For decades, attorneys in Southern California have utilized and recited a stipulation at the end of deposition proceedings in Superior Court matters colloquially referred to as the SoCal Stip. The stipulation relieves the court reporter of his or her duties under the California Code of Civil Procedure and allows the original transcript to be sent directly to the witness or witness’ attorney for reading and signature. The agreement usually goes on to say that opposing counsel or the witness will then notify the noticing attorney of any changes made to the transcript within the period allotted for reading and signature, usually 30 days pursuant to an errata sheet.
Attorneys who have attended recent depositions may be aware of a movement among court reporters to decline the Southern California stipulation. How did the SoCal Stip come into being, and why is it now being rejected by reporters?
Certified stenographic reporters are highly regulated in the state of California, more so than in many other states throughout the United States. CSRs work hard for their credentials, and they work equally hard to expand their talents and skills throughout their careers. As officials of the court, they take their responsibility as guardians of the record seriously. They learn the California CCP with attention to the sections pertaining to the capture and preservation of the official record and strive to ensure the code is followed in every instance.
When deposition transcripts are handled “per code,” the physical original transcript is retained by the reporter or court reporting agency throughout the entire production process, safeguarding its integrity until the reading and signature period has elapsed for the deponent after being notified of same by the court reporting agency. At the appropriate time, the transcript and exhibits are sealed and delivered to the noticing attorney.
Origination of the SoCal Stip
The practice of using the stipulation began in the 1970s when the logistics of negotiating Southern California traffic to get to the court reporting agency’s office for reading and signing transcripts were becoming increasingly difficult. It is rarely used in Northern California. Court reporters have always been uncomfortable with the SoCal Stip due to their concern for the integrity of the original transcript and exhibits and for the potential opportunity for a party to tamper with the physical original transcript or exhibits when reporters are relieved of their duties.
Though it made them uneasy, the SoCal Stip had been an accepted practice by Southern California court reporters for many years, as they understood the reason it was used.
With all the advancements in technology since the stipulation’s inception, including electronic transfer and signature capabilities as well as document and communication security, the rationale for the SoCal Stip is effectively negated. Recognizing there is no longer a need for the stipulation, reporters are now preferring to protect the integrity of the record by handling the original transcript per code and, in some instances, are declining to abide by the SoCal Stip.
Rejecting the SoCal Stip is not a practice being adopted by only a few court reporters or those who work with any specific agencies, but by Southern California reporters at large. Attorneys are already feeling the impact at depositions they are taking or defending regardless of which agency they schedule with.
What to Expect
This reporter preference is expected to become increasingly common over time. In most cases, attorneys would simply adhere to the CCP regarding the handling of the original transcript within the deponent’s statutory 30-day time frame for review and signature and only stipulate to a shorter or longer time period, if needed. At the deposition’s conclusion, simply state, “handle per code.”
Adhering to the code continues to be a proper way to handle deposition review and signature within California and across the country. The deponent does not need to go to the reporter’s office and does not need to sign before a notary public. Pursuant to CCP 2025.520(c), the deponent may read a certified copy of the transcript, and an errata sheet for any changes and a signature page will be provided with the transcript by the agency.
After the deponent has had the statutory allowable 30 days to read and sign a transcript and all parties in attendance have been notified of any changes, per CCP 2025.550, the sealed original transcript will then be sent to the noticing attorney, who will “protect it against loss, destruction or tampering.”
In December 2015, the Court Reporters Board of California published a legal opinion on this issue indicating that court reporters do not have an obligation to follow the terms of a stipulation relieving them of their legal duties unless they have agreed to said stipulation. The opinion stated, “If the court reporter is not in agreement with the stipulation of the parties to waive his or her court reporter duties, the board cannot discipline the reporter.”
The change in procedure really is not a change at all, so much as it is simply removing a stipulation that has become unnecessary. By declining to abide by the SoCal Stip, court reporters are honoring their responsibility to protect the integrity of the record.