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Mary Caldwell was the winner of the Stenograph Duet Rolling Case. Thank you to all who entered!
Student liaison Matt Moss was also an award winner. Well done!
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Recent graduates of Drug Court
GSRA President Cheryl Gilliam and GSRA Vice President Melanie Fisher with Judge Doris Downs from Drug Court
The Judicial Council of Georgia met for its first April 2013 meeting at the Fernbank Museum of Natural History. The meeting commenced at 9:00 a.m.
On the agenda: the final vote on all the elements of the newly constituted Special Committee on Court Reporting Fees and Processes Recommendations.
Prior to the meeting, close to 40 court reporters congregated in the lobby of the museum. At 9:00 a.m. the meeting officially convened. Because of the number of attendees, additional seating was provided in order to accommodate everyone.
At the January 10th, 2013 Judicial Council meeting, the Judicial Council unanimously agreed to table the vote until further study could be had and more thorough recommendations could be made. The Committee was reconstituted and named the Judicial Council Special Committee on Court Reporting Fees and Processes. The Special Committee was assigned the following charges:
1. Identify the issues and concerns raised by Judicial Council members and stakeholders in response to the recommendations.
2. Thoroughly examine the intended effect of the recommendations in light of the issues and concerns.
3. Propose any clarifications or changes to the recommendations.
The Special Committee was comprised of Judge Louisa Abbot, Judge Edward Lukemire, Judge Frederick Mullis, Judge Robin Shearer, Judge Mary Staley, and Judge Linda Cowen sitting as chair.
Judge Linda Cowen was called upon to present the "action items" to be voted on. Thirty minutes was allotted to cover all matters with final votes being taken.
Issue: Certified court reporters are hired as full-time employees and as independent contractors depending on the needs and resources of courts and counties. Questions arise about appropriate compensation of employees and how the Fee Schedule may apply when a court reporter holds employee status.
(No Revision) The Official Fee Schedule applies to court reporters who are independent contractors. Counties that hire court reporters as employees shall arrange compensation and scope of work for them under their terms of employment, similar to other employees.
Implementation: The Board of Court Reporting shall clarify that the Fee Schedule applies to independent contractors and may be used as a guide in establishing personnel salaries.
VOTE: A motion was made to approve Recommendation 1.1 and the motion carried unanimously.
Issue: The Association of County Commissioners of Georgia questions the application of this allowance in circuits comprised of a single county. Such counties may pay it to official court reporters in state courts (as interpreted by Attorney General Opinion No. U81-24 (1981)) as well as covering costs for supplies, equipment, office space and/or other types of expenses.
(No Revision) To better reflect typical travel guidelines that disallow expense reimbursement for travel between home and place of employment, O.C.G.A. §15-14-6 should be amended to remove the contingent expense and travel allowance for official court reporters serving a single-county jurisdiction.
Implementation: The ACCG or other interested organization should propose legislation to amend the statute in order to address its impact on counties with state courts.
VOTE: A motion was made to approve Recommendation 1.2 and the motion carried with two dissenting votes.
Issue: There are wide variations in court reporter billing practices and documentation of services and work product. Subject to a code of ethics and guidelines for professional practice, official court reporters are answerable to the judge or court administrator who approves payment for services rendered. Lack of appropriate documentation hinders efficient processes for payment, and budgets and expenditures can be monitored more straightforwardly when authorization and documentation for services and products are clear and consistent.
(No Revision) Court Reporters shall clearly document work performed on invoices or requests for payment developed by the Board of Court Reporting to ensure accountability to the county fiscal office, which estimates budgets, processes payments, and is subject to audit.
Implementation: At a minimum, the Board of Court Reporting shall adopt model invoice forms to include the name of the court, style of case and case number, presiding judge, attorney(s), date(s) of service, type(s) of service, number of transcript pages, and fee rates for service and/or transcript. Deadlines to tender invoices for court attendance, recordation/takedown, and transcripts shall also be prescribed.
VOTE: A motion was made to approve Recommendation 1.3 and the motion carried unanimously.
Issue: Technology is ever-changing and technological solutions for court business present opportunities for cost savings or process improvement. Paper documents and transcripts require considerable storage space, and when they are located offsite from a court facility, there may be barriers to access by the public.
Revised Recommendation: By January 1, 2014, transcripts shall be produced utilizing current information technology and filed in electronic format that is accessible to all court users. The Judicial Council shall determine the page rate for electronic documents including transcripts, exhibits, and specialized exhibits.
Implementation: In conjunction with Recommendation 2.3, the Judicial Council shall require transcripts to be filed in electronic format, stipulate that the Board of Court Reporting issue written instructions for transcript format and style, and determine fair compensation that will substitute for the current paper-based scheme. (A page rate of $5.00 will approximate the current average payment for an original and copies typically requested by court officials.)
Suggested Amendment to Revised Recommendation 1.4: Electronic submission of these materials will be submitted in searchable pdf formatting.
VOTE: A motion was made to approve Revised Amended Recommendation 1.4 and the motion carried with one dissenting vote.
Issue: O.C.G.A. §17-8-5 and other provisions specify the felony criminal proceedings for which a court record is required. However, best practice may indicate that other criminal proceedings should be recorded and transcribed, and these must be authorized by a presiding judge. Statutory law does not address the takedown or transcription of misdemeanor cases at all, but the Georgia Court of Appeals has required by case law that a verbatim record be made of all misdemeanor pleas (King v. State, 270 Ga. App. 367 (1998)). The Judicial Council can clarify these mandatory and discretionary proceedings for takedown and/or transcription to ensure consistency across the state and educate county executives.
Revised Recommendation: Taking down and transcribing court proceedings.Because there are inconsistent interpretations of the laws addressing the takedown and transcription of court proceedings, the Judicial Council shall clarify (1) which proceedings must be taken down and/or transcribed, and (2) which proceedings and transcripts must be authorized by a judge. Also, since the majority of complaints filed with the Board of Court Reporting against certified court reporters allege failure to produce a transcript in a reasonable period of time, the Judicial Council shall address time limits for transcript filing.
Implementation: The Judicial Council shall draft rules clarifying the court proceedings required to be taken down and transcribed and pertinent time periods for filing transcripts by December 31, 2013.
VOTE: A motion was made to approve Revised Recommendation 2.1 and the motion carried unanimously.
Issue: Appellate courts require evidence to be transmitted via photograph, videotape, or audiotape, and courts are familiar with recording physical evidence in this manner. These formats easily integrate into an electronic transcript (see Rec. 1.4). Some court reporters still secure and maintain evidence, although in most courts, the clerk or prosecutor serves as the custodian.
(No Revision) Appellate court protocols for the transmission of physical evidence by photograph, videotape, or audiotape in lieu of the original evidence have already been established. Documenting evidence and exhibits in a transcript shall consist of visual recording by photograph or scan, or digital video or audio if necessary, by January 1, 2014, concurrent with Recommendation 1.4.
Implementation: The custodian of physical evidence shall scan the evidence into digital format and transmit the images to the court reporter for incorporation into the transcript. The archiving policies established by the trial courts shall require physical evidence to be indexed and cataloged for easy retrieval.
VOTE: A motion was made to approve Recommendation 2.2 and the motion carried unanimously.
Issue: The Judicial Council declared the transcript to be a public record in an advisory opinion issued in March 1984 by asserting that the original transcript is the property of the court once filed with the clerk, unless the record is of court activity protected by law from public access or sealed by order of the court.
Revised Recommendation: The court reporter shall file the certified criminal transcript with the clerk of court prior to releasing any certified copies. Once filed, the transcript becomes a public record (O.C.G.A. §50-18-70) and shall be accessible to the judge, prosecutor, and defendant without charge.
Implementation: The Judicial Council shall clarify that the criminal transcript must be filed first with the court clerk, is a public record, and, in digital format, is reproducible in certified form. An interested organization should introduce legislation to include transcripts under O.C.G.A. §15-6-77.
VOTE: A motion was made to approve Revised Recommendation 2.3 and the motion carried unanimously.
Issue: Preservation of the record is a legal obligation of the court. When recordings of court proceedings are not secured, the courts are unable to guarantee access to the record and continuity of business processes. Recommended practice to ensure business continuity includes electronic/digital recording and indexing or other means to document the court record prior to transcript production.
Revised Recommendation: To minimize disruption in judicial process due to missing, lost, or incomplete records and transcripts and ensure business continuity, courts shall maintain a backup recording system that serves as a repository of all criminal court proceedings by January 1, 2015.
Implementation: The Judicial Council shall adopt standards that delineate the management of electronic files and digital recordings in preserving court testimony. The written protocols will guide courts on the use of remote or stand-alone systems that provide direct and secure access to recordings by court officials.
Suggested Amendment to Revised Recommendation 2.4: Most court reporters currently utilize a backup system. Replace the following: Courts shall maintain a backup recording system to read court reporters shall maintain a backup recording system.
VOTE: A motion was made to approve Revised Amended Recommendation 2.4 and the motion carried with one dissenting vote.
Issue: The development of court reporter certification standards that demonstrate competency, accuracy, and reliability of the state judicial branch. Trial court judges must ensure pretrial and trial court proceedings are accurately captured and preserved in a cost-effective manner. The Special Committee recognized the historical progression of court reporting technologies and methods as well as the funding and personnel constraints cited by many Georgia jurisdictions as barriers to producing a verbatim record and access to it.
As cited in the report’s definitions, electronic reporting is the use of professional-level recording systems by a court reporter to document proceedings and produce a verbatim transcript. Key to the use of the method is an experienced court reporter who simultaneously takes extensive notes or annotates the recording for later identification. For decades, electronic/digital reporting has been used successfully in federal, state and local jurisdictions.
Revised Recommendation: The Judicial Council shall recognize electronic/digital reporting as a means of capturing the record for certain types of trial court proceedings and shall direct the Board of Court reporting to develop rules and regulations for court reporters using electronic/digital methods by July 1, 2014.
Implementation: The Judicial Council shall determine the types of trial court proceedings for which electronic/digital reporting is authorized to capture the record. The Board of Court Reporting shall establish court reporter certification requirements for electronic/digital reporting and develop standard operating procedures and rules for implementation and use of electronic/digital reporting.
Suggested Amendment to Revised Recommendation 3.1: The Judicial Council shall recognize electronic/digital reporting as a means of capturing the record for certain types of trial court proceedings and shall direct the Board of Court Reporting to develop rules and regulations for a separate classification and certification for digital monitors using electronic/digital methods by July 1, 2014.
VOTE: A motion was made to approve Revised Amended Recommendation 3.1 and the motion carried with three dissenting votes.
The Judicial Council recognizes the benefits and efficiencies of realtime reporting and acknowledges it as the best practice of court reporting. The Board of Court Reporting shall establish a date certain and minimum requirements for certified court reporters in Georgia to have realtime capability in superior and state courts.
VOTE: A motion was made to approve Revised Recommendation 3.2 and the motion carried with one dissenting vote.
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... GSRA acknowledges the need to review court efficiencies while ensuring equal access to justice for all Georgians. However, we believe some proposed changes will ultimately hurt the judicial system and cost extra tax dollars to rectify many of the errors inherent in audio and digital recording devices. GSRA feels that the intent of the Committee recommendations will have unintended consequences that would be counterproductive and actually cost Georgia taxpayers more in the long run.
Recently GSRA and GCCRA had their Fall seminar at The Ridges in Hiawassee, GA. We had a great turnout, and it was a fantastic weekend with informative and entertaining speakers, remembering and honoring our fallen comrade Julie Brandau, learning how to be better reporters, seeing old friends, and making new ones. We compiled the results of our Court Reporter Opinion Questionnaire. The number one response by both associations was a belief that the most important thing discussed and necessary was the Defense Fund and how crucial it will be for this upcoming legislative session to have our lobbyist representing our interests now more than ever. Our Boards are united in this belief and have gotten the ball rolling by raising 1500 towards the fund, and we received several donations that weekend and since, but we cannot do this without your help.
There are 1300 court reporters in the State of Georgia. If everyone gave at least $100, that would be more than enough to fund our lobbyist, and it wouldn't fall to just the few to carry the load when it benefits so many. We must raise $12,000, and if the funding is not there by December 31, 2013, we will not be able to have a lobbyist for 2014. We have seen how having a lobbyist this year stopped ER being listed as another method of reporting. And like 2013, 2014 is again a decisive year for court reporters in Georgia. So please join GSRA and GCCRA in contributing to this very important fund by clicking on the button at the bottom of this page and make your donation today. You can also go to gsra.org or gccra.org or set up an automatic draft from your bank to the Defense Fund or mail a check to GSRA at 3659 Chattahoochee Summit Drive, Atlanta, GA 30339. 100% of this campaign goes to protecting our profession, your career. As you see, there are many ways to give, and it doesn't have to be all at one time or in one lump sum, but we ALL need to give, and with your generous donation, you too will be saying that your career and your livelihood are too important to leave to chance. Together, we are stronger.
Cheryl Gilliam, RMR
What is the big deal? It's simple: A certified shorthand reporter is a neutral officer of the court, as is a judge, a clerk and a bailiff, and are statutorily prohibited under the codes of professional conduct from undisclosed contracting, unfair and/or inequitable provision of services and billing. And, Registered Professional Reporters certified by the National Court Reporters Association MUST abide by the Code of Professional Ethics.
You would be shocked if a judge had a contract with one of the parties-in-interest. You should feel equally violated if your neutral court reporter is a captured, third-party contractor as well.
On April 22, 2013, Magna Legal Services filed suit against the Arizona Board of Certified Reporters and its individual members, burdening Arizona taxpayers with defending said suit in an effort to boost its corporate profits back in Philadelphia.
If you are interested in contributing to help offset the cost of ACRA's endeavors to advocate for the Arizona Board of Certified Reporters and their enduring efforts to preserve the neutrality and impartiality of court reporters as officers of the court, you can make a contribution to the ACRA Professional Preservation Fund (PPF) through the ACRA Online Store. https://netforum.avectra.com
Watch this informative video on the profession of Court Reporting
More on Court Reporting as a career here.