Nearly 90% of California’s court reporters are female and consider their pay rate to be an issue of gender equity. Gerry Brown recently vetoed legislation that would have increased the pay for California’s court reporters who produce official transcripts. While California requires this of most of its court reporters, the pay rate has remained the same since 1991.
Fed up with low pay for a task that requires a great degree of expertise, the California Official Court Reporters Association (COCRA) introduced its own legislation to change the state law.
Producing these official transcripts is not a trivial matter. While court reporters in California are paid as if they work from 9 to 5, in reality most work nights and weekends to produce these transcripts for the courts.
In addition, the process requires special equipment that the court reporters pay for out of pocket. It also requires the expertise to translate shorthand into a verbatim record of the court’s proceedings.
The pay for this is calculated based on the number of words transcribed: 0.85 cents for each 100 words. Considering the rate of inflation since 1991, this level of pay is woefully inadequate.
Only one group opposed the bill. The California Judicial Council pursued funding for new courthouses, technology projects, and an expanded workforce over the past 25 years. However, the Council did not include a transcript fee increase on its list of budgetary priorities.
California’s legislature passed Assembly Bill 2629 to increase the rate of 0.93 cents effective January 1. However, Gerry Brown refused to sign it claiming that the bill would have increased costs to the judicial system.
California’s court reporters refuse to give up on their quest for equitable pay. The COCRA promised to keep its members and supporters updated on any future efforts “to revive another transcript increase bill” or use the budget process to address the issue.