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April 13, 1970
Honorable Henry R. Dunn
318 Court House
Kelso, Washington 98626
Cite as: AGLO 1970 No. 59
Reference is made to your recent letter requesting our opinion on two questions pertaining to superior court reporters.
Your first question deals with the procedure for compensating persons serving on a "temporary" basis as superior court reporters in your county under RCW 2.32.270. Your second question is somewhat broader, and deals, generally, with the status of official superior court reporters as county employees.
However, following receipt of your request we discussed it with you by telephone, and were informed that the factual situation giving rise to your second question was presently pending, in the form of a claim, before your board of county commissioners and would likely have to be resolved through litigation.
Accordingly, we advised you, verbally, that it would be contrary to long-standing office policy for us to issue an attorney general's opinion on this matter at this time.1/ Therefore, in this letter we shall limit ourselves to a consideration of your first question, which we may paraphrase as follows:
Is a court reporter pro tempore entitled to be compensated out of the funds of the county whose superior court he is serving ‑ and if so, is the amount he is to be paid to be deducted from the salary of the official court reporter whose absence or inability to act has necessitated the appointment of the court reporter pro tempore?
[[Orig. Op. Page 2]]
We answer the first part of this question in the affirmative, and the second part in the negative, as follows:
The appointment of persons to serve on a "pro tempore" basis as superior court reporters is provided for in RCW 2.32.270, which reads as follows:
"In the event of the absence or inability of the official reporter to act, the presiding judge may appoint a competent stenographer to act pro tempore, who shall perform the same duties as the official reporter, and whose report when certified to, shall have the same legal effect as the certified report of the official reporter. The reporter pro tempore shall possess the qualifications and take the oath prescribed for the official reporter, and shall file a like bond, and shall receive the same compensation." (Emphasis supplied.)
Under the underscored portion of this statute, it will be seen that a person serving as a court reporter pro tempore is to be compensated in the same manner as is the official court reporter for whom he is acting. The governing statute with respect to the latter is RCW 2.32.210, which fixes the compensation for all superior court reporters and then provides that this compensation,
". . . shall be paid out of the current expense fund of the county where court is held."
In addition, as a matter of procedure, this same statute concludes with the following provision:
"The salaries of official court reporters shall be paid upon sworn statements, when certified as correct by the judge presiding, as state and county officers are paid."
Therefore, it follows that a court reporter pro tempore is to be compensated through payment of funds of the county which he is serving. Moreover, we can see no [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] basis whatsoever in the governing statutes to conclude that the amount which the court reporter pro tempore is to be paid is to be deducted from the salary of the official court reporter whose absence or other inability to act has necessitated the appointment of the court reporter pro tempore.
By this conclusion, we do not mean to imply that the absent regular court reporter is necessarily entitled to receive his full salary during the period of his absence or inability to serve ‑ while at the same time the county is paying the prescribed compensation to the person serving in his stead as court reporter pro tempore. This question of course, is dependent upon the scope of such policies as the county may have established with respect to sick leave, etc.; and upon the applicability of these policies to the court reporter's position ‑ which goes to the matter of the claims presently pending before your county commissioners, upon which litigation appears to be imminent.
The foregoing answers your question relative to the compensation of persons serving as court reporters pro tempore in your county as this question was set forth in your letter. However, during our telephone conversation pertaining to your request, you inquired as to whether it would be possible to expand this question somewhat by also commenting upon the right of a court reporter pro tempore to be reimbursed for travel expenses, etc. Our response to this inquiry, in terms of a person serving as a superior court reporter pro tempore in your county, is as follows:
Under RCW 2.32.210, supra, which governs the "compensation" which is payable to each official court reporter (and, hence, to each court reporter "pro tempore" as above outlined) the term "compensation" includes both a specified salary ‑ computed on a per annum basis ‑ and compensation for the reporter's "actual and necessary expenses of transportation and living expenses . . ." However, this latter portion of the statute, by its own express terms, only applies in judicial districts comprising more than one county ‑ and hence, it is inapplicable to the situation of a court reporter pro tempore in Cowlitz county which, under RCW 2.08.064, is now a single county judicial district.
It is hoped that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.
Very truly yours,
FOR THE ATTORNEY GENERAL
Philip H. Austin
Assistant Attorney General
*** FOOTNOTES ***
1/Accord, our recent letter to the prosecuting attorney of Chelan county (dated March 9, 1970), copy enclosed.