Stop the SoCal Stip Hero: Tara Cunha, CSR
By Christine Randall, CSR, RPR
As many of you may have heard, in early October, Judith K. Dulcich, Presiding Judge of the Kern County Superior Court, signed an order stating, in part, that with the advancements in technology since the SoCal Stip’s initial development, the rationale for the SoCal Stip no longer exists. It also stated that the Court would no longer allow submission of unsealed original transcripts to the Court. The Court also stated, “This Order shall be effective, and the Code of Civil Procedure 2025.550 shall apply, to all depositions noticed on or after November 1, 2019.”
The reporter behind this development, Tara Cunha, has become a hero among her colleagues. Some have even suggested her face should be on a dollar bill if the court reporting profession had currency! After all, this Order is a game-changer for the reporters looking to protect the integrity of the record and finally end the SoCal Stip. There is also no doubt that this Order will ease the way for other counties to follow suit.
As background, Tara began her reporting career as a deposition reporter in the State of Washington in 2012. By 2016 Tara had moved back to California and became an official for the County of Kern. She has spent a vast majority of her days as an official in a civil courtroom in Bakersfield. This is where Tara would witness attorneys filing unsealed transcripts with the court. She pointed out to me that in Washington, reporters would always file a sealed original transcript with the court. Over the past few years, this practice of filing unsealed original deposition transcripts concerned Tara.
As time passed, Tara had also heard about the “Stop the SoCal Stip” Facebook page and became a silent watcher. At this point she decided to have a discussion with her judge. She brought the California Code of Civil Procedure to his chambers to review 2025.550 and to explain her angst having unsealed original transcripts filed with the court. He listened intently and agreed. He encouraged her to discuss this with the civil court supervisor who, in turn, put her on the agenda for an upcoming civil judges’ meeting.
Armed with her belief and commitment to the profession and preserving the sanctity of the record, she presented her concerns to the judges. She explained the advancements in technologies and articulated why these stipulations are just no longer necessary. After all, CCP 2025.550 is succinct and easy to follow and protects the integrity of the original. The code just needs to be followed.
Tara relayed to me that the judges listened and asked questions. She also explained, (which I know from personal experience), that these judges are all very pro-reporter. They truly value the work that reporters do, both inside and outside the courtroom.
Once the judges made the decision to move forward with the Order, Tara worked with the civil court supervisor and managing attorney on the language, with an eye toward clarifying the what, the why, and the when. Tara also wanted the Order to be clear that the original must be filed in a sealed condition in order to safeguard the integrity of the original transcript and the attached exhibits, and to prohibit the potential opportunity for a party to tamper with the physical original transcript and/or exhibits when court reporters are “relieved of their duties.”
I asked Tara why she did this, and she explained to me that she was moved by some of the extreme cases she has reported over the years, in and out of the courtroom, and her simple but profound commitment to protecting the record. After all, she explained, reporters are guardians of the record. It is our job to protect the transcript and ensure the original is filed with the court in its truest form. This Order does just that, it validates the importance of following the Code to safeguard the integrity of the record. Thank you, Tara Cunha!