There have been so many changes in recent years in the California civil courtrooms with the availability of a court reporter. Although some of the courtrooms do provide court reporters for hearings of less than two hours, many require the attorneys to hire an outside court reporter for the longer hearings or for trial. We find that most of our civil clients do want to have their trials reported, and this can sometimes be a challenge if they are not booked well in advance. As background, many reporters will not work in court and many are not yet approved so there is a limited number of reporters available.
Tip No. 1
Call early to book and provide the reporter/firm with the courtroom, judge’s name, and the names of all the attorneys involved.
Once you have a date for your trial, call your trusted reporting firm or contact a reporter on the list of approved reporters. Most counties do have a list on the Superior Court website, but they can be dated where some of the reporters listed are no longer in the area or no longer available for handling trials.
We all know that most trials settle. That being said, if it does not, you do not want to be scrambling at the last minute to find a reporter who can handle the case for, say, the next two weeks. Most reporters are booked days or weeks ahead, and a last-minute call for a two-week trial may not be doable.
Once you have booked the reporter, I suggest you provide the reporter/firm with the full case caption, the department and judge’s information, and a list of all the parties/attorneys involved.
For the reporter/firm to be prepared, some judges require realtime and others do not. Most reporters/firms that work in those courtrooms on a regular basis know what the judge expects. This information at the time of booking allows the firm to best match the reporter(s) to the trial.
There are financial considerations, and knowing the parties and attorneys involved will help put things in place. For instance, are the parties splitting the cost of the court reporter? Most of the time when we ask this question, it has not yet been discussed. This is something that is best decided before the beginning of trial so appropriate funds can be deposited with the court reporter.
Tip No. 2
Decide if you will need a realtime feed and/or roughs. And if so, who else on your team will need them as well?
Receiving a realtime feed from the reporter or getting emailed a rough at the end of the day can be a great tool in trial for litigators. By booking your trial early, the reporter/firm can reach out in advance and determine the needs of not only your office but opposing counsel. For instance, for realtime, some attorneys may prefer to use their own laptop while others would like the reporter to bring an iPad or laptop for them. For roughs, some of the members of the litigation team may also need a copy of the rough that is being sent out at the end of the day. Email addresses can be collected ahead of time. These things can be worked out well in advance so everyone is prepared. I know as a reporter there is nothing worse than interrupting a busy litigator to ask these questions during trial.
Tip No. 3
Let the reporter/firm know if you anticipate needing dailies during trial.
If you think you may need dailies during a trial, letting your reporter/firm know ahead of time is a must. We know this may change as the trial proceeds, but having a heads-up that it is a possibility can make a difference. The reason being is that depending on the length of the trial, the subject matter, et cetera, having dailies ordered during trial may require a second reporter or additional scoping assistance for the assigned reporter.
Tip No. 4
Decide if it is necessary to have jury voir dire reported or not. If so, would you need it with or without realtime?
Jury voir dire is one of the toughest assignments for a reporter and is rarely ordered in an appeal, but it can be very important to have it reported. This is just another area where it is helpful for the reporter/firm to know before the day of trial.
Tip No. 5
Provide the reporter with some preparation material, such as witness and exhibit lists.
Reporters who report trials really appreciate the opportunity to review motions, case citations, word indexes, et cetera. If you are using a trusted reporting firm and they have reported some of the depositions, those can also be easily shared as well with the reporter assigned to the trial. If the reporter has this type of information, it is helpful in building the reporter’s job dictionary for the trial. What that means for the judge and attorneys is that as the reporter sends a realtime feed, the transcript is cleaner and easier to read. If the reporter is preparing dailies, this also allows the reporter to produce the final transcript in a more expeditious fashion.
In closing, so many times reporting firms are called the Friday before trial when it becomes apparent a case is not going to settle. Although your trusted reporting firm, I assure you, will move heaven and earth to cover the trial, it would be less stressful for all concerned to have booked much earlier and to have provided all the information necessary. And you would hate to not be able to find an available reporter or for that reporter to not be able to provide what you need during trial. If the case ends up settling the Friday before trial, so be it. In the legal world, we are all very accustomed to the fluidity of our calendars.
If you are heading to trial and need video clips, you may want to read Video Deposition Clips at Trial: California Code of Civil Procedure 2025.340(m) & 2025.620.
(I do want to thank and acknowledge Shelly Hunter of Hunter + Geist and Jim Connor of Connor Reporting who contributed on this subject during a presentation to a group of paralegals earlier this year.)