Court reporters play vital role in justice system, but local courts face a shortage

Court reporter shortage affects local cases

Courts are facing a massive shortage slowing the criminal justice system.

There is a continued shortage of court reporters affecting courts across the United States, slowing the criminal justice system. While their work is mostly unseen in the courtroom, court reporters bear perhaps the most important responsibility: preserving the official record of a court case.

In Albany County, 12 court reporters are supposed to handle cases from its 20 judges. Right now, it has just five court reporters.

Senior Court Reporters Shannon Hostash and Elizabeth Keniston are among those juggling more work in the Third Judicial District and the Fourth Judicial District, respectively.

Reporters learn what’s called a theory on their steno machine by attending a court reporting school.

“I’ll be honest, I think the biggest surprise is the amount of money we get paid,” Hostash said.

Salaries start at $75,000 for someone fresh out of court reporting school and closer to $84,000 for a starting employee. New York offers some of the highest rates nationwide.

It’s getting harder for courts to compete with freelance or remote court reporting jobs that offer flexibility.

As Supreme Court Justice Hon. Christina Ryba explained, the lack of staff is holding up court cases and sometimes delaying the resolution of cases.

“We don’t always that backup ability to have somebody right when you want to call them. We’re doing the best we can with what we have. We’re a team here at the court system, but it does impact the ability to be impromptu with a settlement or making a phone call,” she said.

In recent years, and because of growing lack of options, some courts have used recording devices in place of a real person. However, sometimes recordings glitch or miss important words, enough to reverse a case.

Reporters are tasked with taking down what each person says, with 99% accuracy. They work on civil and criminal cases.

“Trials are definitely more intense, I mean, you’re writing all day, and then you’re going home and cleaning up testimony, for readbacks, preparing for that. So it really takes a lot out of you. So I find a lot of us are starting to burn out and behind on transcripts because you can only do so much,” Keniston said.

Court reporters play vital role

You may see them in our coverage of local cases but not know the important role court reporters play.

But the record can be the reason a victim gets justice or a case is reversed.

“When I rule on an objection or when I decide whether or not certain evidence comes in at trial, if that’s reversible error, the court needs to see what the context was when I made that decision. The only way to see the context is to see the transcript of what happened and how it happened,” Judge Ryba said.

“These are people’s lives you’re dealing with. And when you look at it in that way, I think it’s very important that every word they say is in a written record for history,” Hostash said.

Feb. 3 to 10 marks the nationwide 2024 Court Reporting and Captioning Week, put on by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA), celebrating 125 years of accuracy and integrity.

If you’re interested in being a court reporter, the Third Judicial District provided the following information:

Local freelance court reporter Renee Leguire hosts a free eight-week “Steno A to Z” class each spring and fall, covering the writer keyboard and basic words on Sundays from 1:00-3:00 p.m. Contact her at to enroll in the next session, or visit Leguire Shorthand Reporters website for more details.

Additionally, the NCRA A to Z Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program offers a free online six-week introductory course, providing a glimpse into the court reporting profession.

Becoming a court reporter

There's one crucial person in every courtroom you may not hear about: court reporters.