California Court Reporter Board Fails to Protect Consumers, Crushes Working People

Attention California consumers: In the court reporting profession today there are three modalities for recordation, stenotype stenography, voice writing, and digital recording. In California, the stenographers are among the most heavily-regulated court reporters in the country. To give an example of this, in California, it is mandatory to have a Certified Shorthand Reporter (CSR) license to practice shorthand reporting. Now let’s juxtapose that against New York, where the CSR license is a voluntary thing that simply allows one to hold themselves out as a CSR and is not required to practice court reporting.

Recently there has been a debate about whether the licensing board has the ability to regulate digital court reporting, someone going in and recording testimony instead of stenotyping it. The licensing board of California decided not to protect consumers and stated it could not regulate digital. Its failure to regulate anything but stenographers means that consumers that are not using stenographers are facing a Wild West, caveat emptor-type reality.

The reason for this, though unstated, is pretty clear. My field is facing massive corporate consolidation and the big business end of things wants to start replacing stenographers with digital reporters. Licensing boards in California and Texas have been happy to let them do it. In Texas, a writ actually had to be filed to get the government to enforce the law.

There have even been rumors that at least one member of the California licensing board sold their business to a larger company around the time the decision was made not to regulate digital court reporters. When alerted to this fact, the Attorney General of California claimed it could not investigate because they’re responsible for defending the board. So basically the regulatory authority there to protect consumers isn’t protecting consumers, and the regulatory authority meant to enforce the law isn’t willing to take a glance at it. A nation of laws that don’t mean anything.

Letter from the California Attorney General after I raised concerns that something questionable might be happening in the California Licensing Board.

A new law has been passed, non-CSR firms can register with California and the California CSRs that work with non-CSR firms can face enforcement action if that firm isn’t registered with California. Basically the working people, the stenographers, are required to know if a firm is a CSR-owned firm or not, and everybody else is off the hook. You can read more about the situation from Protect Your Record Project’s announcement below.

There are a few ways to look at the situation. Many of us do not believe digital is the equivalent of stenography, but let’s accept the equivalency argument for a second. This would be like California regulating personal injury attorneys and not commercial claims, then turning around and telling personal injury attorneys that they could face enforcement action if they work with a firm owned by someone that is not a personal injury attorney. It’s basically splitting hairs in the direction of allowing the unregulated practice of court reporting while limiting court reporters’ economic opportunities to only certain firms.

At this point, California consumers would do well to ask the board what there is even a court reporting board for. Stenographer misses a word? You have the full backing of the government to come down on that person. Digital recorder botches a transcript? Tough luck, you’re on your own. Does this happen in other licensed fields? Can I just claim I’m a “digital doctor” and bypass California’s medical licensing laws?

I look on with a mix of mirth and despair as the government regulations meant to protect consumers are weaponized against my fellow court reporters. This continues for as long as California attorneys and consumers allow. The government has made one thing clear: It does not intend to meaningfully protect consumers.


A reader pointed out that I misread the information. My article previously stated that non-CSR firms were not required to register. I am now informed that they are required to register. That is an important distinction and so I have updated this post.

Steno: It’s Like Believing Your Husband When He Says “She Meant Nothing to Me.”

In our field, we face two concurrent issues: Communicating to each other that many court reporting companies are not being honest with us about their intentions for the industry and communicating to consumers that their choice as consumers is under attack. I recently came across the following post by Jeanese Johnson. Jeanese’s post is probably the most on-the-nose portrayal of the situation for communicating it to each other that I’ve seen, and I am very grateful to her for allowing me to host it here on Stenonymous.

By Jeanese Johnson:

When a digital-supporting company tells you that they only use the digiz for shit jobs you don’t want and you believe it, that’s akin to your husband saying… “Yeah, she didn’t mean anything to me.”

When a digital-employing company tells you they “sparingly” use digitals ONLY when you’re not available, ask them – “Why do you call them ‘reporters,’ though?”

If you “really” wanted us to be on the higher echelon, wouldn’t you call us “Certified/Licensed Court Reporters” and them… Well… something else?

Why aren’t there two tiers of pricing? Does the one tier — our tier — “Cure” the “shortage”? (I call BULLSHIT!)

Ask them, “Why do you charge the same as a real court reporter?”

Ask them, “Don’t you think that’s confusing the marketplace?”

Ask them, “Did you really want to send a first-year reporter to a multi realtime patent case?” (We don’t believe you) Because first-year reporters need the smaller jobs. And not all reporters only want all-day. Not all reporters are realtime. And the smartest reporter I ever met stood next to me in court and said, “Yeah, at this stage, I like short… all day long…” and I was too new and too stupid to know what she was talking about. And I still admire her to this moment.

Tell them that what they think is a “shit” job is one that many “real” court reporters prefer; i.e., short, light, fast, easy – over so we can pick up our kids. And tell them that we don’t buy their “new explanation” for why they’re raking in the money on cheap digital – I mean — excuse me/pardon me — “curing the shortage” by piling on millions and buying up companies — I mean — “Looking out for ‘precious’ us” – who “don’t want to take the shit jobs.” 🙄

Ask them if they network the job to an agency that does have reporters available.

I just attended a meeting where Esquire has purchased TSG Reporting.

Esquire came out and said they were going to address “the elephant in the room” (Hmmm… I remember saying these exact words, and I promptly got kicked out of the Veritext court group — by “accident” 😉 ) Can’t believe after all we know those reporters are still helping them. So sad. They must have stock in Veritext.

Anyway, I found the Esquire group to be just as I expected.

I found them somewhat phoney; i.e., “We LOVE court reporters! You’re our first priority! We’re nothing without you!”

If you’re not the type to believe “She didn’t mean anything to me…” then ask them to prove it. Ask them to see the invoices where a recorder person (because, remember, if you agree to work for them, you’ve already said they should not call them court reporters – because that’s insulting to everyone and confusing to the marketplace) took one of those dreadful, awful public meetings (the “new” reason for the using digitals – it’s not because we have remote now and better coverage – it’s NOT that they get to keep copy orders and all the profits like it was a real reporter) and show how much the client paid – then… that’s when you see why they use them. 💡 And that’s when you’ll see that it really did mean something. 💔

There was nothing in the meeting redeeming. There was nothing in the meeting inspiring – even though the presenters seemed to think so. Esquire — through all of its Gallo iterations — came to the meeting knowing how we see them – and that’s why it was yucky – and nothing was done to address… the “yucky in the room.”

Esquire was asked if they have CSRs transcribe the fake proceedings. And they answered yes. They seemed proud of that – where we’re likely disgusted.

Esquire admitted “vaguely” that they “only use digital in five states…” It was peppered down.

We should ask them: “Which five states?”

My direct question along with who was going to be their RIC in July and do they use digital in California — was not answered.

So looks like TSG will be removed from the job boards if we do not have this answer.

I understand the “get out” move – plenty have done it. And all have a right to do so. No problems there. Congratulations to Rixon – would have been nice if he was on the call – but I suppose he’s already in the Bahamas! Salut! 💃

In parting: They said their attys know and agree to using a DIGITAL REPORTER – they seemed also proud of this — there were all smiles on the face of the Esquire personnel – kind of creepy smiles, though – Why would you be proud of substituting your “precious” <— and they used that word —> court reporters for fake court reporters? And why are you okay with the marketplace being okay with this?

Because of the legacy that Veritext taught you. That’s the answer. They’re teaching all of these companies how to do it – and Esquire one-upped them by at least explaining to their clients that they’re recording. And Esquire claimed to have top-of-the-line technology and all the best stuff – they were also quite proud – while reporters sat and listened and asked the most degrading questions like we were still in the year 2000 — “When we get assigned, how…” “Will our rates be…”

So powerless they were.

So you’ll say, “But, Jeanese, you don’t want to take the shit public meeting either. We read your post about the first agency you worked with used to send you to the downtown L.A. Metro meetings and it was God-awful.”

You’re right. Absolutely. I have no fight there.

But I wasn’t recording anything. I was writing my ass off. And the agency I worked for didn’t charge rates for “just recording it” while using a licensed reporter – and keep the difference in profits.

Esquire said they don’t use people off the street. Hmmm, maybe they heard our complaint about CraigsList. They said their people have degrees and are AAERT certified.

And this tells me they’ve also been listening to our complaints about: Well, we have a license, so… why? What makes this okay?

But they haven’t told us that they denounce this — they just keep saying… “She didn’t mean anything to me.”

That doesn’t sit well with me. I’d still want to know how much a “degreed individual” is paid. Don’t just shake your head and agree to everything they say.

Their faces showed — it’s all bullshit.

If CR is the best – show me by only using CRs –

Or open another company and call them “We’re too lazy – so we just record it!” Company – and charge accordingly.

Then at least I could respect it. And the clients would know the difference. And we’d all have a job.

I saw a couple of reporters on the meeting nodding their head when Esquire was explaining their position…

This scares me.

Do we REALLY believe that a company that has people with degrees and higher education and employs salespeople and et cetera, et cetera, can’t think of a solution other than “recording it”?

That’s the best they got?


They can think of marketing tools. And they can bring tumblers and calendars – but they can’t fight for reciprocation? They can’t schedule around like interpreters do? Like doctors do? Like any valued — pardon me, excuse me — “TRULY” valued human would to your company? Really? We’re “highly valued…” but there’s just this little “work around…” “No, but really, You’re valued.” And… and… it doesn’t really mean anything…

Images for search engines:

Digital court reporting deception commentary by Jeanese Johnson
Digital court reporting deception commentary by Jeanese Johnson
Digital court reporting deception commentary by Jeanese Johnson
Digital court reporting deception commentary by Jeanese Johnson
Digital court reporting deception commentary by Jeanese Johnson

GGU Presentation & Why You Matter

I may not be on the west coast, but I know some fantastic west coast reporters.

I was invited by Ana Fatima Costa to participate in Golden Gate University’s Court Reporter Tips Every Lawyer Needs To Make The BEST Record. Ana has dedicated a great deal of time to presentations, coaching students, running internship programs. As reporters, we sometimes struggle to make connections with the bench and/or bar. Ana’s great at making those connections and definitely one of the people you want to talk to if you’re interested in bridging the gap between reporters and the bar.

We spent an hour introducing young attorneys and some reporters to core concepts such as speaking one at a time, requiring a stenographic reporter, and how providing case-specific information can assist a reporter in producing their record. Luckily for me, nearly all the heavy lifting was done by the three other panelists and experts in our field, Ana Fatima Costa, Phyllis Craver Lykken, and Leesa Durrant. Ana whipped up great presentation slides and held the whole presentation down. Phyllis talked to them a little bit about realtime conceptually. Leesa drove it all home with a realtime demonstration. It was a fantastic thing for me to be a part of, and I’m grateful I was invited to be a part of it. I’m also grateful to Professor Rachel Brockl and her team, who worked with Ana to make the event a reality. For anyone who’s curious, at some point it should be up on GGU’s Youtube.

My real takeaway is that there is so much potential for our little field to make a big impact on how we are viewed not only by the public, but also by courts, judges, and lawyers. There are thousands of reporters, which means any reporter taking just a few hours of their time per year to make a speech or presentation has incredible cumulative value. The people that we work with every day are the people who wrote to us after this presentation and said “this information really helped me understand how to help court reporters do their job.” Imagine four professionals getting to sit on camera and talk about what we know and love. You can probably imagine yourself doing it, and I hope that writing about this inspires folks to stand up and say “I can do that!” We need you. I need you so that I can stop doing presentations and go back to blogging about your presentations. And if you’re not ready, that’s okay too. But I say seek us out. Seek out any of the court reporters that put out content regularly. We want to help. We want others to meet their potential and develop skills beyond our wonderful skill of reporting.


The presentation may now be viewed here. The first five minutes went unrecorded due to a technical glitch.

Fun History: License Plates

Have you ever seen a stenographic license plate? It’s a funny truth that while there are not so many people who can survive a stenographic education, just about anyone can read stenography if they care to, and we can even be called out on some of what we do.

In 1993 a decision was made (reaffirmed) that in California to be deemed an offensive word unsuitable for a license plate, a word need not be understood in that manner by every addressee. This happened when Anita Kahn appealed the decision by the DMV to revoke her stenographic license plate which had the phrase “if you can” on it. For our non-court reporting audience, this can also be translated as the F word. The court determined that some 50,000 to 60,000 people in the state could understand it, that there was therefore a large enough audience to find the word offensive, and that DMV could revoke the plates.

It’s not too often I get to write about fun or interesting things, so it’s my pleasure to get to write about Kahn v Department of Motor Vehicles (1993) (No. B064070. Second Dist., Div. One. May 3, 1993). Originally brought to my attention via a Facebook post. Indeed, it’s a good reminder that wherever we are and whatever we do, there’ll always be someone to rat us out. Kidding!