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UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT

Eastern District of Texas

Judge Ron Clark, Chief Judge
David A. O'Toole, Clerk of Court

Management Plan for Court Reporting and Recording Services

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MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR COURT REPORTING AND RECORDING SERVICES

General Order 16-12

I. Adoption of Plan by Court

This Plan for the effective utilization of all court reporters/recorders in the Eastern District of Texas has been adopted by this court subject to the final approval by the Fifth Circuit Judicial Council.

II.Introduction

The Court desires through this Plan to meet the changing needs of the Court and Judicial Conference requirements in the management of the official court reporters. Management of all court reporting services in the court is delegated to the clerk of court working under the direction of the chief judge. The court reporter supervisors in the clerk’s office will be responsible for the day-to-day management and supervision of an efficient reporting service within the court and will provide the clerk of the court with all necessary information to enable the clerk of court to ascertain that all provisions of this Plan are followed.

The Plan is specifically designed to:

1.Establish and maintain effective management of court reporting services through propersupervision and control;

2.Continue the current, long-standing practice that court reporters serve the Courten banc;

3. Develop effective utilization of the services of court reporters and an equitable distribution of their workload;

4. Avoid backlogs and assure prompt delivery of transcripts;

5. Assure appointment and retention of fully qualified court reporters;

6. Minimize the use of outside reporters; and

7. Enhance the efficient operation of the court and further its mission.

III. Applicability of Plan

This Plan is applicable to all reporters/recorders employed by the court.

IV. Supervision of Court Reporters

The clerk of court is responsible for the management and supervision of court reporting and electronic sound recording. The clerk will designate court reporting supervisors whose duties and responsibilities shall include, but are not necessarily limited to, the following:

1. Assignment and reassignment of court reporters for the purpose of distributing fairly and equitably the workload of all reporters, minimizing travel and assuring the lowest overall cost to the government.

2. Supervising the relationship between parties and reporters.

3. Monitoring all transcript orders.

4. Reviewing transcripts to assure full compliance with format requirements of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts and the Judicial Conference of the United States.

5. Reviewing transcript invoices to assure that authorized transcript rates are charged and that billing is in proper form.

6. Determining compliance of all court reporters with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 753 concerning the transcribing, recording, and certifying, of all criminal arraignments, pleas, and proceedings in connection with the imposition of sentence.

7. Reviewing the time records of the court reporters to assure proper maintenance and accuracy.

8. Reviewing the Attendance and Transcripts of the United States Court Reporters (Form AO 40A) and Statement of Earnings of United States Court Reporters (Form AO 40B) and assuring their timely submission as required by the Judicial Conference of the United States and the Administrative Office of the United States Courts.

9. Providing to the clerk all necessary information relating to the duties set forth above.

10. Ascertaining actual and projected budget needs for contract reporting services and electronic sound recording equipment; preparing the forms for solicitation of bids by the clerk for contract reporting services; scheduling contract court reporter services when needed and emergency substitute court reporters as required; assisting magistrate judges’ staffs with transcript orders of electronic sound recordings; and monitoring transcripts for quality and timeliness.

11. Performing such other duties relating to court reporters as shall be directed by the Court.

V. Guidelines for Managing Court Reporters and Recorders

The basic duty of a court reporter or court recorder is to attend and record verbatim by shorthand, mechanical means, electronic sound recording, or other method approved by the Judicial Conference, such court sessions or other proceedings as are specified by statute, rule, or order of court. Other requirements include transcribing, certifying and filing of transcripts and notes and various administrative duties which are discussed in this Plan. Throughout this Plan all references to "court reporters" are the official staff reporters and additional reporters, both serving the court en banc, unless a different type of reporter is specified.

1. Types of Court Reporters

There are five types of court reporters who may serve in this district, and they are categorized according to how they are used or employed by the court.

a. Official staff reporters comprise the regular complement of reporters who serve in this District. They are appointed by the court for an indefinite time and are salaried; they serve the Court en banc.

Only official staff reporters will have physical access to the courthouse after business hours and access to CM/ECF. Any request for overtime utilities must be approved through the chief deputy. Official staff reporters are the only court reporters allowed to electronically file transcripts.

b. Additional reporters are authorized in excess of the regular complement of official staff reporters by the Judicial Conference for specific periods. They are salaried and serve the Court en banc. An example of an additional reporter is one who is authorized to serve in this district based on a senior judge’s decision to remain active and thus creating the need for additional reporter services.

c. Temporary reporters are those reporters who are appointed with the approval of the Director of the Administrative Office for service not to exceed three months. The use of temporary reporters is to be minimized.

d. Contract reporters serve the court under a formal contract with pay established and set forth in the contract. The contract governs payment of transcripts prepared for a judge as well as fees and travel. Contractual services may be used only after the court reporting supervisor has determined that no court reporter is available because of work assignments. The use of contractors is to be minimized.

Security clearance is mandatory for all contract court reporters with a FBI fingerprint check to be conducted every two years and may be considered by courts in determining the reporter’s suitability to work as a contractor.

e. Substitute reporters are employees of an official staff, additional, or temporary court reporter and are paid by the employing court reporter. See the Guide to Judiciary Policy Vol. 6, Ch. 4 § 440 Substitute Court Reporters. An oath must be administered to all substitute court reporters. The use of substitutes should be limited to expedited, daily, or hourly transcript work, absence due to illness, leave without pay, vacations, or other reasons beyond the court reporter’s control.1

1 The court pays for contract (as opposed to substitute) court reporters, if needed, to report for court reporters covered by the Leave Act who have enough leave to cover their absences.

A district judge or the chief judge of a circuit may appoint a substitute reporter in the event a court reporter is unable to complete transcripts in a timely fashion. If it is necessary for a judge to appoint a substitute, the court reporter may either voluntarily pay the substitute from his/her own funds or be placed on leave without pay and have the court pay the substitute reporter. If the court reporter chooses not to pay the substitute the Judicial Conference has approved the withholding of salary of the court reporter not to exceed the sum necessary to compensate the substitute reporter until the transcripts are current. The Court Services Office of the Administrative Office must be notified to withhold the salary of the court reporter. See the Guide to Judiciary Policy Vol. 6, Ch. 4 § 440.60.30(c)(2).

Any substitute reporter appointed by a judge to attend court sessions and record the proceedings shall meet the minimum qualification requirements established by the Judicial Conference for official staff recorders.

2. Appointment and Dismissal of Court Reporters

The court shall appoint and dismiss court reporters in accordance with the provisions of 28 U.S.C. § 753. The policies and procedures of the Judicial Conference of the United States and the Administrative Office of the United States Courts must also be complied with. Only fully qualified reporters shall be appointed.

Pursuant to Judicial Conference Policy, all initial appointments shall be on a probationary basis. The court has fixed this probationary term to be a period of one year. Court reporters that do not perform in a competent and satisfactory manner or do not comply with requirements of this Plan shall be subject to dismissal.

a. Staffing reductions, layoffs and other circumstances where a court reporter is asked to leave. The Court is entitled to make changes in the reporting staff at will. There is no requirement, moreover, that the Court give preference to a reporter with seniority. See the Guide to Judiciary Policy Vol. 6, Ch. 2 § 220.60 Staff Reduction and Termination.

3. Assignments of Court Reporters

The geographical configuration of this district and the attendant problems associated with it must be taken into consideration in the assignment of court reporters. The Eastern District of Texas is comprised of several statutorily authorized divisions. Each has the necessary courtroom facilities for holding sessions of court. The district has the following judicial officer and court reporter positions:

DIVISION RESIDENT FULL TIME JUDICIAL OFFICERS COURT  REPORTERS
Tyler

2 judgeships
2 magistrate judges

2
Beaumont 2 judgeships; 1 senior judge
2 magistrate judges
2
Sherman 2 judgeships, 1 senior judge
2 magistrate judges
2

Marshall

1 judgeship
1 magistrate judge
1

Texarkana

 

1 judge ship
1 magistrate judge
1
Lufkin None 0

 

 

Each judge and magistrate judge travels routinely throughout the district with assignments to other divisions fluctuating as the caseload and other factors change. At each of these divisions, it is usually necessary that the traveling judicial officer be accompanied by his/her staff and, when requested, a court reporter.

Court reporters are employed by the court en banc, which controls their assignments. Court reporters are not employed by, nor do they form part of the personal staff of, an individual judge, 28 U.S.C. §753. Because of the geographical area of the district and the need for judicial officers to travel, court reporters are primarily assigned to one district judge but are available, when circumstances allow, to be assigned to other judges, visiting judges, magistrate judges, or land commissioners within the district, with the approval of the judge they are assigned to. Travel of court reporters shall be minimized as much as possible.

In an effort to equitably apportion court reporting tasks at those divisions where two or more reporters are stationed, a system of "pooling" of court reporters may be established. The court reporting supervisor or other assigned person shall endeavor to equalize the workload among the available court reporters. Each court reporter shall submit to the court reporting supervisor attendance reports and any other reports concerning workload and transcript backlog which may be required to effectively operate the pooling system.

4. Leave Act and Hours of Attendance

All recorders are deputy clerks and are therefore subject to the Leave Act. All official court reporters are Clerk’s Office employees and are subject to the Leave Act. All official court reporters in the Eastern District of Texas are on regular tour of duty.

a. Regular Tour Court Reporters are designated as full-time employees with a regular schedule tour of duty of 40 hours per week, 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. daily, in the courthouse. This shall entitle the employee to full retirement and leave benefits. Attendance and leave records shall be maintained by the clerk of court.

Contingent upon court schedule and supervisor’s approval, official court reporters may telecommute or have flexible work schedules.

The court may grant use of annual leave earned by regular tour court reporters at its convenience and in accordance with the Leave Act. Annual leave should be planned for times when no court proceedings would normally be scheduled. Sick leave may be used as needed. The court will pay for a contract court reporter if no official reporter is available.

5. Travel

It is the responsibility of the court reporting supervisor to approve and schedule travel by court reporters; therefore, advance notice should be given.

As a cost containment measure, official court reporters will have the opportunity to cover court in another division, if they are not in court in their assigned division. The main goal is to reduce travel expenses lower than the cost of hiring contract court reporters while giving the official court reporters priority in court assignments. The goal is to utilize on-board staff at the highest level and keep court costs at a minimum.

Travel outside the district requires the submission, in advance, of a written request for each assignment along with a certification from the host court of its inability to provide court reporting services. Written requests are submitted to the Court Services Office of the Administrative Office. In an emergency, telephone approval should be requested followed by a written request for travel authorization.

6. Private Reporting

Reporting for a grand jury, taking of depositions, and any other reporting activities not related to salaried or statutory duties are considered private reporting.

Court reporters under the Leave Act and on regular tour may not perform private reporting work during regularly scheduled working hours unless on approved leave.

7. Transcripts

It is the duty of the court reporter to promptly transcribe any proceedings requested by any party who has agreed to pay the fees established by the Judicial Conference, as well as any proceedings a judge or court may direct, and to transcribe all arraignments, pleas, and proceedings in connection with the imposition of sentence in a criminal cases unless they have been recorded by electronic sound recording. The Congress and Judicial Conference have insisted that the requirements of 28 U.S.C. §753 as to the transcribing or recording of pleas and sentences in criminal cases be carefully and promptly observed. The court reporter must file a transcript within 30 days of the close of the proceeding unless it was recorded on electronic sound recording equipment, in which event the electronic sound recording accompanied by a certification of the reporter, must be filed as soon as the recording has been used to capacity.

a. Filing of Original Records

If no transcript is ordered, the court reporter will deliver the original shorthand notes or other original records to the clerk of court within 90 days after the conclusion of the proceeding. If a transcript is ordered, the original shorthand or other original records will be delivered to the clerk of court 90 days after the transcript is delivered to the requesting party. See the Guide to Judiciary Policy, Vol. 6, Ch. 2 § 290.20.30.

In this district, each court reporter is to maintain their own file(s) of certified original notes or records. The clerk of court has designated the offices of the court reporters at each court location as an extension of the clerk’s office. Said files are to remain accessible to the clerk (through the court reporting supervisor or other authorized personnel in the clerk’s office), who shall monitor the maintenance and disposal of the original notes/tape recordings prepared by the court reporters.

Official Court Reporters, upon leaving employment with the court, must make arrangements to have their notes and other original records archived in the Clerk’s Office for future access.

Upon request, parties or members of the public may review the original notes filed with the clerk.

b. Scheduling of Work

A certified transcript copy must be delivered by the court reporter to the clerk or the clerk’s designee (court reporting supervisor) concurrent with, but not later than three working days after delivery to the requesting party. Upon receipt, the transcript copy must be docketed in the case file by the court reporter or court reporter supervisor. If a problem develops regarding the delivery deadline, the court reporting supervisor shall take appropriate action to ensure that the transcript is produced when required.

No agreement shall be made to expedite any transcript which will delay the preparation of transcripts necessary for appeals.

Production of daily or hourly transcript is not to be subsidized by the court. If extra reporters are required to provide such transcript, the cost of such reporters shall be paid by the court reporter out of the earnings derived from the transcript rates as established by the Judicial Conference. This provision does not, however, prohibit other official reporters from assisting in producing such transcripts if there are no other official proceedings to record, including those of senior judges and magistrate judges and when no substantial transcript backlog will result.

Upon retirement or separation from the court, court reporters are responsible for providing transcripts to ordering parties at the currently established page rate. Retired or separated court reporters must make every effort to serve the ordering party by producing the transcript according to the delivery schedule established by the Judicial Conference. The court reporting supervisor should assist the retired or separated court reporter in obtaining the notes (which must be retained by the court), and act as liaison between the reporter and ordering party. The retired or separated court reporter will be paid for transcripts ordered by the court at the page rate currently in effect.

c. Transcript Categories

Ordinary Transcript: A transcript to be delivered within thirty (30) calendar days after receipt of an order.

14-Day Transcript: A transcript to be delivered within fourteen (14) calendar days after receipt of an order.

Expedited Transcript: A transcript to be delivered within seven (7) calendar days after receipt of an order.

Daily Transcript: A transcript to be delivered following adjournment and prior to the normal opening hour of the court on the following morning whether or not it actually is a court day.

Hourly Transcript: A transcript of proceedings ordered under unusual circumstances to be delivered within two (2) hours.

Realtime Transcript: A draft, unedited transcript produced by a certified realtime reporter as a byproduct of realtime transcription to be delivered electronically during proceedings or immediately following adjournment.

d. Fees

The Judicial Conference sets maximum fees, and the district court sets fees with regard to production costs up to the maximum authorized by the Judicial Conference. Fees may be negotiated lower, but the maximum rates may not be exceeded for official court transcripts. In exceptional circumstances, only the Director of the Administrative Office may authorize higher transcript rates. The fees cover all costs of transcript production including the free copy for the clerk of court, postage, bindings, and cover. No additional charges may be made for any of these items. The court reporter shall not charge for any transcript provided to the court.

With approval from the court, an official staff, temporary, or combined-position court reporter may agree to produce transcripts from audio recordings of court proceedings which the reporter did not attend. The reporter is considered a transcriber and may be paid no more than the rates established by the Judicial Conference. Courts may not provide preferential treatment to court staff by referring all transcription work to one or more staff court reporters. Instead, transcription work should continue to be rotated evenly among the qualified transcribers already used by the court and the court reporter(s) who have been authorized by the court to transcribe proceedings of electronic sound recording. See the Guide to Judiciary Policy, Vol. 6, Ch. 5 § 510.40.20.

The clerk shall post a schedule of fees currently authorized by the Judicial Conference of the United States for regular and expedited transcripts, as well as for daily or hourly copy at public counters and on the Court’s external website. Such schedule shall list the per page charge for originals and for copies, shall explain that one copy of each transcript ordered is to be filed in the clerk’s office for court use at no expense to the litigants, and shall note the number of lines to be included on each page for which a full charge is made, and the margin requirements for those lines. The notice shall explain that an "expedited" transcript is one which is delivered within (7) calendar days after ordering and satisfactory financial arrangements for payment have been made; a 14-Day Transcript is one which is delivered within 14 calendar days after ordering, with the same financial arrangements having been made.

No court reporter, either official or contract, shall charge fees for transcripts of official proceedings exceeding those recommended by the Judicial Conference of the United States. Transcript costs for all proceedings shall be charged in accordance with regular practice; that is, the party ordering the original transcript shall be charged the normal fee therefor and all parties ordering copies shall be charged the copy fee. Routine apportionment of accelerated transcript costs among parties in CJA cases is prohibited.

Court reporters and/or transcribers who are found to be charging fees for official transcripts exceeding the maximum established rates will be required to make immediate reimbursement.

e. Billing for Payment

Each court reporter shall prepare an invoice for transcript payment. The court reporter is required to certify on each invoice for official transcripts that the fee charged and page format used conform to the regulations of the Judicial Conference of the United States. This includes charges for copies.

All invoices to be paid by the federal government are submitted to the court reporting supervisor after the judicial officer has signed the voucher (SF-1034 or CJA-24, as appropriate).

The court reporting supervisor is charged with the responsibility of promptly advising the court reporter and the clerk of any failure to comply with official transcript rates for all official transcript billings.

f. Appellate Transcripts

All requests for appellate transcripts shall be made on the form prescribed by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (DKT 13). Upon receipt of a transcript order, a court reporter shall complete the form and distribute copies as provided on the form, with a copy being sent to the court reporting supervisor. The "date of order" of a transcript purchase order shall be the date on which the court reporter certifies that satisfactory financial arrangements were completed between the court reporter and the party requesting the transcript.

If a transcript of a case on appeal is not delivered by the date mandated by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, appropriate reduction of fees shall be credited by the reporter to the ordering party unless the clerk of the court of appeals has granted a waiver in writing showing good cause. Extension of the due date does not automatically waive the reduction of fees.

8. Realtime Reporting Standards

A realtime reporter’s skills, in combination with software technologies, allow a simultaneous translation of the spoken word to text. Software viewing programs permit instantaneous projection of the translation onto viewing monitors and grant court participants the ability to search, mark, and annotate the text. A "realtime unedited transcript" (usually known as a realtime unedited translation) was defined by the Judicial Conference in 1996 as "a draft transcript produced by a Certified Realtime Reporter as a byproduct of realtime to be delivered during the proceedings or immediately following adjournment."

A Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR) may not provide realtime services to anyone who is not a party to the case without prior approval of the presiding judge. The realtime unedited transcript must be clearly marked as such with a header or footer that appears at the top or bottom of each page of transcript stating, "Realtime Unedited Transcript Only". Realtime includes the following services:

• The instantaneous translation of the proceedings on computer monitor

• The ability to scroll forward and backward, search the record for key words or phrases and mark portions of the text using view/annotation software; and

• The realtime unedited translation delivered electronically during or immediately following adjournment.

a. Equipment/Software

All parties requesting realtime services will be responsible for providing their own computers, viewer/annotation software, and monitors. Upon the request of the parties, reporters may make equipment and software available. Parties should coordinate and pre-test their equipment with the CRR before official proceedings begin. The CRR is responsible for the acquisition, installation, and maintenance of the realtime translation system and components, wiring and data communications connections, and any other equipment needed to provide these realtime services to parties. The Court is responsible for the acquisition, installation, and maintenance of necessary wiring (including connectors and adaptors), computers or monitors, and appropriate realtime viewer software located at the judge’s bench, law clerk/courtroom deputy desk, and for the jury, witness stand, and public viewing areas.

MANAGEMENT PLAN FOR COURT REPORTING AND RECORDING SERVICES Page 12

b. Waiver of Responsibility – Disclaimer for Realtime Unedited Transcript

Each CRR should request that parties acknowledge receipt of a realtime unedited transcript by signing a disclaimer which explicitly states that the ordering party is aware that the realtime translation is not an official record of the court proceedings.

c. Qualifications of Reporters Charging for Realtime Unedited Transcripts

Official court reporters who have successfully completed the National Court Reporter Association (NCRA) Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR) examination or who have passed an equivalent qualifying examination are recognized as a federal certified realtime reporters and are permitted, but not required, to sell realtime translation.

9. Magistrate Judges

As a general rule, proceedings before United States magistrate judges should be recorded by electronic sound recording (see the Guide to Judiciary Policies and Procedures Vol. 6, Ch. 2 § 280.40 Magistrate Judges). As a cost containment measure, this court will hire contract court reporters, if an official court reporter is not available, for evidentiary hearings, Markman hearings, bench trials, and jury trials (see General Order 13-16). Should a magistrate judge determine that it is necessary that the services of a court reporter are required in a particular case, a request to provide a reporter shall be directed through the court reporting supervisor (deputy in charge).

10. Records and Reports

The Judicial Conference has prescribed records which shall be maintained and reports which shall be filed by court reporters. The records must be accurate and legible. Inspections of the records of court reporters including those related to private reporting activities are made from time to time by auditors of the Administrative Office pursuant to resolutions of the Judicial Conference of the United States.

a. Forms Which Must be Completed, Maintained, and Submitted

(1) Form AO 37, Expense Ledger

(2) Form AO 38, Attendance Ledger

(3) Form AO 39, Transcript Orders and Collections Ledger

(4) Form AO 44, Invoice

Information about these forms is set forth in the Guide to Judiciary Policy Vol. 6, Ch. 1 § 290.40.60. It is not mandatory that court reporters use the above AO forms, if the forms they have created and are using, contain all the pertinent information as provided in the AO forms. Each court reporter shall retain the above records for review upon request by the court reporter supervisor.

b. Reports Which Must be Prepared and Submitted

(1) Form AO 40A, Attendance and Transcripts of United States Court Reporters shall be submitted quarterly during each calendar year. It should be submitted electronically via the Automated Court Reporter Application (ACRA) so as to arrive within 20 days after the end of each quarter, i.e., by April 20, July 20, October 20, and January 20 for the preceding quarter.

(2) Form AO 40B, Statement of Earnings of United States Court Reporters shall be submitted annually and is due by April 15th of each calendar year. It should be submitted electronically via the Automated Court Reporter Application (ACRA).

Information about these reports is also contained in the Guide to Judiciary Policy Vol. 6, Ch. 2 § 290.40.40 and 290.40.50. Other reports as may be required from time to time shall be submitted in a timely manner.

c. Automated Court Reporter Application System

The Automated Court Reporter Application (ACRA) automates the submission and archiving of court reporter data. ACRA is designed to manage the automated creation and processing of the AO 40A and AO 40B forms. The application provides for the court reporter to digitally sign the completed form and for a designated court official to review and digitally approve it. It is recommended that all official court reporters use ACRA to submit their reports.

11. Digital Audio Recording

The clerk’s office stores all digital audio recordings of proceedings on a network server. Network access to digital recordings is limited to authorized court personnel. However, a party may request the digital audio recording by submitting the request on the AO Form 436. When a request is made for the electronic digital audio recording, the courtroom deputy will upload and docket the digital recording to the docket sheet, where it can be accessed through PACER. When someone requests a transcript of a digitally recorded proceeding, the clerk’s office will arrange to have the proceeding transcribed according to the terms of the transcriber contract. The court reporter supervisor will monitor the quality and timeliness of transcripts ordered from electronic sound recordings.

With approval from the court, an official staff, temporary, or combined-position court reporter may agree to produce transcripts from audio recordings of court proceedings which the reporter did not attend. The reporter is considered a transcriber and may be paid no more than the rates established by the Judicial Conference. Courts may not provide preferential treatment to court staff by referring all transcription work to one or more staff court reporters. Instead, transcription work should continue to be rotated evenly among the qualified transcribers already used by the court and the court reporter(s) who have been authorized by the court to transcribe proceedings of electronic sound recording (See the Guide to Judiciary Policy § 510.40.20 Professional Transcription Services – Electronic Sound Recordings).

12.Miscellaneous

The Clerk of Court has determined that access to the court’s Data CommunicationNetwork (DCN) by Official Court Reporters is appropriate. Such access is for official purposes and may include access to judiciary electronic mail, J-Net, the Case Management/Electronic Case Filing ("CM/ECF") system (for case management and docketing purposes), calendaring systems, and automated forms. Official Court Reporters may access the DCN through a personal computer for teleworking purposes.

13.Sanctions

Any alleged violation of this Plan shall be brought to the attention of the reporter.Thereafter, a conference with the reporter, the court reporter supervisor, and the clerk of court shall be held to discuss the alleged violation. If no resolution can be reached, the alleged violation shall be referred to the chief judge or his/her designee. The actions taken shall include, but not be limited to, dismissal of the court reporter or restitution of overcharges whether they arise out of a violation of page rates, page format, or time limits for delivery.