The following proposed amendments to the Jefferson County Local Rules have been tendered:
1202 Filing Depositions with the Court, CR 30.06 notwithstanding, only the cd/DVD/disc/videotape of the deposition shall be filed with the Clerk. The original hardcopy of the deposition shall be maintained by the party noticing the deposition and shall be made available to any party for inspection and/or copying. Excerpts of relevant portions of any deposition may be offered in support of and attached to any pleading with the Court.
As a certified court reporter and member of the National Court Reporters Association and the Kentucky Court Reporters Association (also TCRA, OCRA, CALDRA, INSRA, STAR), I take my role as “Guardian of the Record” very seriously. It is with that in mind that I would like to point out some potential problems that may arise from the proposed changes and offer some suggestions for solutions to the problems.
1202, Filing Depositions with the Court, CR 30.06 seeks to codify a Jefferson Circuit Court General Order that has been in place since May of 2010. Prior to that, transcripts that were filed of public record have been available for inspection and/or copying at the courthouse through the oversight of the court clerks. Parties to litigation have never been required to obtain and pay for a certified transcript directly from the court reporter who prepared it. While some of my colleagues have voiced their concerns on how this may impact how they charge for their services, I have seen no need to change my billing practices for the three-year period that the General Order has been in effect, although issues of pricing will continue to play out in a free market, subject to competition on price. For the above reasons, freelance pricing is a red herring to the bigger issue the proposed changes create.
The most prominent problem with the current General Order and the proposed changes to CR 30.06 is that the integrity of the record could be compromised when attorneys are tasked with archival of original records to be filed with the court. Custody of original transcripts and exhibits have historically been entrusted with neutral third-parties, officers of the court, i.e., court reporters and court staff. Under the proposed rule, no chain of custody or oversight is in place to ensure that records aren’t lost, altered, or destroyed by the archiving attorney or by opposing counsel when records are relinquished for copying or inspection. Continuing to entrust these records to guardians of the record, court reporters, would avoid all possibilities of wrongdoing and ensure the sanctity of the public record.
Technology is available to reduce waste and allow public access to our court records online, instead of at the courthouse. The changes proposed by CR 30.06 seek to remedy the issue of the increased space necessary to store the mounding piles of paper associated with litigation, but in doing so, the burden of this duty is now to be tasked with private attorneys. Electronic filing systems, like PACER, would remedy the space issues for the courthouse and attorneys alike, but such a system is likely cost-prohibitive for Jefferson County at the current time due to budget constraints. Court reporters have been offering E-delivery and document archive through online repositories to attorneys for a number of years. The same type of public access afforded by systems like PACER can be granted by court reporters in view-only format with technology already prevalently in use.
Given that the vast majority of cases settle prior to trial, it is wasteful and inefficient to have court reporters print these hardcopy originals, only to have attorneys store them in their expensive per-square-foot office, then have them moved to storage, and ultimately pay costs associated with shredding them. The cost and waste associated with the former filing system and the proposed rules change, along with the concerns of custody and control of public records, can be avoided by the use of technology and efficiencies already in use by freelance court reporters and court reporting firms. When original transcripts and exhibits are needed for trial, they can be printed by court reporters “on demand.” This negates the need of storing thousands of never-to-be used hardcopy originals. For the cases that ultimately result in settlement where printed transcripts are never needed, attorneys and litigants can realize savings from decreased costs of shipping, storage, and shredding of documents.
A better solution already exists by utilizing the technology offered by Jefferson County court reporters. In the alternative of adopting the proposed changes to CR 30.06, I would ask that some of the options suggested above be explored more fully with representatives of the bench, bar, the public, and the court reporting community.
Lisa Migliore Black, Migliore & Associates, Louisville Court Reporting and Video Services. All rights reserved.