CCRA and COCRA are pleased to announce that we have been successful in securing language in the California budget trailer bill that protects official reporter transcript income and ends the unfair and cumbersome Word Count practice recently implemented in multiple jurisdictions.
SEIU Lobbyist Michelle Castro has confirmed that the language was approved by Legislative Leadership and inserted into the trailer bill which allows previous page-folio conversion agreements in effect as of January 1, 2012, to remain unchanged.
Newly amended Government Code 69950.
(a) The fee for transcription for original ribbon or printed copy is eighty-five cents ($0.85) for each 100 words, and for each copy purchased at the same time by the court, party, or other person purchasing the original, fifteen cents ($0.15) for each 100 words.
(b) The fee for a first copy to any court, party, or other person who does not simultaneously purchase the original shall be twenty cents ($0.20) for each 100 words, and for each additional copy, purchased at the same time, fifteen cents ($0.15) for each 100 words.
(c) Notwithstanding subdivisions (a) and (b), if a trial court had established transcription fees that were in effect on January 1, 2012 based on an estimate or assumption as to the number of words or folios on a typical transcript page, those transcription fees shall be the transcription fees for proceedings in those trial courts, and the policy or practice for determining transcription fees in those trial courts shall not be unilaterally changed.
Literally every jurisdiction in California has had a long-standing agreement between court administration and reporters for transcript payment based on the presumed number of folios (100 words) on a page based on each individual court's transcript format. Reporters were previously paid for transcripts accordingly. After AOC auditors determined this was contrary to the intent of the statute (GC 69950), many administrators launched a unilateral and widespread effort to implement Word Count as their cost-saving solution in the budget-weary court system.
The AOC Court Assistance Review Team (CART) team has actively promoted this practice to courts as a cost-cutting tool. Unfortunately, they chose to ignore the definitions of both a folio and a word set forth in the Government Code, which sparked heated debates about what constituted a word and the time-consuming export/import process involved, which resulted in a reported 30% loss of reporter income. The amendment to 69950 maintains the status quo with regard to billing practices.