In the article on the front page regarding court reporters salaries in Denton County, the claim was made that a lot of convictions have been overturned due to sloppy reporting. What do you think?
Denton County keeps court reporter salary
Denton County keeps court reporter salary
06:44 AM CDT on Wednesday, August 9, 2006
By MONTY MILLER JR. / Denton Record-Chronicle
A proposal by Denton County Judge Mary Horn to cut court reporter salaries almost in half was soundly defeated after heavy opposition at Tuesday's commissioners meeting.
Denton County court reporters earn a base salary of $80,778 a year, which puts their earnings in the top 10 percent in the country for that position. Ms. Horn's proposal would have saved the county between $348,000 and $600,000 in the coming fiscal year � a huge help in a tight budget season, she said.
"I know court reporters out there applying for much lower-paying jobs than $44,197 a year, plus benefits," Ms. Horn said. "They [Denton County court reporters] are great people. They've been dedicated employees for years. But in my opinion, they're overpaid."
Court reporters provide transcripts of the legal proceedings of county and district courts, through stenotyping and voice recordings.
Some judges and lawyers said court reporters are too valuable to the judicial process to receive lower pay than those in neighboring counties.
"Why would any competent reporter take 60 percent of what they are worth?" asked lawyer Chuck Hamilton. "I don't think you can attract or keep good employees if you pay them less than the market rate."
Commissioner Sandy Jacobs said commissioners should cut capital expenditures, not employee salaries.
"It almost looks like we're trying to punish these nine employees," Ms. Jacobs said.
Ms. Horn acknowledged legal problems with one of her proposals, which was to lay off all 15 court reporters on the county payroll and rehire them as contract workers. State law does not allow commissioners to set district court reporters' salaries; that responsibility goes to district judges.
The commissioners, however, can address the salaries for the nine court reporters in county courts, including county criminal courts, county courts at law and the probate court.
Opponents of the salary cuts cited higher turnover rates and the probability of lower-quality employees as reasons not to cut salaries.
"I've seen a lot of convictions overturned because of sloppy reporting," Mr. Hamilton said. "There's a reason the county court judges unanimously signed a memo opposing changes."
A few speakers also pointed out that many court reporters have been with the county for years � one for 27 � and that they have mortgages and lifestyles based on their salaries.
After the discussion, Ms. Horn made a motion to lower the county court reporters' pay. No one seconded it, officially killing the motion.
Ms. Horn acknowledged that she had lost but said the issue was not dead.
"My job is to save the taxpayers money," she said
"I've seen a lot of convictions overturned because of sloppy reporting," Mr. Hamilton said. Well, I have yet to see ANY conviction overturned because of sloppy reporting - especially from misdemeanor courts where there are not that many appeals anyway. I'd be interested in a follow-up article where Mt. Hamilton can provide specific information on at least 10 cases that were reversed because of "sloppy reporting." Presumably NONE of those would be from courts where reporters are paid salaries similar to the current salaries in Denton County.
I was surprised when I read the paper (I have lived in Denton County for 20 years and taken the DRC for the same time period). In 16 years in Tarrant and Collin Counties combined and handling criminal appeals exclusively, I don't recall one case reversed for sloppy reporting. Even if I have forgotten any, they can't be more than 5. It sounds like the commissioners were making press to gather interest in the proposal for electronic recording. Maybe it backfired!
I guess the need to protect against sloppy records was not the reason the county court at law judges opposed Judge Horn's proposal (unless they shared Attorney Hamilton's misconception). It has always been of some interest to me why the district judges are given the power to set the salaries of "their" employees (the auditor and reporter), but the same is not extended to any other departmental official. Of course, they are required to conduct an annual public hearing on the amount of the salaries, so I guess that is where the matter should be resolved. Would the commissioners ever have had the authority to "fire" the reporters (who are selected by the district judges without the advice and consent of anyone)?
In 11 years here in Dallas I'm aware of only 3 or 4. None due to sloppiness. There was a psycopath and there was a nervous breakdown. Now, we did have one huge fiasco involving sloppy reporting . . . but we one because of a huge team effort led by folks like Sue Korioth, Lindsey Roberts, and Libby Lange.
I think the biggest problem is sloppy storage of notes, not sloppy reporting.
I will be facing my first, not sloppy reporting, but missing record. A temp court reporter (fill-in for our permanent court reporter on vacation) says she never was in the court room for the MTS hearing (Judge, atty's believe she was there but they don't know specifically remember - they just know they would not have held a MTS hearing w/o a reporter) We are just beginning to deal with this so if anyone can help with what we should do - would appreciate it. Right now def atty, after not receiving it as part of the record, made a specific request for the MTS record and supp CR for any info regarding the setting of the MTS. So are temps better???
Is electronic recording foolproof - how do we ensure that would be any better?
I had one reversed for a partially missing record which I would count as "sloppy".
Didn't bother me too much, the perp originally got 30 but on retrial got 50. Not judicially economic, but satifying anyway.
|Powered by Social Strata|
© TDCAA, 2001. All Rights Reserved.