Editor's Note: Tod Newcombe's December cover story, "Integrated Justice: The Burden of Proof," elicited a flurry of letters from readers. While many readers liked the article and asked for permission to reprint it, a number of court reporters took issue with the idea that public ownership of court transcripts is desirable to facilitate open access, and that the current system of transcript ownership by court reporters is a hindrance to fully integrated justice records. The article was the first of three, with the second running in February and the third slated for April. Readers may send comments and ideas to Maria Fusilero, managing editor.
Tod Newcombe's article on integrated justice systems [December] starts out with the wrong premise by trying to explain why "technology has failed to integrate our judicial institutions." The article states that the centralized approach to integration is "out of date" and touts client-server as the only way to go.
I work with one of the few integrated justice systems in the nation. The roadblocks to integration of these justice-dispensing departments have to do with how the departments view their role in the system. The technology has been in place for integrated justice systems to thrive for well over a decade and has been in place in a select few California counties for that long (yes, centralized on IBM mainframes running CICS on CA-DATACOM databases); "all" it takes is the collective will of the justice players to make it work. Once the power-brokers in the departments understand that their political and personal ambitions are enhanced by such systems, an integrated justice system is the only thing that makes sense.
If it can work here, it can work anywhere. Don't focus your article on the technology (it's been done and works just fine); focus on the political pitfalls.
Such integration is no different, in a sense, from the integration of various departments within a business. Each department creates and passes on to the next the data necessary to identify the customer and/or product and complete the transaction.
Patrick J. O'Meara
Business System Analyst
San Mateo County, Calif.
What a way to start a new year, reading an article authored by Tod Newcombe fraught with misinformation about the field of court reporting.
Let me apprise you that I was not hired to "prepare transcript." I was hired to make a verbatim record of court proceedings. Regardless of what method you may think is superior to shorthand reporting, it still will require post-hearing preparation of a hard copy of the proceedings, be it video, audio tape recording or steno mask. No appeals court would be willing to let attorneys submit video or audio tapes as the record.
Evidently you are under the assumption that I just push a button and out comes a hard copy of transcript.
The compensation many times does not make up for the hours of sleep, weekends and evenings with my family lost while I labor under a deadline to prepare a hard copy of court proceedings.
Are you aware, also, that while I may collect a paycheck from the court to record court proceedings, I must supply everything save for a desk and a chair? I have my own personal phone line installed in a government building. I provide all my own paper, computer, printer and every sundry item necessary to run an office, from paper clips to Kleenex.
At the end of the year, when I minus my expenses from my transcript earnings and then pay taxes, my net profit is almost laughable.
Please don't compare me to one or two aberrations in the field. That would be like comparing every attorney to Johnnie Cochran or every doctor to the multimillion-dollar-earning plastic