Superior Court Judge Objects

Uncategorized Comments Off on Superior Court Judge Objects

Superior Court judge objects to civil fee schedule proposal

Ten days remain for us to register our objections to the proposed rule changes affecting civil court cases. One week from today representatives from GSRA and GCCRA will meet with members of the AOC staff that generated the changes.

We have been provided an excellent example of the message that can be sent by judges that we work with every day. If you have yet to submit your objections, perhaps the attached statement will help you organize your thoughts. Please CC us your comments at contact@gsra.org. We will not share them publicly unless you provide express permission to do so.
-Matt Moss, President
Georgia Shorthand Reporters Association

Here are my objections:

Civil trial records are vital – take-down fees – striking the $43.31/hour take down fee for civil court reporting is unfair and will immediately eviscerate civil trial records.

The proposal to strike paying the ‘take down fee’ paid to court reporters in civil cases in exchange for a $9.82 raise for court attendance is unfair and will immediately damage accurate records in civil trials.

Criminal court reporting and civil court reporting are different. Court reporters are deliberately paid ‘take down fees’ in civil cases because so very few civil/domestic court proceedings are actually ever transcribed. This is entirely different for felony/superior court criminal proceedings where many proceedings are transcribed and court reporters get paid that way. That doesn’t apply to civil cases. That is why they get paid ‘take down’ fees. That is why they get paid ‘take down’ fees in civil depositions in addition to the initial appearance fee.

Why are we chilling an accurate record in our civil/domestic trials?  There will be little incentive, if any, for a court reporter to spend 8-10 hours a day in a civil trial courtroom if they are not paid by the parties for all the work ‘take down’ involves.  If they do civil depositions, they get paid an appearance fee and take-down fees.  Civil trials in a Georgia courtroom should be similarly paid or Georgia courtrooms won’t be able to compete for the fewer and fewer court reporters remaining. Surely, a Georgia courtroom is worth the same expertise and pay as a deposition. Many civil/domestic trials involve 8 hours of intense concentration and hard work. Right now CR’s get paid by the parties for that work, as they should.

The current proposal is a $9.82 increase in an appearance fee and a $43.31 per hour take away. This is unfair, inappropriate and will have a chilling effect upon trial courts to get court reporters across our state.

Civil parties pay for ‘take down.’ Why should CR’s do that work for free? Why should civil parties not pay for the court reporter services they order? The current proposal makes Georgia trial courts a second-rate client. That is wrong. The trial courts and our records are not second rate.

Page rate increase will unfairly skew costs against appellants – rather than ‘sharing costs’ under current system.  

The proposed civil rate for a civil transcript is nearly doubled, from $3.78/page to $6.00 pp, and is in reality likely to be assessed against only one party, the appellant. Currently, if the other side wants to order a civil ‘copy’ the rate is $1.51 pp. When you only have one party paying the cost, the real effect will be that the appellant will pay all costs, file a copy with the clerk and the opposing side will get a free ride by just getting a copy from the clerk at a copier rate. Again, this is different than criminal where most appellants are indigent and the state pays the cost for both the prosecution and defense.

 

Example – Typical trial – 1000 pages

Current –          Appellant pays                 $3780.00              transcript

Appellee pays                $1510.00

Proposed           Appellant pays                $6000.00              transcript ($2,220 increase!)

 

Antiquated and unmanageable rules for Electronic Reporting – Let’s fix those before getting pushed into ‘ER.’

I understand that Electronic Reporting, ‘ER,’ is a needed option in various areas. That is a valid concern and deserves immediate attention for those locales.

However, the current rules for ER are too antiquated. They are unworkable and were drafted when audio recording was the norm. Such antiquated audio systems in a trial court would reasonably require a courtroom monitor, which is really the expense of a court reporter without the ability to do a transcript.

The new video versions of ER in various states employ video, multiple cameras and unique sound tracks tied to different microphones. Obviously, there is no reason to pay a court monitor to identify a speaker’s voice when one has a video record. You don’t have to have the system tested during the trial because if the judge doesn’t see the video screen ‘it isn’t working.’ Court reporters/scopists still do transcripts from those videos but it is much harder, slower and more expensive than a transcript from a ‘live take down.’ There is ‘no free lunch.’

If the Committee is seeking to increase the option of a ‘state of the art’ video record in circuits which need that option, the rules should be immediately updated to the reality of a video system. If Georgia is going to move toward the option of a video court record, let’s have realistic rules in place first.

I used an audio system in Magistrate Court for over 20 years, and anyone who thinks it is remotely close to the skills and record of a skilled court reporter is gravely mistaken.  Video, done right, can be a needed alternative solution, but even that doesn’t match a court reporter.  The current ER rules are unworkable and don’t apply to a ‘state of the art’ video record.  If Georgia is moving toward ER, please fix the rules first.

In closing, I respectfully oppose:

  • Eliminating civil take-down fees which are currently earned and paid for by requesting private parties;
  • Changing the balance where only the appellant really pays for a transcript and the appellee can get one for free;
  • Forcing Georgia courts to an Electronic Court Record before the rules are updated to the reality of a video ‘state of the art’ record.

Please submit your comments to the Judicial Council via the link https://www.research.net/r/CivilFeeScheduleComments