Constitutional Law

ABA amicus brief backs free court reporter for indigent litigant

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The ABA has filed an amicus brief opposing a court policy that prevented an indigent civil litigant from obtaining a free court reporter.

The ABA filed the brief with the California Supreme Court last Wednesday, according to a press release.

The policy impedes access to courts and “raises equal protection and due process concerns,” the brief says. “When important interests are at stake in judicial proceedings,” the brief (PDF) says, “the state and federal constitutions require more than a theoretical right of access to the courts; they require meaningful access.”

The ABA filed the brief in the case of prisoner Barry Jameson, who represented himself at a San Diego trial in a medical negligence case against a California prison doctor. His case was dismissed after opening statements, and he was unable to appeal because he had no transcript of the proceeding.

The San Diego superior court adopted a policy in 2013 that it will no longer provide court reporters in civil matters, even for litigants who have qualified for a fee waiver.

“The ABA respects the budgetary challenges facing state courts, and the difficult decisions in determining where and to save money,” the brief says. “By scaling back essential services like court reporters and placing the economic burden on litigants, state courts merely shift the financial burden to a population that is unable to bear it, and impede those litigants’ access to the courts.”

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