Why You Need a Court Reporter To Set the Record Straight

by Reed Smith

Court reporters—who used to be a regular presence in every courtroom in the state, preserving every word for the record—are now conspicuously absent from many California courtrooms. This change is widespread throughout California, but varies from county to county. Several of California’s largest counties, including Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Diego, no longer provide court reporters in either Civil Law & Motion or Civil Trial courtrooms. Privately arranging and paying for court reporters is now the new normal.

California’s ongoing budget woes are the primary reason for this change. In 2013 alone, the courts absorbed nearly a half-billion-dollar cut. Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye has estimated that the courts need at least $266 million just to tread water this year. The Chief Justice also outlined a Three-Year Blueprint for a Fully Functioning Judicial Branch, which does not even mention the return of reporters to the courtroom. See http://www.courts.ca.gov/partners/documents/Blueprint_Final.pdf.

The court’s inability to provide court reporters for civil litigants has serious implications for civil appeals. This is because in the Court of Appeal, there are only three “immutable” rules to remember: “first, take great care to prepare a complete record; second, if it is not in the record, it did not happen; and third, when in doubt, refer back to rules one and two.” Protect Our Water v. County of Merced, 110 Cal. App. 4th 362, 364 (2003).

Without a court reporter at your trial court proceeding, it will be extremely difficult to prepare an adequate record for appeal. And an inadequate record may be fatal to an appeal and may be grounds for dismissal. Foust v. San Jose Constr. Co., 198 Cal. App. 4th 181, 185-86 (2011) (“In numerous situations, appellate courts have refused to reach the merits of an appellant’s claims because no reporter’s transcript of a pertinent proceeding or a suitable substitute was provided.”)

In light of these circumstances, the best practice is to arrange privately for a court reporter for all trials and hearings regarding dispositive issues. If you have inadvertently failed to arrange for a private court reporter, ask for a continuance until you can get one to court, even if the hearing is routine or if you don’t expect it to result in a final order. For example, you may attend a demurrer hearing with the expectation that the demurrer will be denied or sustained with leave to amend. If the court instead sustains the demurrer without leave to amend and enters judgment in your client’s favor, that judgment is appealable. If the plaintiff appeals, you have no record of what transpired at the hearing, including if the plaintiff asked for leave to amend at the hearing.

If a hearing occurs without a court reporter, trial courts may approve a “settled statement”—a very detailed narrative summary of an oral proceeding. Cal. Rule of Court 8.137. The settled statement must describe all of the testimony that occurred—if it describes less than all of the testimony, the appellant must state the points to be raised on appeal, and the appeal is limited to those points. Id. This can be a contentious and costly process, as the other side can object to your version of events, and the trial court will have to make a decision—sometimes months after the fact, when memories have faded. In short, settled statements are no real substitute for a reporter’s transcript on appeal.

Win or lose the battle in the trial court, without a record on appeal, you risk losing the war. Thus, the burden to set the record straight falls on you.

When making arrangements for a court reporter, keep the following in mind:

  • Call the courthouse to confirm whether the county in which you are appearing provides court reporters. The availability of court reporters is changing on a monthly basis, county-by-county. Indeed, sometimes there are variations within a single county, where some departments provide court reporters and others do not. For example, on August 25, 2014, Orange County Superior Court initiated a Court Reporter Pooling Pilot Project, in which court reporters will now only be provided in certain departments and for certain matters.
  • The trial court must appoint any private court reporter you arrange as an official court reporter pro tempore. If your private court reporter is on an approved list, then this prior approval is sufficient. If your private court reporter is not pre-approved, you need a written stipulation signed by all parties, in addition to a court order of approval. A Court Reporter Directory listing approved court reporters is typically available on superior court webpages for each county. See http://www.lasuperiorcourt.org/courtreporter/pdf/CourtReporterDirectory.pdf.
  • Coordinate with opposing counsel and any other parties so that only one court reporter appears at the hearing or trial. Courts generally will not allow multiple court reporters to transcribe proceedings. And this way, the expense can be shared.
  • Once you obtain a reporter, ask him or her to consecutively paginate all trial court proceedings, so that you do not have to pay to have them re-numbered on appeal. The certified original trial transcripts can be lodged with the Court of Appeal only if the transcripts are already consecutively paginated.

Click here to view our county-by-county California Court Reporter Survey.

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Reed Smith | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Reed Smith

Reed Smith on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at info@jdsupra.com. In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at: info@jdsupra.com.

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.