Digital Recording in California
by Rick Russell, Government Relations Chair
|AAERT presented testimony in favor of AB 1834 at the California Assembly Judiciary Committee hearing held March 29, 2016 in Sacramento, CA.
AB 1834 was introduced by Assembly Member Donald Wagner (R) and called for a change to the existing law, which authorizes a court to use electronic recording equipment to record an action or proceeding in a limited civil case, or a misdemeanor or infraction case, if an official reporter or an official reporter pro tempore is unavailable. This bill would additionally allow a court to use electronic recording equipment in a family law case if an official reporter or an official reporter pro tempore is unavailable.
Currently, a high percentage of family law cases are heard without a court reporter unless the parties hire their own reporter. Many family law parties cannot afford a court reporter, and therefore, there is no official record made of their hearings. AB 1834 would allow these hearings to be preserved by recording them to later be used as the record or transcribed.
AAERT was represented by Member Mary Ann Lutz, who testified very eloquently in favor of expanding the use of electronic recording (and reporting) in the California court system. Also supporting the bill were a host of attorneys who practice family law, led by the Conference of California Bar Associations who sponsored the bill. There was strong opposition to the bill by the California stenographic reporters, who were backed up by their union representatives.
After hearing testimony and discussion among members, the Judiciary Committee, with the (reluctant) consent of Assembly Member Wagner, put the bill on hold to determine if it could be reworked to include the requirement of having a reporter in each of these courts, as opposed to an unattended recording system. The “reporter” in this scenario would undoubtedly be a CA certified stenographic reporter.
While the future of this bill does not look promising, it does reflect the growing trend of courts having to look to more current methods of producing a verbatim record as their budgets are being tightened and the shortage of stenographic reporters becomes more acute. Digital reporting can fill this need by providing a reliable and accurate verbatim record at very cost effective levels of funding.
Thank you to Mary Ann Lutz for doing a great job representing the Association at the hearing and to Gail Armstrong who was also there to support the bill. We will keep you posted on any further developments.
If you have any questions or news of issues in your state, please contact the Government Relations Committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.