Know Your Local Rules: Court Reporters in Contra Costa County

Don’t be caught unawares by Contra Costa County local rule 24 requiring a stipulation as to the selection of the court reporter when you are bringing your own court reporter to court.

According to local rule 24 (b), titled “Unavailability of Court Provided Court Reporters and Procurement of Outside Private Reporters”, the Contra Costa County Superior Court does not provide court reporters for unlimited and limited civil, family law, and probate cases. “For contested matters, the parties must timely meet and confer as to the selection of a qualified court reporter and provide a written stipulation, on the court-provided form, in compliance with Government Code 70044.”

For additional insight as well as links to the rule and associated documents, read Contra Costa Superior Court Judge Flinn’s article below. This article was originally published in the Contra Costa Lawyer magazine, here:

“BYOCR” (Bring Your Own Court Reporter)

by Hon. David B. Flinn

Perhaps the single most significant effect of the statewide reductions to court budgets, as they apply to civil, family and probate cases, is the inability of the courts to continue to maintain a court reporter staff for those categories of cases.

As the need of a record of proceedings in many types of matters is, of course, important, the obvious step is to allow the parties to provide their own reporters. That would appear simple until one reviews the statutory provisions regarding court reporters and considers the need that when the court certifies a record to a higher court the applicable provisions must be regarded. It thus became necessary for our civil, family and probate judges to formulate a process that allows for a ”certifiable” record.

Using extensive work done by the Los Angeles Superior Court on the topic, our judges have put together a protocol that hopefully will accommodate all concerned. Our plan is based upon the expectation that for the vast majority of cases needing court reporting, the parties will stipulate as to the selection of the reporter. Things will work most smoothly if, based upon civility, a party asked to stipulate will do so absent a bona fide reason for not doing so.

The specific provisions for reporting by stipulation are contained on the court’s website.[1] From the home page, scroll to “Information and Notices” in the middle of the page and click on the link “Use of Private Court Reporters.” The link “Protocols” on that page will give you a 13-page explanation of the issues and requirements. There is also a link for Local Rule 24, which covers court reporting.[2]

In a nutshell, the provisions of the Government Code are such that by far the easiest approach is for the parties to a hearing or trial to stipulate as to the selection of a qualified reporter. New form CV-310 is used and includes an agreement by the reporter to meet the court’s requirements.[3] Reporters should be capable of providing “Livenote” and tying into the judges’ bench computers either by a Wi-Fi remote connection or cable connection. This is especially important as it assists the court in reviewing oral proceedings and therefore being able to more quickly render decisions that are important to the clients.

Reporters will also be provided a welcome packet and must become familiar with the court’s process for timely uploading the raw stenographic notes into the court’s ACORN storage site for safe storage and future reference.

As it is important that our court avoid favoritism, we do not make recommendations on reporters to be used for private reporting.

The court will protect parties who desire reporting and cannot obtain a stipulation from their opponent, although so far our experience has been that this is a rare occurrence. Due to the Government Code provisions, a reporter must then be chosen from the list of reporters that have been vetted and approved by the bench. Making these selection arrangements can be time consuming and may result in a delay of the proceedings.

Where matters might take several days, we require that a single reporter is used. Good cause will be required to obtain permission for an exception. All financial obligations lie with the parties—there is no court reimbursement even in cases where one party has obtained a fee waiver. Stipulating parties should therefore be clear on their interparty arrangements at the outset.

The judges very much appreciate the cooperation that we have received from the bar in undertaking this substantial change in our normal proceedings. We look forward, with you, to better budget times which would allow us to reinstate court-provided reporting in all judicial proceedings.