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Top Manhattan Court Reporter Sues to Get His Job Back

manhattan_courthouseA former top stenographer for Manhattan (New York) civil courts claims he was wrongly fired. And that same Manhattan court reporter sues to get his state job back. John Phelps is claiming in a new suit against the New York state court system that some of his alleged misconduct had been authorized by Manhattan’s chief clerk.


What Happened to Phelps

Phelps oversaw a team of roughly 60 people who create the official records of trials, arguments and other matters at four state courthouses, said the lawsuit, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court. Phelps’ suit against the New York State Unified Court System is seeking reinstatement of his job as a court reporter.

According to the court documents, some colleagues testified in Phelps’ defense and spoke highly of him, but other witnesses said he did little actual supervising and took home tens of thousands of dollars a year by disregarding the part of his job description that said he should only “rarely” transcribe proceedings.


What Was Said in the Courts

According to the judicial hearing decision, Phelps was chronically late, delegated much of his administrative work to a “deputy” and picked simple reporting jobs for himself. He also “borrowed” thousands of dollars from an account meant to buy gifts for judges and his staff and pleaded guilty to misdemeanor petty theft in connection with his use of that money.


“As one who has devoted over half a century to public service, it is not easy to recommend the termination of employment of another public servant,” said Joseph Fisch, a retired judge who heard the court’s case against Phelps. “But I cannot faithfully discharge my responsibility by failing to take notice of the portrait of the respondent that emerged after the evidence presented to me.”


Fisch wrote that Phelps was a “bully” who threatened to fire employees who crossed him.

Phelps argued that he had a clean record in his two decades as a court reporter, saying in his lawsuit that the court system crossed the line by firing him. He produced an email from early in his tenure as principal court reporter where John Werner, the recently retired chief clerk of the Manhattan Supreme Court Civil Term, told him it would be “no problem” for him to work with referees or take daily assignments from judges.

And Phelps also said he reimbursed the gift account or shelled out from his own pocket to buy gifts that used to be paid by the fund. He said he pleaded to petty larceny and took a sentence of 10 days’ community service and some $2,500 in restitution to avoid a felony charge. is ready to serve you in your court reporting, videography services, interpreters, live-streaming, and video-to-text synchronization.

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