Court reporters speaking up against proposed budget cuts
Posted May 29, 2013
Updated May 30, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — Veteran court reporter Jenny Carroll is one of 104 statewide.
“We are the voice in the courtroom of protecting the record,” she said. “We are guardians of the record.”
Court reporters have long been silent partners in the justice system, but they are speaking up in the hopes their voices will be heard by state lawmakers seeking to make cuts.
The Senate’s proposed budget would cut the number of court reporters in half and supplement the service with private contractors and audio recording devices, saving about $1 million.
But opponents are concerned about using electronic recording devices in the courtroom because transcripts can be riddled with inaccuracies. One transcript, for example, had 148 places where the sound was inaudible.
“Without the court reporter, we can't go forward,” Wake County District Attorney Colon Willoughby said.
Attorneys believe poor transcripts could inhibit their ability to handle cases properly.
“In an extreme case, you're going to end up with a new trial,” defense attorney Mike Reece said. “It seems like an appealing short-term savings, but I think in the long term, it will cost a lot more.”
Willoughby said court reporters can read back testimony at any time, and they offer a level of quality that machines cannot.
“I think that's what we will miss if we move to a mechanical system,” he said, adding that private contractors won’t know the court system as well and may not be as professional as state employess.
Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover County, is co-chair of the Appropriations for Justice and Public Safety Committee. He’s also an attorney.
“I met with two of my local court reporters this morning and heard their concerns,” he said.
Goolsby says when it comes to the budget for next fiscal year, nothing is set in stone.
“The House is going to address it, we'll re-address it in conference back in the Senate, but we're happy to look into this,” he said.