On Oct. 14, the Tulsa World published the first of a three-part series about the underfunding of America’s judicial system. The article focused on how under-funded, and thus under-staffed, courts lead to lengthier cases and delayed justice.
The Survival Guide for New Attorneys in California, a joint publication of Los Angeles Lawyer and the Los Angeles County Bar Association Barristers, offers advice for those new to the judicial process. Pointed out by an eagle-eyed court reporter, the section titled “Pet Peeves from the Bench” by the Hon. Victoria Gerrard Chaney covers many issues court reporters also note as problematic in taking a record, such as a lack of civility or brevity. Chaney’s section is on page 55.
An editorial posted May 30 in The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C., threw support behind the state’s Chief Justice Mark Martin for announcing his plans for a new commission to review the judiciary branch. Martin, who holds the state’s highest judicial office, calls the state’s current system stymied by out-of-date technology, burdened by a growing caseload, and starved by cuts in funding. In March, Martin announced his plans for a commission in a rare address by the chief justice to a House-Senate session of the General Assembly.
An article posted by the Milwaukee, Wis., Journal Sentinel on Feb. 11 details how Gov. Scott Walker’s proposed budget would reshape how Wisconsin courts are funded. According to the article, Walker said that a failure to include a way to pay court reporters is an oversight expected to be fixed before the budget is finalized. Failure to address the issue could result in the state’s more than 300 court reporters to be laid off.
WNCN in Raleigh, N.C., reported on Jan. 18 that hearings in North Carolina are often delayed because court reporters aren’t available. The article quotes a trial court administrator saying budgetary cuts that reduced what reporters earned for producing transcripts are just part of a “slow dismantling” of the state’s court system, a trend that might be reversed under the direction of a new top judge and empathetic legislative leaders.
Members of a House Judiciary subcommittee on Wednesday discussed allowing camera access to the federal courts, according to an article posted Dec. 4 by the National Law Journal. According to Rep. Steve King, allowing camera access to federal courts would be a “tremendous boon” to open up the “machinery of government” to public attention. King made the comments at a hearing on HR 917, the Sunshine in the Courtroom Act, which he introduced this week.
On Nov. 5, the Metropolitan News-Enterprise in Los Angeles, Calif., reported that the lack of a court reporter at a civil motion hearing raises due process concerns, particularly where the trial judge relies on reasons stated in open court but does not explain those reasons in a written order. The concerns were raised by a Court of Appeal.
Trials in North Carolina are being canceled or postponed because of a shortage of court reporters caused by budget cuts, according to a Sept. 5 news item on WFAE, an NPR station in Charlotte, N.C. This summer, the state court’s budget was cut by more than $3.5 million. To cover the courts, the litigants may have to call in a private reporter to cover the proceedings.
According to a recent article posted by the Lexington Herald-Leader on its website Kentucky.com, a malfunction in courtroom recording equipment prompted a judge last month to declare a mistrial in the case of murder defendant Patrick Deon Ragland. Fayette Circuit Judge Ernesto Scorsone declared the mistrial just before the start of the third day of the trial, telling jurors that the courtroom recording equipment had not preserved the opening statements by Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Lou Ann Red Corn or public defender Lucas Roberts, nor the testimony of the trial’s first four witnesses.
The recordings are crucial in the event that the case is appealed to a higher court, Scorsone explained to the jurors. If either the defense or prosecution argues that a mistake was made, the recordings are used by appellate judges to determine whether a reversible error was made. Without that recording, appellate judges would not be able to make a determination.
The New York Times posted online an editorial by NCRA President Nancy Varallo, RDR, CRR. The editorial addresses the important role live court reporters using realtime software play in ensuring correct and accurate court proceedings are recorded.