A shortage of court reporters across Texas is being felt in Rio Grande Valley’s courtrooms and could bring trials to a stall.
Although some courtrooms have juries and others don’t, every courtroom must have a judge and a court reporter.
Gabriela Silva is the court reporter for the 389th District Court. She said her job isn’t easy.
“The job of a court reporter entails sitting in court hearings, (and) in trials before the judge or trials before a jury and typing every work that is spoken,” she said.
Silva said capturing everything said in the courtroom is vital.
“Whenever juries go back to deliberate, if they disagree on a specific point about what a witness said, they can come back and ask the reporter to read back something that was said,” she said. “Nothing would happen in this courtroom if there was no court reporter present.”
Silva said without a court reporter, the judicial process could come to a grinding halt.
“No court hearing could take place. No jury trials could take place,” she said. “There wouldn’t be anybody to sit here and listen to the things that are said.”
Silva said Hidalgo County’s courtrooms are also feeling the court reporters shortage.
“The work load definitely increases. It’s definitely a lot harder to take time off to find people, who are certified, who have the education and have that license, to come in and take down everything that’s being said,” she said.
332nd District Court’s Court Reporter Regina Vasquez said there could be a couple of reasons for the shortage.
“To become a reporter, we do have to pass a three-part test, exam, an oral exam and a written exam. And we are required to write at 225 words a minute, at 95 percent accuracy,” she explained.
Vasquez added it’s hard to find local talent and keep them in the Valley.
“Our local schools and universities don’t provide a court reporter curriculum. The closes school we have right now would be Corpus Christi, San Antonio and Houston,” she said.
Vasquez said once students leave the Valley, it’s hard to get them to come back.
“You have those job opportunities in the bigger cities and, often times, the reports will just stay up there,” she said. “But we do have plenty of work down here in the Valley.”
Hidalgo County currently has two openings for court reporters. Silva said she is ready to have some help at a job that is unlike any other.
“We really take our responsibilities seriously, and we’re all passionate about what we do,” she said.
For now, Silva said she and her fellow court reports will do their best to deal with the shortage.
The Texas Court Reporters Association said there will be more than 5,000 positions to fill over the next five years across the state.