A Legal System without Court Reporters?
That’s what Judge Richard Kopf wants. The last time I wrote about digital court reporting, it spawned 30 comments and a robust flamewar between digital court reporters and traditional transcriptionists (typists?). And my old post on court transcripts and copyright periodically flares up, as well, when a court reporter email list or forum comes across it.
Suffice it to say that court reporters are pretty worried about their profession. And I guess they should be worried. (Let me be clear: I don’t have anything against court reporters. I think they are awesome, in fact. They are also really expensive. The expense is justified when there is no viable alternative. But when there is a viable, cheaper alternative, it’s hard to justify the cost of a court reporter.)
But Kopf is not suggesting firing anyone. He just wants the courts to stop hiring new court reporters, replacing them instead with digital audio recording. The savings? “[A]n internal study I conducted of our court three years ago indicated that the public would be saved about $110,000 per year if 3 reporters were replaced with digital audio recording.”
Not only would it save money, it would mean fast access to digital recordings via CM/ECF for lawyers involved in the case (and the public, through PACER, although I suppose courts would have to be extra-vigilant when it comes to confidential information).
The bottom line is that, under the sequester, the courts are going to lose personnel. Kopf wants to minimize that by applying the savings from retiring court reporters to preserve other jobs: for every court reporter we replace, we can devote the savings to retaining essential personnel such as federal public defenders.