County Courts Handle Court Reporter Shortage With Recordings

Columbia County, Wis., aims to solve a statewide shortage of court reporters with new audio and video recording equipment. The main goal is to prevent situations in which court could not be held due to missing personnel.

by Nicole Aimone, WiscNews / January 6, 2020
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(TNS) — Columbia County is on the shortlist for receiving updated and new audio and video recording equipment, to fill gaps as a statewide shortage of court reporters shows no signs of abating.

Circuit Court Judge Andrew Voigt said the state is working to place new video and audio recording systems in almost all courtrooms across the state within the next two to three years, to provide uniformity in systems. The recording systems will also be used to address the rising shortage of court reporters, as a large number are set to retire, with very few new reporters entering the field to replace them.

“There is a very significant percentage of court reporters in the state of Wisconsin eligible to retire in the next five years, dramatically more than are graduating from court reporting schools in Wisconsin,” said Voigt. “There is no conceivable way that the graduates could fill all of what will be open spaces.”

Columbia County has two of four courtrooms with audio and video recording systems. The state will update those two and install recording systems in the other two courtrooms, as one of the first counties in the state to receive the system, Voigt said.

The state will provide the equipment and the technology. Because the county owns the courthouse, it will be responsible for wiring or rewiring the courtrooms for installation, said David Drews, Management Information Services director.

Drews told the county’s Human Resources Committee Friday that he has received a quote for the work of about $16,000.

The state will be responsible for storing the files that are recorded in courtrooms and making them available.

Voigt said these systems will likely not be extensively used in the near future as there is still enough court reporters working in the county.

“This is a response to (an expected shortage of court reporters), because we as a court system don’t ever want to be in a position where we can’t hold court because we are missing personnel,” he said.

While the system is meant to fill gaps in the absence of a court reporter, it will not eliminate the need for someone to operate the computer system used to record, and create transcripts from the recordings nor will it eliminate all court reporter positions throughout the state.

Voigt said this person will likely be a state employee, with similar duties to a court reporter, such as ensuring the recording equipment is operating properly, the recording is clear and understandable and creating a transcript of the recording.

The county was not aware of the associated costs of this system, meaning the money needed to wire the courtrooms is not accounted for in the 2020 budget, but is needed by the time the state is ready to install the equipment which Voigt says will likely be late February or early March.

“There’s so many unknowns with this, but we don’t have a choice, by statute they can order us to do this,” said County Board Chairman Vern Gove. “We don’t know what this is going to be, but it could be a big amount.”

©2020 WiscNews Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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