An Open Letter to Arnold Schwarzenegger

Dear Governor Schwarzenegger:

I have been a deposition reporter for the past 6 years, during which time the Court Reporters Board, as it exists today, has been a valuable and integral player in the success of my court reporting career. Below are a few of the reasons why I urge your support of SB 229.

First and foremost, the CRB is self-supporting and no funding from the State is expended to perform its operations. There would be no cost savings to the state from eliminating the board as proposed by the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA), actually it will cost the State money if the CRB was eliminated. Established in 1951 by the Legislature to protect consumers from incompetent practitioners, the Certified Shorthand Reporters Board, now known as the Court Reporters Board of California (CRB), regulates the court reporting profession through testing, licensing, and disciplining court reporters. One of the functions of the CRB is to provide checks and balances to the industry.

The CRB has the authority to suspend, revoke, deny, or impose any other disciplinary action against a court reporter in the case of fraud, dishonesty, corruption, willful violation of duty, gross negligence or incompetence in practice, or unprofessional conduct in or directly related to the practice of shorthand reporting. In addition to having oversight over Certified Shorthand Reporters (CSRs), the CRB is responsible for the oversight of court reporting schools. Although the Board “recognizes” schools, there is no statutory authority for licensure. Even so, only court reporting schools recognized by the Board can certify students to qualify for the CSR examination.

The Board can also issue citations, and fine schools not in compliance with Board rules. Furthermore, the freelancers, as well as, the court officials heavily depend upon CRB’s role in licensure. Small firm owners depend upon the CRB certifying entry-level skills, as do court administrators. In the sunset review process, firm owners wrote letters describing the potential hardship if they would have to certify from scratch or conduct their own testing. This is just one more reason why it is so important to the court reporting industry to maintain the CRB’s status.

As you are aware, court reporters are an integral part of the California justice system, both civil and criminal. Reporters are unique, as are all industries, but the nature of their work affects such basic constitutional rights as due process. An accurate written record of who said what in court is essential if the outcome of judicial proceeding is to be accepted by the litigants and the public as non-arbitrary, fair, and credible. Because of the technical and legal aspects to our work, CSRs require industry input and oversight. SB 229 does this by extending the sunset of the CRB. Industry input to decision making would be eliminated or diminished.

The loss of industry expertise reduces the effectiveness of policy decisions. The structure of a centralized agency would require staff to be proficient in processing licensing and enforcement programs in multiple professions, eliminating expertise, and diminishing customer service. Moreover, how would the public have input into the Board’s regulatory processes if the Board’s public members were eliminated (along with the whole Board) and if decisions could be made without complying with open meeting laws that govern boards? Public access to the regulatory process could be eliminated and will be diminished.

If a Bureau were set-up the Secretary would not be obligated to meet with the public and industry representatives and could change policy or redirect operational resources as deemed necessary. The CRB currently has three public members who protect the interest of the consumer; the bureau would have none. The CRB must also conform to the requirements Open Meetings Act, allowing public input prior to policy decision-making; a bureau does not have to comply with the Open Meetings Act.

Also at stake, should you choose to veto SB 229, is the continuation of the Transcript Reimbursement Fund (TRF). The TRF was established by the legislature in 1981 and is funded through the CSRs annual license renewal fees. The purpose of the TRF is to provide transcript reimbursement costs to indigent litigants. Since its inception in 1981, the TRF has provided over $6 million dollars to indigent litigants. SB 229, extends the sunset of the TRF, which sunset on July 1, 2005 and is set to be repealed July 1, 2006. If the TRF is not extended, this fund will disappear, taking away the ability of those less fortunate to afford justice.

Governor Schwarzenegger, I would urge your support of SB 229.

Sincerely, Todd Olivas, CSR 12237
Thursday, May 24, 2007

Todd Olivas

Todd Olivas is a court reporter and entrepreneur.
He founded TO&A in 2003.

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