If you’ve been employed for an extended period of time, it’s likely you’ve been part of a downsizing plan. While there is a great demand for court reporters, cutting staff, including court reporters, has hit courts from San Diego County, California to Orlando, Florida and points in between. The reason is typically explained away as being budget cuts but the reality is that it’s likely the impact of the court reporter shortage.
Across the nation we’re starting to see a trend of a court reporter shortage that could leave the industry short of 5,000 or more reporters by the end of next year.
It might seem odd to you to not have a court reporter present for a courtroom proceeding but it is becoming more common as reporters are being replaced with less reliable digital recordings. Rather than having a reporter in the courtroom, reporters are given recordings after the fact to transcribe and certify to the courts. The problem is that the recordings aren’t always easy to understand leaving many areas of misinterpretation or simply a notation that what was being said was inaudible.
If parties want a court reporter, they have to decide if they want to pay for the court reporter themselves. This is critical in contentious divorces and child custody battles when he said/she said can come into play at a later date making it critical to have a written transcript of proceedings.
In addition, when courts are faced with financial stress and budget cuts they are not only forced to eliminate court reports but judges as well. That really means the entire judicial system is slowed down even more than it already is making small claims and family law matters a lower priority to more serious cases like sexual assault or murder.
How You Can Help the Court Reporter Shortage
As an industry, we know that we may not be able to influence municipalities to keep court reporters on staff but we can certainly educate via blogs like this and social media. Tell your court reporting story. Share your expertise with those seeking a new career whether that’s working with high school counselors and their students or job seeker groups. The more we can do online and in our communities to share the value of court reporting, the better it will be for the industry.
The reality is that while courts may be downsizing, there are opportunities outside the courtroom and we need people to fill those positions. Well-trained court reporters are more difficult to find so we have to do what we can as an industry to attract new reporters or we could be facing a court reporter shortage and subsequent crisis.