AUSTIN (KXAN) – Angela Hailey has been a court reporter for over 20 years. She works as an official court reporter in the U.S. District Court in the Austin and San Antonio divisions but got her start as a freelance court reporter.
Not only does she say the profession is enjoyable, interesting and lucrative, but vital to court proceedings.
“It’s very important,” she said. “Everything that is said, we take it down verbatim – word for word – and so that transcript is what is kept and what is referred back to days, months, years from now,” Hailey said. “I have loved it from the first day I started.”
Despite Hailey’s positive assessment of the career, fewer and fewer people have been choosing the job in recent years, which has led to a court reporter shortage that has affected courts in Texas and around the U.S. Though many more are still needed in the state to help courts run smoothly, Texas officials are saying the situation is improving.
Fewer people selecting the profession has led to some closures of court-reporting schools over the last several years. The Mark Kislingbury Academy of Court Reporting said they have been “lucky” that their enrollment numbers have stayed consistent. Josh Hill, the Assistant Director at the school, said he is aware of other schools in Texas that have shut their doors because there wasn’t enough interest in the education.
“We are lucky that people are continuing to choose Mark Kislingbury Academy of Court Reporting for court reporting school,” Hill said.
Gale Fiasco, President of the Texas Court Reporters Association, said that while she heard of one program closing in the last five years, her organization has been industrious in recruiting more people to become stenographers.
“We’ve done a lot of hard work and getting people in school. And it’s showing,” Fiasco said. “The numbers are going up.”
Still, regional Texas cities struggle to recruit and retain the necessary number of court reporters required. In those areas, Fiasco said they often see delays in depositions and hearings.
Hailey, the Central Texas official court reporter, said that while the situation is improving, some aspects of her job are made more challenging by reduced numbers.
“It’s really difficult to find that kind of coverage. So we try to take really good care of ourselves, try not to use those sick days unless we absolutely need them,” Hailey said.
“If we can’t find a freelance reporter to come in and cover, then that means maybe, you know, the case may be rescheduled,” she continued.
Some further assistance getting looked at this legislative session
Fiasco said that House Bill 2388, filed by State Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, would make it easier for a Texas Certified Court Reporter to work out of state remotely.
“If you are a Texas CSR that lives in New York, California or Oklahoma, you can’t take any jobs in Texas. You have to be in the state of Texas to be able to report these depositions. So we’re asking the legislators to ease that,” Fiasco said.
If the bill passes, Fiasco said that a stenographer with the relevant qualifications out of the state could keep taking jobs that help the court system to keep running on time.
“We think that will help us because we do have a lot of reporters that are outside of [the state] or had to move for one reason or another,” she said.
A sometimes overlooked profession
Hailey is proud of her job. She thinks the profession should get the same recognition as other career choices.
“I would love to see at some point, maybe a School of Court Reporting at UT [Austin],” she said. “I think [to] just have the exposure – I think more people would see it and consider it.”
“I wish more people knew about this profession,” Hailey said. “It exposes you to just about every career out there because of all these different cases that come in…you just learn so much about every different area of work.”