The news that California courtrooms could soon be saying good bye to in-house stenographers may have repercussions for the state’s justice system, some have argued. Steep austerity measures imposed by Governor of California Jerry Brown have meant the state’s court system has had to reduce its operating budget by $350 million (£217.2 million) this year, and one of the victims of this is the court reporter. The super-fast typing stenographer will still be a regular sight in criminal court hearings in the US, where producing a tangible transcript of proceedings is mandatory, but the Associated Press reveals that employment of full-time stenographers in civil courts could become a thing of the past. In the UK, when Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service revealed it was phasing out in-house stenographers in order to save money, it rolled out a new digital recording system as a replacement. This means transcripts of courtroom proceedings will continue to be made as standard. However, in the US it will be up to litigants to pick up the cost of hiring a court reporter to create a written record of proceedings, as employing a stenographer isn’t mandatory in civil court. The problem is, should a plaintiff wish to launch an appeal following a civil court case – such as a personal injury claim or employment lawsuit – they will need a written document of the original hearing in order to do so. As a result, the context of equal justice could be at risk, because those who can afford to hire a stenographer will have a distinct advantage over those who can’t. Jeffrey A Rudman, a personal injury lawyer based in Los Angeles, calls the situation “horrible”, telling the Associated Press it will affect anyone who sets foot in a courtroom, while Early Langley, president of the California Court Reporters Association, says the “integrity of the judicial process is at stake”. Of course, it’s not only plaintiffs who could lose out, but also the integrity of the courtroom itself. Without a transcript being made of court hearings, it will be difficult to launch and resolve a case of judicial misconduct. It just goes to show how vital the role of a transcriptionist continues to be, even in the digital era. This should come as little surprise – after all, the scribes of Ancient Egypt who were charged with keeping a tangible record of the time were so highly regarded they were members of the royal court. In the courtroom, the profession has played an integral role for generations, with Charles Dickens holding such a position as a young man. Yet times are changing and, just like in the US, stenographers in the UK are becoming a rare sight. However, here claimants are not expected to cover the cost of hiring one, with the Old Baily launching a new digital recording system in March this year. Her Majesty’s Courts and Tribunals Service estimated at the time that £5 million could be saved by replacing human court reporters with the Digital Audio Recording and Transcription and Storage (Darts) service. Luckily, it doesn’t look as though ex-courtroom reporters will have difficulty finding work. According to the BBC, one company it spoke to said it was busy sending stenographers to everything from shareholder meetings to promotional events for new movies. There will always be a place for human stenographers, but it seems that digital recording systems are becoming an equally viable option. But what do you think?