ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) -- There is a growing shortage in St. Louis area courtrooms that could have judges and attorneys delaying or even redoing court proceedings.
The problem: The need for more court reporters.
The Civil Courthouse in downtown St. Louis has dozens of court cases on the docket daily.
Jennifer Dunn is an official court reporter for the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court. She has written several transcripts for big cases including former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens trial, the Johnson and Johnson case and hundreds of murder cases.
“It is the responsibly of taking every word spoken in a legal proceeding down verbatim,” said Dunn.
Dunn uses a stenography machine, creating word-for-word transcripts-at least 225 words a minute. She’s been a court reporter for 25 years.
Without Dunn and other court reporters, there would be no official record of what went on in court.
“We definitely have a shortage not only locally, but nation-wide,” said Dunn. “It’s the uniqueness of the profession, I think a lot of people don’t know a lot about what we do as a court reporter.”
Recently, some schools stopped offering court-reporting programs.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics found that in 2016, more than 17,000 people were working as court reporters in the U.S. That number dropped to 18 percent as of May 2018, to about 14,500.
“So the record is really, really important,” said Cindy Taylor, a St. Charles County court reporter. “Especially for the people appealing their they need their transcripts, they need their transcript for whatever purpose. If it’s not there, it’s not there. So a reporter to be there is essential.”
The need is so dire, St. Charles Community College will offer a court reporter program in August. The college's program is a 22-month high-demand class where instructors prepare students to take the Missouri state court reporter certification test.
Dunn and Taylor tell News 4 judges and attorneys are able to see real-time transcripts as the court proceedings are going on with the stenotype machine.
Nationally, some courts have tried to deal with the court reporter shortage using other methods including digital recordings, but quickly learned they didn’t give an accurate record.
Taylor says the challenge comes as many current court reporters are set to retire soon and there aren’t any applicants to fill spots.
Currently at the 22nd Judicial Circuit Court there are three openings, with very few people applying.