Fed Up Parents Secretly Record Hearings To Catch Court Reporters Altering Transcripts
Santa Clara County Family Courts have experienced an unprecedented number of complaints about court reporters and transcripts in the county's divorce and custody cases.
Court reporters in the county are reportedly changing transcripts and refusing to provide transcripts, causing massive delays and violations of due process of law. Delays leave many litigants without the ability to appeal orders related to their children, their property, their income and support. The Sixth District Court of Appeal representatives have admitted being aware of this problem for years.
Lisa Herrick, the court's General Counsel, may have been getting kickbacks from court reporters, who are often paid cash and other unreported income by the large law firms and unscrupulous lawyers in the area where a flow of less than historical transcripts are always assured.
Herrick came to the county from a law firm known for excessive billing practices, which included overcharging clients for transcripts. Firms like McManis and Falkner and Hoge Fenton have been getting rich on such practices for decades, and lawyers like Valerie Houghton and Lisa Herrick come from such firms.
Complaints to John Chase, the public integrity prosecutor in the Clara County DA's office have been ignored where court reporters, judges and lawyers are concerned.
The county is overtly blaming budget problems for delays in obtaining court transcripts, but insiders report that court reporter Stephanie Estes, the reporter who acted for years with Judge Grilli , and who has thousands of dollars in tax liability herself, is exhorting judges and court employees as she loses her grip on income and courts move to electronic recording, which would eliminate jobs for Estes and other court reporters.
Not all counties offer litigants court reporters. In counties such as Sacramento , Santa Clara and Contra Costa, getting a transcript of a hearing is not a certainty , making appeals of court orders nearly impossible. In Santa Clara litigants are charged $90 for every motion they file, and $30 of that goes to pay a court reporter to cover the hearing. Court reporters then make additional income by charging anyone requesting transcripts, as independent contractors . The "hybrid" of court reporters being able to act as both court employees and independent contractors is prohibited in all other public and private areas of employment in California .
Transcripts aren't cheap either. Court reporters can charge as much as $300 for a law and motion transcript and $1000 for a full day trial . Adding expedited fees for their services and court reporters can double the cost of litigation on the simplest matter, effectively giving a small but powerful lobby a blank check .
Santa Clara, the state's flagship of family law cases, appears to now be showing the Judicial Council , and state legislators, why relying on nearly 6000 individual court reporters to keep the historical records of the state's legal system is a bad idea.
"Humans can alter transcripts, steal money and delay delivery of transcripts to harm people in the court," , a retired court reporter noted. "Even though the Business and Professions Code supposedly prevents this conduct, it goes on every day as sort of a Quid Pro Quo, to benefit certain judges and lawyers."
Court insiders admit : Video cameras would show everyone what is really going on in All family law cases, and for that reason, judges and court managers resist moving to electronic recording.
Electronic recording , recommended for years by the state legislature, is also resisted by bad judges who don't want the public to see what is really going on in California's family courts. Analogous to cameras in the classroom, judges use "privacy " issues and scare tactics to continue to operate courts in secret.
The problems in Santa Clara with court reporters may be a game changer.
Complaints are reported to be reaching epidemic levels and the county has uncovered that court reporters have been overcharging for transcripts and acting in a manner that may have tainted thousands of divorce and custody matters.
The county recently eliminated court reporters in civil and probate court, but continues to delay transcripts and attempt to manage court reporters who are holding litigants hostage and using exhortation in an effort to keep their jobs.
Q has obtained a copy of the court reporter contact information, after the county had consistently experienced consistent delays in transcript deliveries. Court reporters were also found to be improperly using Gmail accounts and court staff for what appears to be an " enterprise"
Recently , after investigators started asking questions. court reporters were forced to stop using private email accounts to charge for transcripts, which kept charges off radar from the IRS. Court reporters are now being told to use court assigned email accounts where communications with the public and taxable income are more transparent. .
An exhaustive investigation has found:
Ms Estes, a veteran court reporter from Judge Mary Ann Grilli's court , appears to be ground zero for the court reporter controversy. Lawyers and litigants have indicated Ms Estes may have been altering transcripts , or delaying them , to cover up for Judge Grilli's dementia and incompetence. .
Court Reporter Kris Tressider may have been misusing a private Gmail. where Judges like James Towery appear to be misusing court reporting services and intervening with private transactions related to transcripts produced in his court. . Reports also indicate that Judge Towery regularly instructed his court reporter to delay and alter transcripts, in order to avoid discipline by the Commission on Judicial Performance and reduce the likelihood of being appealed. .
Judge Grilli, who was forced into retirement earlier this year, acted for a brief time in probate courts, where Santa Clara County was known to be engaging in massive violations of due process while managing the estates of Santa Clara County residents. A case involving Danny Reed, a disabled man , showed how corrupt the county's probate courts actually were while Mary Ann Grilli set the tone for these courts.
The court reporter controversy has also been linked to federal crimes , which is currently under investigation with the FBI , and which is connected to a recent investigation conducted by Santa Clara County's Grand Jury,
The Grand Jury found Santa Clara had the worst performance of 49 counties where criminal matters related to felonies are concerned. An investigation is now underway to evaluate the court reporters role in that dismal performance. .
If you believe you have been overcharged for a transcript , or suffered because of overbilling and price gouging where your transcripts are concerned, email us !