East Texas wrestles with court reporter shortage

Critical field faces lack of new recruits

East Texas wrestles with court reporter shortage

TYLER, TX (KLTV) -A worker shortage in a crucial part of the legal system is hitting East Texas right now.

There is a shortage of court reporters, the people responsible for typing everything spoken in court for official record.

Court reporters are in just about every courtroom, listening to every word and recording it word for word.

Kristy Crawford is an official court reporter in Smith County.

“We use technology literally at our fingertips," Crawford said. “So, we are using an electronic machine that’s plugged into a computer and we are keyboarding every word that is being said.”

Crawford says court reporting has survived for decades, but the profession is now in a crisis. She says right now, statewide, there is a court reporter shortage of about 400 people.

“The supply exceeds demand right now. We are all aging and retiring faster than we are getting new recruits in,” said Crawford.

And that could put a strain on the justice system.

“You could have to potentially retry a case while someone is sitting in a jail cell waiting for a year or more to have their case retried because there was no accurate record provided to the court of appeals,” explains Crawford.

Kim Christopher is a veteran court reporter . She says court reporters play a vital role in East Texas’ judicial process. She adds they are often used during depositions and civil hearings.

“You have capital murder cases, you have murder cases, you have cases that you need a record," explains Christopher. "You need an actual ear,”

With the requirement of an official record made for all court proceedings, every judge needs a court reporter.

“I feel sorry for any criminal that comes to court if you do not have a court reporter. If you don’t have a court reporter preserved for you it’s your word against someone else’s word," explains Christopher.

That is why Christopher and Crawford hope to spread awareness about the opportunities within their profession by offering a free six week program to close the shortage gap.

“We want to get people, try to get people interested in going into court reporting school to fill our shoes for the future,” said Christopher.

It’s a job that makes up to six figures and does not require a four-year degree.

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Smith County Courthouse

100 N. Broadway

Tyler, Texas 75702

Contact Tandrea Baxter at (903)-312-7644 or Kim Christopher at (903) 360-4101

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