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Poor Californians Win Right To Court Reporters

court reporter

The California Supreme Court has ruled everyone is entitled to a court reporter in that state.

The California Supreme Court has enshrined the right to a private court reporter in civil cases, whether they can afford one or not.

Judges on the court ruled unanimously that everyone is entitled to a verbatim record of their proceeding. The ruling is a reaction to cost-cutting in San Diego County that deprived some civil litigants of the services of a court reporter.

According to Courthouse News Service:

“By precluding an indigent litigant from obtaining the attendance of an official court reporter (to which the litigant would be entitled without payment of a fee), while at the same time preserving the right of financially able litigants to obtain an officially recognized pro tempore court reporter, the challenged court policy creates the type of restriction of meaningful access to the civil judicial process that the relevant California in forma pauperis precedents and legislative policy render impermissible,” Chief Justice Tani Cantil-Sakauye wrote. “Accordingly, we conclude that the court policy in question is invalid as applied to plaintiff and other fee waiver recipients, and that an official court reporter, or other valid means to create an official verbatim record for purposes of appeal, must generally be made available to in forma pauperis litigants upon request.”

The ruling acknowledges the importance of a verbatim record from a qualified court reporter in such issues as appeals.

Michael Shipley, who argued the case before the California Supreme Court on behalf of Barry Jameson, a prison inmate who brought the suit, said, “I practice in state court all the time for nonindigent litigants and we’re all sensitive to the fact that the courts don’t have unlimited amounts of money. But the court was clear that the solution to that problem cannot exist to deny access to justice for poor litigants. Access to justice is a huge civil rights issue and we had 40 different organizations that either filed or joined amicus briefs because this issue was affecting in a negative way all kinds of people’s rights to petition the government for redress of their grievances.”