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Boulder County in Colorado Feeling Impact of Court Reporter Layoffs

Posted on: February 15th, 2021 by Sfl Media No Comments

CourtScribes is reporting that after the 20th Judicial District laid off its court reporting staff due to budget constraints, attorneys in Boulder County, Colorado are trying to adjust to not having appointed employees creating a record during hearings and trials.

When the pandemic hit in March and led to budget chaos for the state, Boulder County court reporters knew there was a chance some of them could be impacted.

Unfortunately, that is what ended up happening as the 20th Judicial District laid off all of its court reporters.

Officials with the 20th Judicial District said they could not comment on the decision as it related to internal employee matters.

“I think Boulder made the decision that they thought was best for the district,” Kim Ritter said. “COVID has hit everybody really, really hard. It was scary for all of us, because we had been there for so long. When you get laid off it’s hard. And its scary because you don’t know what’s next.”

But understanding the decision did not make it any easier. Ritter has been a court reporter in Boulder County for 20 years full time and more than that if you count her time as a substitute court reporter to start her career.

The Effects are Everywhere

In addition to the hardships faced by the court reporters who got laid off, the decision has also affected the courts and attorneys.

“The impact of cutting court reports has been significant,” Boulder District Attorney Michael Dougherty said. “The court reporters are incredibly important, highly skilled people who do the difficult job of taking down every single word spoken in court.”

Without reporters, judges and attorneys were suddenly relying on a recording device to transcribe court proceedings. And it has been an adjustment.

Attorneys said the recording device has not been as effective in picking up sound from every part of the courtroom and sometimes does not catch what every witness is saying, especially with witnesses now wearing masks into court and some hearings taking place over spotty video feeds.

There have even been points when in a particular trial they went a half-day without realizing the recording device had malfunctioned.

 

The Importance of Having a Court Reporter

Recognizing the importance of having a court reporter for serious cases, some have looked into bringing in freelance reporters, and hired one for the Isaiah Rios trial, the one murder case that took place during the brief period when Boulder resumed trials in fall 2020.

In fact, the 20th Judicial District has now issued court orders helping regulate the use of freelance court reporters.

Freelancers can charge their own rates, which means using one is expensive. In the Rios case, the freelancer charged $600 a day, and the DA’s Office ended up paying $15,000 for the full trial.

Dougherty noted Boulder County currently has 40 serious cases that would warrant hiring a freelance court reporter set to go once court resumes.

As for the reporters themselves, Ritter said most court reporters were already doing freelance work.

“I took some weeks to kind of process everything, but I have been very blessed and have been able to work,” Ritter said. “As court reporters, most of us have two careers, one as official for the state of Colorado, the other as a freelancer doing depositions.”

Added Ritter, “You form friendships, and it’s a lot of very professional people that you highly respect and you enjoy working with.

“We’re very appreciative for the time that we had in Boulder, it was a great district to work in,” Ritter said. “Sadly, COVID has wreaked havoc on millions of peoples lives. Luckily for us, I think it worked out, and we’re in a good place.”

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