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Criminal Justice

A Shortage Of Court Reporters In LA Means That Some People Will Have To Pay For Their Own

The inside of an L.A. courtroom. A female judge who appears to be white sits at the bench. To her left, a large screen shows images related to the case; they are difficult to make out.
The inside of an L.A. courtroom.
(Emily Elena Dugdale
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A court reporter shortage crisis means the Los Angeles Superior Court will no longer provide free verbatim transcripts for some civil cases.

Why it matters: It's creating what some advocates call a two-tiered justice system.

Why the shortage exists: A joint statement this week from 54 chief executives of Superior Courts in California describes a widespread shortage in court reporters and few remaining training programs. In short, they say there are no court reporters to hire.

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"Over 50% of the California courts have reported that they are unable to routinely cover non-mandated case types including civil, family law and probate."

What court reporters are saying: The L.A. County Court Reporters Assn. has pushed back on what they call "misconceptions" about the reporter shortage and offer what they call "easy solutions." They also provide a document on the group's website of recruitment suggestions.

And Rosalina Nava, a court reporter, represented by by SEIU 721, said Sherri R. Carter, the CEO of Los Angeles Superior Court, needs to do more to recruit new court reporters.

"We believe that if you are going in to have your day in court some of the most difficult moments in your life — whether it's, you know, a probate issue or a divorce or child support issue — there shouldn't be one more obstacle for you to overcome," Nava said, "because as taxpayers you have already paid for them. And the state has already funded."

What the impact will be: Beginning Nov. 14, participants in some non-criminal cases will have to pay for their own court reporters, which costs between $800 and $2,000 per day. Some advocates say it's creating a two-tiered justice system.