Court Reporters are Victims of the Economy

Some careers are becoming virtually extinct due to computer automation, and available online services. One of these fields that seem to be on a downswing is court reporting. Those who are looking to earn a court reporter degree should know how advanced in technology may affect your ability to get a job.

State Attorney Michael Satz and Public Defender Howard Finkelstein have agreed to stop using court reporters to transcribe depositions. They signed a stipulation July 6 to use a service provided by the private firm LawSonics that records depositions through a speakerphone and provides audio files on its Web site for a fee.

"Severe budget cuts have required both parties to look for new and innovative ways to reduce expenses without jeopardizing their core mission," the two-page stipulation said.

Finkelstein's office said it cannot predict how much money it would save but expects it to be a large amount. The new system called DepoTek cuts out a court reporter's appearance fee, makes transcripts optional and allows the admission of audio files as trial evidence to impeach witnesses.

Finkelstein's chief assistant, Steve Michaelson, said having a court reporter transcribe depositions could cost $3.85 to $6.95 a page depending on how quickly the record is needed.

Finkelstein said his office will transition over to the DepoTek system by Aug. 1. Court reporters will be an option in some situations.

Here's how the system works: all prosecutors and public defenders receive an account number and a code. An attorney can dial into the system 24/7, which records a deposition by phone for $1 a minute.

Earning your court reporter degree online can get you started in the field upon graduation. But if they economy remains slow, many people who would normally use court reporters may be looking for a less expensive alternative.

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