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Commentary: Switch to Electronic Court Reporting

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(Sacramento, CA)
Friday, May 13, 2011

To close California's massive budget gap, the governor proposes cutting another $200 million dollars from the courts. To absorb that level of reduction, courts may have to go back to closing their doors one day a month, as they did last year.

Given that, the judicial branch ought to welcome  the Legislative Analyst's recommendation that they switch from stenographers to electronic recordings. A state study in the 1990s concluded the state could save $28,000 per courtroom, per year, using audio equipment instead of court reporters. A 1983 federal study found that transcripts prepared from recordings were more accurate than those prepared by stenographers.

The Legislative Analyst recommends the courts transition to electronic recordings over five years. The switch, LAO says, would save $100 million dollars annually. Courts may even make money selling the recordings.

For years, a powerful court reporters association has blocked reform. But this is no ordinary year. The state is broke. Electronic recording is a fix the courts can't afford to pass up.



Ginger Rutland writes for The Sacramento Bee opinion pages.

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