SB County court reporter shortage – although court reporters can earn $100,000, certification is tough

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SB County court reporter shortage – although court reporters earn $100,000, certification is tough
Photo credit: San Bernardino County

SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY – In a statement, released Nov. 2, the Superior Courts of California said 71 percent of the state’s 58 trial courts are actively recruiting for court reporters – including San Bernardino County. Although the legislature provides $30 million annually to California courts to hire additional court reporters, the certification process may be falling short.

According to the statement, in California, “only nine Certified Shorthand Reporter programs remain. In 2021, only 175 examinees took the licensing exam – and only 36 passed.” 

There are six recognized court reporting schools – including Cypress College, Downey Adult School, and Tri Community Adult Education in Covina. Tri Community Adult Education states that they offer a low-cost tuition of $3,915 estimated per year for their online programs and “real-time court reporters can make in excess of $100,000 per year.” 

In addition to the short supply of court reporting schools, California testing requirements may be creating a barrier to entry into the career.

“Most states that mandate certification have only one exam required for licensure, but California has three. All three exams regularly yield low pass rates, but far more students fail dictation—the most specialized test—than pass,” reads a statement in a 2022 California Trial Court Consortium report.

The state also does not offer reciprocity – court reporters licensed outside of California must undergo California’s licensing and examination process regardless of their experience.

The courts cite this “statutory framework for court reporting” as the cause for the decline in reporters – not funding. 

“Without changes to the current statutory framework for court reporting, all courts will face the inevitable day, already seen by a few California courts, of not having enough court reporters to cover the mandated felony criminal and juvenile dependency and delinquency cases,” reads the statement.

A 2018 Judicial Council report states that California will have a gap of approximately 2,750 court reporters by 2023 if forecasted demand remains constant.

Los Angeles County has already taken measures to respond to this shortage.

Starting Nov. 14, the court system is no longer providing court reporters for family law and probate matters. According to Service Employees International Union 721, daily, private court reporter fees can cost anywhere between $800 to $2,000 – a fee that litigants will have to pay to hire their own reporters. The court instead will prioritize felony criminal and juvenile cases, which are required by law to have reporters in the courtroom.

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