By Teri Lynne Workman, CSR, Vice President of Public Relations, Texas Court Reporters Association
The Texas Court Reporters Association initiated Senate Bill 891, Article 7, which was signed into law by Governor Abbott and becomes effective September 1, 2019. The changes may affect you or your clients and how you do business with court reporters.
Texas Government Code Section 154.115 is amended to prohibit a court reporter or shorthand reporting firm from entering into or providing services “under any contractual agreement, written or oral, exclusive or nonexclusive, that . . . restricts an attorney’s choice in the selection of a court reporter or shorthand reporting firm.” This new prohibition is in addition to four currently prohibited contracts. Specific contractual arrangements involving court reporters or shorthand reporting firms may need to be reviewed to determine whether they are affected by this statute.
Senate Bill 891 also makes it a Class A misdemeanor for firms not registered with the Judicial Branch Certification Commission (“JBCC”) to provide court reporting services in Texas and addresses measures to alleviate the court reporter shortage, including providing for apprentice and provisional court reporters and reciprocity licensing.
The bill also modifies section 154.111 concerning grounds for disciplinary action against a court reporting firm. The previous statute prohibited “a pattern of” a firm’s giving, benefiting from, or being employed as a result of giving any gift, incentive, reward, or anything of value to attorneys, clients, or their representatives or agents, except for nominal items that do not exceed $100 in the aggregate for each recipient each year. The amended statute omits a “pattern of” and allows for disciplinary action against a firm for any gift violation. This prohibition is now the same as the one applicable to individual court reporters.
The amended section 154.111 also clarifies that a court reporter or shorthand reporting firm may not enter into a contract for court reporting services that undermines the reporter’s impartiality or gives or appears to give an advantage to any party, even in the context of services for courts, agencies, and instrumentalities of the government.