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Lawmakers move court-funding bills

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In the last days of the legislative session, lawmakers addressed funding proposals in HB 1154 on converting Marion County commissioners into magistrates and using a $35 fee on traffic infractions to pay for this; SB 307 that would allow a $50 fee on Bartholomew County traffic infractions to pay for a new Superior Court there; and SB 399 on capping traffic violation fines statewide.

The House passed an amended version of SB 307 Feb. 22, but the Senate objected to amendments and sent it to conference committee for final review. The House passed SB 399 unanimously and sent it to the Senate with amendments, while HB 1154 was passed unanimously by senators and returned to the House for review.

This legislation deals with different issues but centers on how Indiana courts are funded, and highlights the topic of whether profit-driven courts should be allowed. During the House Courts and Criminal Code Committee meeting in mid-February, lawmakers voiced their concern about the Marion County practice of imposing additional fines on traffic violations, which has sparked a lawsuit that's pending in federal court. Committee chair Matt Pierce, D-Indianapolis, said he would write a letter to Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard asking for an investigation.
 

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  1. Why in the world would someone need a person to correct a transcript when a realtime court reporter could provide them with a transcript (rough draft) immediately?

  2. If the end result is to simply record the spoke word, then perhaps some day digital recording may eventually be the status quo. However, it is a shallow view to believe the professional court reporter's function is to simply report the spoken word and nothing else. There are many aspects to being a professional court reporter, and many aspects involved in producing a professional and accurate transcript. A properly trained professional steno court reporter has achieved a skill set in a field where the average dropout rate in court reporting schools across the nation is 80% due to the difficulty of mastering the necessary skills. To name just a few "extras" that a court reporter with proper training brings into a courtroom or a deposition suite; an understanding of legal procedure, technology specific to the legal profession, and an understanding of what is being said by the attorneys and litigants (which makes a huge difference in the quality of the transcript). As to contracting, or anti-contracting the argument is simple. The court reporter as governed by our ethical standards is to be the independent, unbiased individual in a deposition or courtroom setting. When one has entered into a contract with any party, insurance carrier, etc., then that reporter is no longer unbiased. I have been a court reporter for over 30 years and I echo Mr. Richardson's remarks that I too am here to serve.

  3. A competitive bid process is ethical and appropriate especially when dealing with government agencies and large corporations, but an ethical line is crossed when court reporters in Pittsburgh start charging exorbitant fees on opposing counsel. This fee shifting isn't just financially biased, it undermines the entire justice system, giving advantages to those that can afford litigation the most. It makes no sense.

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