Transcription fees apply to both court-employed and litigant-hired reporters, appeals court rules

By Karen Kidd | Dec 21, 2017

LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline) – Civil litigation attorneys in California might want to check their past court reporting invoices following an appeals court ruling that statutory limits on transcription fees apply to both court-employed and privately retained reporters.

LOS ANGELES (Legal Newsline) – Civil litigation attorneys in California might want to check their past court reporting invoices following an appeals court ruling that statutory limits on transcription fees apply to both court-employed and privately retained reporters.

In a decision handed down Nov. 29, the California 2nd District Court of Appeal, Division Two, ruled that statutory rate limitations set down in government code apply to any court reporter who produces a civil court proceeding transcript. That is true "regardless of whether the reporter is employed by the superior court or privately retained by a party," the 17-page ruling said.

In recent years, budget cuts have led to layoffs of court-employed reporters in civil courts, which has led to litigant-hiring of those services.

The appeals court's decision reversed a trial court's ruling that government code that regulates transcription fees for public use does not regulate fees for privately retained court reporters. The appeals court ruled that statutory transcription rates apply to any court reporter who produces a transcript in a civil court proceeding, whether employed privately or by the court.

The case decided by the appeals court began in June 2013 when plaintiff Tara R. Burd retained Barclay Court Reporters to serve as an official court reporter pro tempore during a hearing in the Los Angeles County Superior Court. 

When Burd requested a transcript of the hearing, she paid $587, which included a $6.10 per page fee, a $250 half-day per diem, $20 for a PDF copy of transcript and exhibits, $20 for delivery and a $42 transcript production fee, according to the appeals court ruling.

Burd filed her putative class action in May the following year, alleging violation of the California's Unfair Competition Law. Barclay Court Reporters filed a motion for judgment on the pleadings, claiming that statutory transcription rates set forth in government code apply only to official reporters employed by the courts and not privately retained reporters serving pro tempore, according to the appeals court ruling.

In January 2016, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge granted Barclay Court Reporters' motion, noting that the government code in question had been enacted when the courts were fully staffed by salaried court reporters. 

The code did not anticipate that salaried court reporters would be eliminated and replaced by litigant-hired private reporters but that a plain reading of the code indicates that it covers only court reporters employed by the courts, the Los Angeles Superior Court judge ruled.

Burd appealed.

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