By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer
WEST CHESTER TWP. - A West Chester businesswoman is being recognized for successfully pushing for changes in Butler County's court-reporting system.
Jane Fitch, 38, president of Fitch Reporting Inc., is to receive an award today from the Ohio Court Reporters Association at its annual conference at a Cleveland-area hotel.
Fitch won the Martin Fincun Award, the association said, "in recognition of a single, but outstanding, contribution to diligently promoting the goals of our profession and our professional association."
After Fitch repeatedly raised concerns about Butler County Common Pleas Court's system for recording testimony in criminal cases, the courts began using live court reporters in mid-2002. The court has become more efficient as a result, Judge H.J. Bressler has said, and plans to expand the program.
"The court has hired very highly qualified individuals with impeccable reputations," Fitch said. "The reporters who work in Common Pleas Court are highly skilled professionals who know how to protect the record." Fitch, however, would like to see more changes in Butler County, because she says other courts still lack qualified reporters.
In late 2001, Fitch had raised concerns about the limitations of the Common Pleas Court's audio-recording system - and the personnel who listened to the recorded compact discs and transcribed them.
Fitch said noise in courtrooms sometimes made significant portions of the CDs inaudible. She also said judges' secretaries and other personnel appointed to produce transcripts lacked special training, produced lower-quality work and may have been doing the work for extra cash while working their regular county jobs.
Among Ohio's 88 counties, Butler was one of only five that did not use court reporters to produce transcripts, Fitch said.
Fitch, who some alleged had raised the concerns because she wanted additional business for her court-reporting firm, said she waged her fight for other reasons.
Fitch said she wants to uphold the standards of her profession - and as a public service. "The public has a right to have accurate court records," Fitch said.
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