transcript. Is Reporter B deserving of more
    compensation than Reporter A, beyond compensation for the time spent making
    the additional copies?

    • Gary

      Very well thought out response which makes perfect sense. One further question: is whether it is acceptable for someone, i.e., the deponent, a lawyer or purchaser of the transcript, to post the transcript on the internet?

      • Gary

        Material in a deposition may be classified as “confidential” and that confidential material should not be posted on the internet or otherwise made public. Plaintiff’s or Defendant’s lawyers should not post a deposition transcript on the internet without (written) permission from the deponent or the company/individual who is the defendant (I think lawyers should not post a transcript on the internet or make it publicly available no matter what the circumstances are – – why take such a risk?). A purchaser of a deposition transcript can post the transcript as long as s/he is willing to take the risk, for example, of posting confidential information (does the court reporter provide confidential information to a purchaser? Maybe they shouldn’t if they do) The person who has the least risk appears to be the deponent if s/he is deposed because s/he is the Defendant and not being deposed, for example, as a representative of the company s/he works for. Nothing is 100% risk free, but if there is no confidential information in the internet posting, I think it is OK and I have seen it done in some cases without retribution.

  • Texas Dance

    Very Interesting thread! If you get a copy of a transcript can you give it to the press? I mean is public record really public record as long as the court has not said you can not put the info out and as long as you dont use names of minors too? A transcript for my case will reveal some juicy info of severely unprofessional activities of the lawyers in this case.

  • Christopher Day

    As a reporter in New York City, I can’t speak for the official court reporters of the courtroom because I have limited knowledge, I can say that people are not being misleading when they say that the part of the job people don’t see is the hardest, and that’s taking our stenographic notes and making them entirely readable to attorneys.
    As a deposition reporter, I see a trend among many of the reporting firms where they are overcharging attorneys (and ultimately, attorneys’ clients) and then underpaying or even outright playing games with reporter page rates and copy rates. So, ultimately, when you’re talking about copy rates in the deposition setting of New York, you’re paying for that reporting firm’s office space, employees, and executives, and might I add in many cases the executives are not or have never been reporters, and I think it makes us come off as overpaid and greedy, and it’s a serious problem that interrupts work flow.

    So, to summarize, anybody jumping to the immediate defense of reporting, realize that in some cases people are overcharging. But attorneys, also realize that if you’re working with a reporting firm, it’s best to “shop” and see who’s giving an honest deal to you and to their reporters, because that will earn you the highest quality of transcript at the least expensive price to you and your clients.

  • Hard working court reporter

    I get upset every time I run across this blog! If only you understood what time and hard work goes into our work product. The lack of respect for our profession amazes me. Perhaps, your clients could just MAKE COPIES of your work from similar cases, rather than hiring you.

    • http://www.portlanddefender.com Troy

      Yes, our clients absolutely could. Say, for example, that my client is accused of possessing drugs. I file a motion arguing that evidence was illegally obtained by the government, and the case gets thrown out as a result.

      If, next year, the same client (or anyone else in the world) wants to file that same motion in their own case, they can go to the court, get the file, copy the motion, change the name of the defendant to their own name, and file the motion in their own case.

      They don’t need to pay my firm for the privilege of photocopying a document that is already out there in the world, or for using it.

      There is no dispute that it is perfectly legal for someone to obtain a deposition transcript from someone other than the reporter who made the transcript. The issue here is that some people believe there is a gap between what is legal and what is right.

  • Dottie Hutchison

    There’s approximately $1 difference in copy rates versus original rates. These rates were established taking into consideration there’s two sides to every case and what is FAIR to both sides, not to mention what’s fair to the reporter! Isn’t that what the law is about?
    Fairness to All.

    In every profession there’s those that take advantage when they can. One bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bunch. The law governs us all, but there’s one (God) who is even higher than the law, and He tells us to be FAIR in all business dealings.

  • california rptr

    Long story short, I did the math. I make about 90k a year. I work three to four days a week with a scopist and a proofer, 15k. I put in about 80 hours total (many nights and weekends working on expedites, we have to mark exhibits, fill out worksheets, final transcripts, send e-mails, go to UPS, handle all our own scheduling, errands and paperwork). After expenses, taxes, medical and retirement of 31k, I take home approximately 44k. Bottom line? I make around 11.45 an hour…and that’s with all the “copy” money I’m making. FYI, minimum wage is 8.00 an hour here. And at least if you’re at a regular job, you get nights and weekends off.

    I’ve been a reporter for 20 years and the page rate has not gone up. Rates are still the same (but now we charge for realtime and roughs). But the cost of tuition has gone up. About 12k a semester, which is about 10 months. It takes four to five years to become a reporter (48k – 60k), of which 95 percent either don’t make it through the course, don’t pass the exam, or end up quiting because it’s such a demanding job. Each reporter spends 20k to buy the equipment they need to start reporting.

    I now have a bad neck and back that I see a chiro for twice a week that my insurance doesn’t cover. I’m in pain most of the time and have muscle spasms regularly from all the stress that 20 years of reporting will do to you. I’m currently training for another job because all the official civil court reporters here just got laid off from budget cuts, and the job security isn’t looking so good.

    You lawyers got the picture yet??

  • california rptr

    And on a final note, the state exam is 200 words per minute for 12 minutes at 97.5 percent accuracy. You’re basically getting some of the smartest, highly-skilled, hard-working people you’ve met making about what they pay at McDonald’s (and I think they make time and a half for overtime).

    The L.A. court system has tried to replace court reporters with electronic recording three times that I know of. Each time they did it, they found it was NOT cost-effective, because they had to buy the equipment, maintain it, hire people to run it, and then still hire people to transcribe the audio. The final transcript was poor quality with many inaudible portions, bad punctuation, grammar, and mistakes because they’re not trained like court reporters are. Not to mention the turnaround was two to three times as long, and there’s no accountability for the accuracy or the integrity. But they still layed off all the court reporters because they couldn’t find “value” in what the did.

    Personally, I hope that someone comes up with a smart computer that can translate what you say onto written paper accurately. Because although court reporters are not robots, most attorneys treat us like we are, arguing over each other, not wanting to give us lunch breaks becuase they want to “finish” even though we’re about to pass out from working so hard on our machines to get their every word. Court reporters will be forced to find a job that actually pays them what they’re worth…hopefully.

    As for me, I found my worth and am going back to school. See ya!

    A soon-to-be very happy former depo reporter

  • california rptr

    And by the way, our “value” doesn’t come from the record we produce. Our “value” comes from the integrity of the record. Ten years ago I wanted to quit reporting. I had to find a reason to keep doing it, because frankly I had enough. I’m just typing a bunch of words everyone says, and no one appreciates what I do anyway, some are outright disrespectful because they think we make too much.

    One morning I woke to realize that my job is very important. I am the guardian of the record. In a world of increasing corruption, greed, and lack of morals, the reporter is one of the last few people who provide a record that is key to people getting justice. We “certify” the integrity of the transcript, and we are subject to losing our license for any action that calls into question our integrity. So I decided I had an important job and continued reporting. But it seems that integrity has no “value” anymore, so I am moving on because I just can’t seem to find the “value” either.

  • Mike Greene

    Depositions are not necessarily public records. To assume that they are is analagous to assume that all lawyers finished at the top of their class at Harvard Law.

    To say that a one-inch thick transcript can’t be worth $800 shows the ineptitude of the writer. My lawyer once charged me $2,500 for a three-page contract. Three pages, $2,500. No way three pages can be worth $2,500. Right? Let’s see, that’s $833.33 per page, and not even gold inlaid or gold embossed. The paper only cost a nickel, so no way the contract should have been more than, say, 20 cents. That would give the lawyer a 75 percent profit.

    Good thing that for every jerk lawyer, there’s a competent attorney with some common sense as well.

  • Mike Greene

    So what is a depositon copy really worth? I say it depends. We enjoy the benefits of a free-market system, therefore the market sets the price.

    I recently was told by an attorney that his client had instructed him to cut expenses on “all this discovery.” We were in about day 20 of a lengthly series of all-day depositions. Naturally, the first place he thought to cut was the reporter. No more copies for me, he said. I, of course, said okay. At the lunch break he asked me if I could provide him a copy of the morning session and not charge him for it. Why? Because he had slept all morning. I said no. I’ve often wondered what that copy would have been worth. I’ve also often wondered if he charged his client for his nap.

  • Uzo Akpele

    Court reporters, lawyers, doctors, hospitals . . . I want cheaper prices for services. All of us are talented in different ways; we have spent so much money acquiring and honing our skills, however I think the consumer should not pay with an arm or a leg for our services. If the consumer cannot pay for our services because our services are too costly then the purpose of our services are defeated because they do not serve.

    Myself, I practice mostly immigration law — I do not aim to get the most money out of clients, be they individuals or rich companies. I may not make the megabucks but My clients get the relief they want and I sleep easy.

  • William Chuang

    I don’t understand the vitriol from all the purported court reporters in the comments. I don’t think that anyone can deny that the payment system is out of whack. In fact, many of the comments were explaining how inefficient the current billing system is. The court reporter shouldn’t be in the business of distributing costs between the parties, if that’s the justification for charging so much for copies. If the party taking the deposition has to pay higher prices for the depositions, there would be a lot less unnecessary discovery and depositions, and that wouldn’t be a bad thing.

    Seriously, why can’t the court reporters be paid a fair hourly wage for doing the deposition, in addition to a minimum fee to show up? Translators work on this model, and they do pretty well. I hate it when guys take depositions then never use them because they never bought a copy for themselves. They are just wasting everyone’s time and the court reporter has to be angry that they just spent seven hours not getting paid. Court reporters would win if they had to be paid by the hour.

    • Christopher Day

      Mr. Chaung is one hundred percent correct, and this is a discussion that needs to be had on a larger scale. I’ve been kind of watching since my first comment, and again, as a deposition reporter in New York City, I understand where some of the comments are coming from when they talk about the reporter being compensated. Believe me, I like to be compensated.

      But can we honestly put something forward, at least as far as New York is concerned, and its deposition transcript copies? As individuals, we are typically given about 8 to 12% of whatever is being charged for copies. Some of my friends and colleagues are given 0%. At that point, I’m given little incentive to defend the current billing model, and even encouraged to join in attorneys’ distaste for something that charges their client a fee that I’m not receiving. This problem is complicated by the competition between reporting firms, which is actually lowering what individual reporters are making.

      I sense a big part of the disconnect here is the vast difference between official reporters and deposition reporters, and my paradigm is certainly the latter. I won’t write about the former. Again, overall it’s something that I think will need to be addressed on a large scale between law offices and reporters for the benefit of litigants and their deposing costs. And I’d encourage any of my colleagues who are unsure about restructuring things to realize that if we consistently refuse to offer the best services at the fairest fees, we will simply lose work to transcriptionists. In fact, we are now, because it’s seen as a less expensive, fairer service to some offices. Stenographic reporting has maintained popularity through quality, and the responsibility of having someone present whose job is to ensure the accuracy of the record. Stenographic reporting can maintain that popularity by not plugging its ears in the vitriolic manner perceived here, listening to the initial complaint(s) and the suggestions that follow(ed).

      To go back to Mr. Chuang’s suggestion, though, the reason reporters are not granted a fair hourly wage like translators is that it would likely cut into the 88% the reporting firm earns for copies. Until there is immense pressure from individual reporters, lawyers and/or litigants, there will be no change to the system, only changes to its justification.

  • http://www.naplesreporting.com Tony Wright

    As a digital court reporter, I agree with the fact that the stenographic court reporting industry is incredibly overpriced. Next time you’re looking to take a depo, and you want a cost-conscious alternative, consider digital court reporting.

  • http://atlanticreporters.com Mike Greene

    I dare say that those attorneys who would promote freely distributing copies of depositions would sing a different tune if it were their own testimony being distributed and the deposition contained passages read from their own medical records, or maybe their wife’s testimony about catching him with her best friend, or maybe that she had personal knowledge of some improprieties concerning his bar exam, his trust account handling, along with a myriad of bar complaints which he had heretofore been able to keep quashed. How about we get a couple hundred copies of that circulating.

    If you feel that the price of a deposition copy is too high, don’t buy it. If the content of the deposition isn’t worth the cost, don’t buy it. I’ve always wondered why something might be worth stealing when it’s not worth buying.

  • Robyn

    Although I agree, we, as court reporters, do not own a “copy right” to your transcript, but what you are getting for that copy rate, which by the way has not changed in the 15 years that I have been reporting, is a right copy; meaning, one that has not been tampered with and is signed and sealed by the originating court reporter verifying it is a true and correct copy usable in a court of law should the need of a copy be used in place of an original arise. I know that sort of thing is really important to you because you went to law school and became familiar with Rule 901, M.R.E.: “The requirement of authentication or identification as a condition precedent to admissibility is satisfied by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims.” That’s why it’s call a “certified copy” and, my legal eagle friend, is what you are truly paying for.

  • thehatedscribe

    What you don’t know about producing a record and the profession of court reporting is a lot. Very sad, indeed. Why do you have such hatred towards court reporters. It’s not as if you you si nor charge for services in your law practice. Using your yard stick, since the trials themselves are public record, all litigants should be entitled to free representation. Why pay hourly fees for an attorney.

  • norcal reporter

    William,

    Your comment is well taken, but you have to understand that not every reporter is as experienced or as efficient as the next, and that every job takes a different amount of time to transcribe; not just because of the number of words or pages, but because of the difficulty of the vocabulary involved and the ability of the speakers to create a clean, easy to transcribe record. If you’ve got a fast-talking mumbler, that takes longer; if you’re discussing a highly technical subject with a vocabulary unfamiliar to the reporter, that takes longer; if the speakers constantly speak over one another, change thoughts mid-sentence, and the transcript is full of dashes, THAT takes MUCH longer to transcribe. Hence, charging by the page makes more sense in terms of being paid fairly for a given job.
    A 30-year veteran might be able to report the same deposition or court proceeding and edit it in one third the time a fresh-out-of school reporter takes, but if that same veteran tries to charge an hourly rate 3x greater than the young reporter, they would go quickly go out of business.
    As for pricing structure: Where I work in Northern California, the attorney taking the deposition has to buy their own copy and a copy for the courts, unless all parties agree they don’t want the proceeding transcribed. The upshot is that the lawyer that notices the deposition is essentially bound to buying two copies, referred to as “O&1″ (original and one copy). The O&1 usually costs about 40-50% more than what the other parties pay as their single-copy rate.
    That said, there are a handful of reporting firms that are known to gouge the copy attorneys, especially when you involve things like contracting with insurance companies that conduct a large volume of depositions.
    So if you’re a law firm hoping to reduce your discovery costs, it would be worthwhile to shop around and learn which deposition/court reporting firms to avoid working with. Oftentimes it pays to hire locally.
    The bulk of my money is made on pages, but the local pricing structure hinges on the idea that people making use of our transcripts will also pay for them.
    Case in point: In southern California, the copying of transcripts without pay for the reporter is more common (though not universal, thankfully), and the result is that the “O&1″ comes at a much higher rate. (Advice to attorneys: If you’re taking a deposition in northern California, consider hiring your reporting through a local deposition or court reporting firm! Reporting firms accustomed to being paid for their copies tend to charge less per copy.)

  • norcal reporter

    The problem with relying solely on an audio recording is that no matter how high-quality the equipment, you run a severe risk of winding up with words missing, resulting in a giant, glaring “[inaudible]” in your transcript. Even with lapel mics on every speaker, people mumble; people talk at the same time; people slur their words; paper gets shuffled, somebody coughs, a door swings open. A cellphone or other electronic device can interfere with recordings in such a way that it’s only noticeable upon playing back the audio later. Cables go bad or are left unplugged; buttons or switches don’t get flipped turned on. Hard drives fill up, tapes run out. Sometimes it’s completely unclear as to who is speaking.
    If you’ve got a live reporter, they’re able to interrupt and ask for clarification, and they’re forced to actively monitor their equipment against such errors. You know whether or not a stenographer is “working” because their hands are moving, and they’re there to warn you before the written record turns into Swiss cheese.
    At the end of the day, that reporter ALSO has an audio recording, but the audio is there to cross-reference and double-check their notes, a sort of safety net against human error. However, if your starting point is a recording, the transcriptionist has zero ability to interrupt, ask for repeats or clarification.
    As for turn-around times: The difference between the beginning point for a stenographer versus a transcriptionist or “digital reporter” is that the stenographer already has 99% of the words on the page when they begin to edit the transcript. A particularly skilled stenographer will be able to offer highly accurate instant real-time and rough drafts.
    When a stenographer is proofreading, if something doesn’t look quite right or warrants double-checking, we have both our shorthand notes AND the audio recording (most stenographers can quickly hit a few key strokes and play an audio file that is synch’ed word-by-word to their shorthand notes, whereas if you’re working with a digital recording, you have to listen to the entire file start to finish, hitting stop/start each time you pause to type).
    If the audio becomes unclear at a given point, a transcriptionist doesn’t have the same opportunity a stenographer has to interrupt the speakers or clarify what was said. If you can’t tell who is speaking and you’re relying solely on a single recording, you’re stuck with your best guess. If you had a stenographer there in the room, taking shorthand notes word-for-word, you have that “real-time rough draft” of their computer-translated notes as a reliable cross-reference, and that stenographer has the option of either interrupting on the spot or asking at the nearest opportunity for clarification.
    A reporter isn’t just making the transcript that’s left behind. When they’re in the room with you, they can quickly search for any key words you might suggest and help you locate that place in the transcript (as opposed to blindly jumping around in an audio file).
    Before I certify a transcript, I’ve sat in the room and typed the proceeding as it was happen; I’ve “scoped” the transcript during the first draft, and I’ve proofread the transcript before the final draft. At every step along the way, I’ve done as much as I could to ensure the transcript’s accuracy.
    Lastly, with a certified shorthand reporter comes greater accountability. In California, if the reporter drops the ball and is grossly incompetent, they can lose their certified shorthand reporter license.

  • Moi

    If FedEx is already going to California tonight, why can’t they send my package overnight for free? I mean, the plane’s already in the air.

    • Paula

      touche, Moi! :-)

  • CR In FL

    May 20, 2013 subsection (g) says:

    Subdivision (g) requires a party to obtain a copy of the deposition from the court reporter unless the court orders otherwise. Generally, the court should not order a party who has a copy of the deposition to furnish it to someone who has neglected to obtain it when the deposition was transcribed. The person should obtain it from the court reporter unless there is a good reason why it cannot be obtained from the reporter.

  • RAE1989

    I went into a deposition one morning to hear a tirade from counsel receiving copies on the case. He claimed the fees were “astronomical.” I asked if I could see the bill and he was correct. The copy sale fee WAS astronomical. The problem was the firm he was using. It was a large firm with large overhead that has large bills to pay and needs to charge accordingly since they almost give away the original. They have to get their money somewhere and so what they do is overcharge for the copy.

    They can “get away” with this practice for a myriad of reasons but the main one is that there are no regulations in many states, especially on the east coast telling them their billing practices are out of control.

    I believe that lawyers/law firms are foolish when they think they are getting a “great deal” when they call that firm that can cover their depositions from Seattle to Osaka, San Diego to New York, and all places in and around and in between.

    You are paying for convenience and the copy side is paying for the “great deal.” Conversely, when YOU are the copy side you will be paying for the taking side’s “great deal.”

    It is so easy in this day and age of technology to create a list of reporters from around the world that are independent contractors or small firms with lower overhead and fair billing practices as opposed to going with the big firms that are not only reaming the copy sale guy but also sticking it to their reporters.

    Are reporters bitter? You bet we are, when we have not raised our rates in years and years and years, but still attorneys are talking about the high rates they have to pay.
    Go IC, go small firm, stop throwing money at big firms that are undercutting, overbilling and generally ruining the profession.

  • Sindy Sanders

    After 25 years, I feel confident I could definitely do a lawyer’s job in a depo. Let them trade seats with me and see if they can do mine as a court reporter. It’s a skill. And we should be paid well for it.

  • Kelly Green CSR, RPR

    Sam Glover, you are an idiot and have no idea the work court reporters do and then on top of it we have to put up with people like you!!!!!!!!!! This makes me so mad as a court reporter who works my ass off in criminal court and has no life because I work so hard to try and make a clean record for asshole attorneys like you!!!! Get a new job…. or don’t be ignorant like so many people in the United States…. learn your facts…. asshole

  • Alex Walsh

    Contempt prior to investigation makes a poor attorney. “Public record” just means it is available to you. The court itself charges more per page to copy a document from a court file than the law allows me. Please educate yourself before encouraging persons to break the law. Google this:

    Under Government Code Section 69954:

    (d) Any court, party, or person who has purchased a transcript
    may, without paying a further fee to the reporter, reproduce a copy
    or portion thereof as an exhibit pursuant to court order or rule, or
    for internal use, but shall not otherwise provide or sell a copy
    or copies to any other party or person.
    I am a Court Reporter with the L.A. Superior Court. I do not have a “copyright.” But it is work product to produce it in transcript format. The courts in the 80s tried tape recorders in many of their courts. Judges would not accept tapes that had not been transcribed to be used. And then I ask you, who is certifying it? My licensing exam has a high fail rate. It is a two-day exam with one of the days consisting of tests on law, English grammar, medical terminology, and legal procedures.
    I think the expense that reporters bear to produce the transcript by way of education, and bearing the cost of their own equipment has been covered well by previous posts.
    Are you really an attorney? Maybe you picked the wrong profession.
    Alex