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Lichter v. County of Monmouth

Decided: April 13, 1971.

SIDNEY LICHTER, FREDERICK J. JOHNSON, III, GERALD DONIS, ALEXANDER JASMAN, ROBERT SOKOL AND HAROLD A. RAPPAPORT, WHO SUE ON BEHALF OF THEMSELVES AND ALL OTHER CERTIFIED SHORTHAND REPORTERS SIMILARLY SITUATED, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
THE COUNTY OF MONMOUTH, AND ALL OTHER COUNTIES SIMILARLY SITUATED, AND THE TOWNSHIP OF MIDDLETOWN, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION OF THE STATE OF NEW JERSEY AND ALL OTHER MUNICIPAL CORPORATIONS SIMILARLY SITUATED, INDIVIDUALLY, DEFENDANTS-RESPONDENTS



Lewis, Matthews and Mintz. The opinion of the court was delivered by Lewis, P.J.A.D.

Lewis

Plaintiffs, six certified shorthand reporters (reporters), who instituted this action on behalf of themselves and all other reporters similarly situated, appeal from an order of the Chancery Division granting the motion of defendant Township of Middletown (Middletown) for a summary judgment dismissing plaintiffs' complaint.

The reporters instituted suit against Middletown and the County of Monmouth (Monmouth) to enjoin the installation and use of sound recording devices in juvenile and domestic relations courts, county district courts and municipal courts. After a hearing on cross-motions for summary judgment by the reporters and Middletown, the Chancery Division determined that "both defendants have a right to such judgment as a matter of law" and entered an order granting Middletown's motion.

On appeal from that order the reporters here argue that (1) R. 5:10-6 and R. 6:12-1 and the New Jersey Supreme Court order dated April 1, 1969, requiring the installation of sound recording devices in certain municipal courts, are contrary to law and void, and (2) the rule-making power of our Supreme Court does not extend to the positions of court reporters.

In pertinent part, R. 5:10-6 states that the Administrator of the Courts "shall provide for the verbatim recording of all hearings and trials in all juvenile and domestic relations courts," except in certain instances not here relevant,

"either by an official or temporary stenographic reporter * * * or by an electronic sound recording device." A similar provision, applicable to proceedings in all county district courts, is provided by R. 6:12-1. The order promulgated by our Supreme Court on April 1, 1969 requires that

The reporters argue that in 1940 the Legislature, by N.J.S.A. 45:15A-1 et seq. , "elevated the 'art and practice' of shorthand reporting to the dignity of a profession" and thus, as in many other jurisdictions, recognized their individual status to be that of State or public officers or officials. See 82 C.J.S. Stenographers ยง 2 at 1053-1054. They urge that this rationale is implemented by N.J.S.A. 2A:11-11 which, as originally enacted, provided:

The supreme court shall appoint such number of official stenographic reporters (referred to in this article as reporters), either on a full-time or part-time basis, as may be necessary from time to time to properly perform the work specified in this article for the several parts of each division of the superior court and for the county courts. The supreme court may remove any reporter so appointed at any time for cause and appoint another in his place.

The county judge or county judges, as the case may be, with the approval of the board of chosen freeholders of the county may appoint an official stenographic reporter for the county court of such county * * *. [Emphasis added]

This legislation was amended in 1967 to read:

The Supreme Court shall appoint such number of official court reporters (referred to in this article as reporters), to serve on a full-time basis, as may be necessary from time to time to report proceedings in the Superior Court, the County Courts, and such other proceedings as the Supreme Court may direct. The Supreme ...


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