SAN ANTONIO - At a time when litigation is increasing, the number of professionals tasked with documenting court proceedings is shrinking, local members of the court reporter profession say.
"They projected about 5,500 job openings within the next five years, and we're already feeling that shortage," court reporter, Erminia Uviedo, said.
Uviedo said the shortage reflects a national trend.
Court reporters use stenography machines, which generate a written record of court proceedings, from testimony in high-profile cases to simple hearings.
"Without a record, we have nothing to establish what went on in that courtroom," District Judge Kevin O'Connell said. "It's actually as if it never happened at all."
The job is complex, but rewarding, veteran court reporter Tonya Thompson says.
Two years of training and a unique method of typing is required. Court reporters normally write 200-280 words per minute.
"You're literally learning a language with your hands. It's phonetic," Thompson said. "I can write a phrase with one stroke, like a chord on a piano."
Thompson said fears of voice-recognition technology replacing court reporters are unfounded.
"The English language is so complex, that it takes a human to be able to know whether it is affect or effect, for example," she said. "And we do that at the speed of sound."
Thompson said that the shortage could not come at a worse time.
"There's so much litigation, and there are so few bodies to handle that," Thompson said.
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