Bulletin: Court Reporter Shortage or Fraud?

Law360: A Dire Court Reporter Shortage? Depends on Who You Ask.

Certain court reporting companies are exaggerating and exacerbating the stenographer shortage for the purpose of selling digital court reporting to lawyers/courts/consumers.

Veritext, US Legal Support, and Planet Depos have all publicly made statements about the unavailability or shortage of stenographers while putting most of their effort into expanding digital court reporting. Succinctly, utilizing their market share to obfuscate the availability of stenographers and artificially increase digital court reporter demand. It is unknown whether this is concerted or a form of tacit parallelism.

The resulting atmosphere is also misleading to those seeking a career in court reporting.

The nonprofit Protect Your Record Project was formed to educate consumers on the bait and switch tactics occurring in the court reporting industry.

In 2021, US Legal Rep Peter Giammanco wrote, “Does it really matter if done legally and ethically and both methods end with the same final transcript?” A consumer awareness campaign was subsequently launched. There are questions about whether digital recording is reliably the same as stenography. In one New York case, the court remarked that past holdings that recording was equivalent to stenography were belied by the record in that appeal.

Companies continue to profess shortage while placing the bulk of their effort into expanding the digital reporting market, effectively limiting consumer choice and ignoring consumer preference for stenography. The 2013-2014 Court Reporting Industry Outlook is used to add credibility to these claims, but that forecast is nearly a decade old and does not account for recruitment initiatives such as National Court Reporters A to Z, Project Steno, and Open Steno.

Attorneys, courts, and support staff can attempt to find stenographers or stenographer-run businesses through their state court reporting association or NCRA Pro Link.

The FTC has stated it will crack down on companies taking advantage of gig workers. It is unknown how this will affect court reporting, a field that is approximately 70% independent contractors according to available data. It is also unknown how rampant misclassification may be in the field.

Stenonymous (Christopher Day) is dedicated to informing the court reporting and legal community and has faced legal threat for accurate reporting in the past.

Does this look like they’re looking for stenographers?

Members of the community that wish to support advertising for this bulletin may send money through the donation box at Stenonymous.com.

NCRA: Pay Rates Often Lead to Replacing Stenographic Court Reporters with Digital Methods

In a press release yesterday, the National Court Reporters Association acknowledged that different markets are having different experiences when it comes to court reporter or stenographer shortage. NCRA President Jason Meadors is quoted as saying “Claims of a court reporter shortage are all too often a matter of geography and market. When courthouses pay and offer benefits competitively, they become fully staffed, and litigants are not faced with the choice of paying market rates to have the best system available or rely upon what the courthouse is willing to provide for keeping the record.”

The press release is concise and worth a read. It gets across some important ideas, such as stenography being modern, the gold standard, and acknowledges in its own way that economics plays a role in where court reporters are available. Very similar to the realizations I had when I saw that many reporters in New York City were working 30 years behind inflation while agencies were crying shortage.

This could not come at a better time. The courts in California just more or less declared that funding was not the issue, with some screenshots below. With our profession setting the stage to dispel the misinformation spread by the Speech-to-Text Institute, there’s a real chance at educating court administrators as to the controversy and issue (ultimately, if they want there to be court reporters, they have to stand behind us and help keep the demand steady. If they continue piecemeal replacement of us across the country, there will be fewer of us to hire. It’s an unfortunate elephant-in-the-room scenario. It’s a self-fulfilling prophesy.)

We’ve also passed a milestone here on Stenonymous. Many of the claims I’ve made and articles I’ve published are over a year old or rapidly approaching such, and the statute of limitations on defamation in my state is a year. The best defense of the corporate juggernauts against my claims of fraud was to ignore me. At the very least, I hope some of the things I did help many of you connect, educate, and advocate without fear. It really does appear to me that the corporate powers that be are milking the shortage for the purpose of selling digital reporting and the equipment associated. That’s not the easiest problem to deal with, but we are a strong profession, and we’re on the road to dealing with it.

I cannot claim to always agree with NCRA, but it remains a pillar of our profession and today I am very proud to be a member. Thank you to our president, Jason Meadors, for speaking up and speaking out.