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Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Ind. Courts - "Can Digital Recordings Save Money for Courts? "

Maggie Clark, Stateline, explores that question in a long Sept. 4th article in Government Technology. Some quotes:

While there surely are non-fiscal benefits to digital systems, like speeding up the time it takes to certify the record, a desire to save money is the primary reason courts move away from in-person court reporters.

In 2009, Utah shifted all transcription to private transcribers and created a Web-based system where reporters could access all the audio and video files of the court proceedings online. “The impetus for this change,” wrote Utah State Court Administrator Daniel Becker in an article about Utah’s re-engineering, “was … a result of budget reductions.” Since the transition, Utah has saved more than $1.3 million, eliminated nearly 50 full-time positions and cut the time from transcript request to delivery from an average of 138 days to 12 days for cases not on appeal.

Similarly, in California, the state Legislative Analyst's Office recommended in a 2011-2012 policy brief that the state courts could save $113 million if every court used electronic court reporting. San Francisco Superior Court installed audio recording equipment to replace court reporters in misdemeanor and traffic trials earlier this year and expects to save $1.5 million in ongoing salary savings following the layoffs of 29 court reporters, said Ann Donlan, communications director for the court. * * *

Looking to follow in Kentucky’s footsteps, three courts in Indiana are participating in a yearlong pilot project to make audio tape recordings the official court record. The Indiana courts aren’t looking to cut costs, said David Remondini, chief deputy executive director of Indiana’s division of state court administration. Instead, they want to shorten the time it takes to get a transcript for an appeal, down from the current allotted time of 90 days to nearly no time at all, since the tape recording of the trial is the official record and no transcription is needed.

Remondini stresses that the pilot isn’t designed to put publicly employed court reporters out of work — quite the opposite, actually. “Since courts are under such a tight budget crunch and they’re getting more work with no more staff,” Remondini said, “even if a court reporter never typed another transcript they’d have plenty of work to do.”

Less than one month into the pilot, it’s already producing some unexpected results: in one instance, an attorney used some of the audio from parts of a trial and played it back to the jury as part of his closing arguments.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 5, 2012 07:47 PM
Posted to Indiana Courts