Friday, October 12, 2001

Court reporter challenges judges

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HAMILTON — A court-reporting firm is urging four Butler County Common Pleas judges to abolish a policy allowing court personnel to transcribe court proceedings.

        Jane Fitch, president of Cincinnati-Dayton-Cleveland Stenographic Inc., wants people involved in court cases to be notified “that they should call the court reporting firm of their choice” to transcribe audio recordings of court hearings.

        During the past couple of weeks, Ms. Fitch has publicly questioned the “appearance of impropriety” under the current system, in which judges' assistants and other court employees produce transcripts for extra cash.

        She also says the personnel generally lack special training, produce lower-quality work and some may even be doing the work on county time — a practice that is supposed to be prohibited.

        Meanwhile, the county bar association's board has asked its court rules committee to look into the matter; a report is expected Nov. 1, said Lawrence Fiehrer, association president.

        Attempts to obtain comments from the four judges to whom Ms. Fitch sent her request — Michael J. Sage, Patricia Oney, Keith Spaeth and H.J. Bressler — were unsuccessful Thursday. Ms. Fitch omitted Judge Matthew Crehan, the court's administrative judge, saying he had given conflicting remarks about the issue and “his responses are no longer credible regarding this matter.”

        Judge Crehan was out of town Thursday and could not be reached for comment, court personnel said.


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