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Court reporter shortage and Club Blu murder trial

Lee County Courthouse, United States

The nationwide stenographic court reporter shortage has been a topic of discussion since 2014. Building on the pandemic, backlogs and resource constraints are now impacting systems throughout the US. Many courts have recently resumed in-courtroom proceedings and are facing the challenge of maintaining sufficient stenographers for hearing coverage as the “Great Resignation” continues. In numerous instances courts are only now beginning to gain approval to utilize technology to help meet the increase in caseload juxtaposed to a decrease in stenographers available.  To add to current staffing challenges, one constant that has remained in most courts across the nation is that capital murder cases require a stenographic court reporter.  

Facing high-profile cases including the Club Blu nightclub shooting hearing, Lee County, Florida is concerned their stenographer coverage may be insufficient, and the need for one in the upcoming hearing may take priority over other cases in the district.  

The Lee County Courthouse features an electronic court recording of every criminal trial. According to the court, they have never had an issue accurately recording a court event, however, the delivery of a verbatim, real-time transcript is pertinent for everyone in the courtroom — from the Defense and Prosecution alike, to the Judge.  

Court reporting agencies themselves are feeling the pressure.   

According to a study by Strategy& of PwC, between 30% and 50% of small court reporting agencies (CRAs) in Florida are either hybrid or fully digital due to the reporter shortage. One court reporting services owner in Lee County is offering to pay for any new hire’s tuition, and there have still been no takers. 

The problem in Florida is just a glimpse into the nationwide problem.  

While larger metropolitan court districts had the resources to adjust during the pandemic, many smaller local court systems have resorted to creative means to avoid an increased backlog — working to find alternate solutions as emergency COVID rules regarding remote hearings for criminal trials are expiring.  

VIQ Solutions recently spoke with a Court Administrator in Texas about the backlog of hearings. He mentioned that he must travel to four different courthouses in the district with his one court reporter to cover cases and it is only getting more difficult as the year goes on. In Pennsylvania and Kansas, we spoke with Court Administrators that implemented remote technology to avoid a backlog of case hearings during COVID but are now struggling to find stenographers to fill demands with only one supporting four courthouses and eight judges. 

As courts implement integrated technology to streamline workflows, enhance productivity and improve accessibility of information, VIQ is providing end-to-end innovative court solutions. High-quality digital recording, cloud-sharing for better collaboration, automated drafts, and real-time transcription improve court professionals’ productivity and drive more expeditious proceedings.   

VIQ Solutions has end-to-end technology and services to help create the modern courtroom and optimize court workflows.  

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