Queens court reporting students compete for speed and accuracy in contest to prepare for jobs

s4story.com posted an article on Feb. 15 about students from Plaza College in Queens, N.Y., showcasing their court reporting skills as they competed in the 2019 National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) Student Speed Contest.

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Help wanted: As court reporters age, craft seeks new blood

On Feb. 14, the North Carolina Lawyers Weekly posted an article generated by Court Reporting & Captioning Week about the need for more court reporters.

(Subscription required)

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An Interview with Kaylee Lachmann, RPR

NCRA member Kaylee Lachmann, RPR, a new court reporter with Planet Depos, was profiled in a blog posted by JD Supra on Feb. 13.

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Reporting from the courtroom to jury deliberations

Theresa (Tari) Kramer, RMR, CRR, CPE, an official court reporter from Charlotte, N.C., recently provided CART to a juror. She described the experience for the JCR Weekly.

Tari Kramer

JCR | How long have you been a court reporter?

TK |28 years.

JCR | Have you been the reporter for a juror before?

TK | Yes, one other time, but the juror did not make it into the jury box. This was my first time one made it all the way through the trial process.

JCR | How did you get this job? 

TK | I obtained this assignment based on my skills, equipment, and experience and because our courthouse recognizes the benefit and convenience of utilizing a certified realtime reporter. The jury services office advertises CART as an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) option for hearing-challenged prospective jurors. They refer to it as a “note taker.” We have two full-time realtime reporters, and I was assigned to cover the assignment. The juror had requested someone to provide note-taking services during their jury orientation and during all phases of the trial process.

JCR | How would you describe the experience? What were you doing, and how did you do it? 

TK | This was such a rewarding experience. I can confidently say that it was the most rewarding week of my career. It’s one thing to be involved in the trial process on a daily basis, but it’s an entirely different and humbling experience to help one on one with someone who otherwise would not have been able to participate in the jury process.   

Through this experience I have realized that there are some folks who fall within a gray zone of not being deaf and only somewhat hard of hearing, people who don’t need a full-time interpreter and function well on a daily basis without any assistance. My juror was not fully deaf, has not been diagnosed with any hearing deficit, and does not read lips or communicate through sign language. She was fully capable of communicating her thoughts, articulate with her words, and responded appropriately to attorneys during voir dire. 

Her challenge, as relayed by her, came when people speak soft, there are other noises in the background, or when the speaker is not looking in her direction. The sound suddenly cuts in half, and she begins to panic. Knowing this challenge and realizing the importance of her role as a juror, she decided to ask for a note taker to fill in the gaps during these kinds of moments. 

The view from the juror’s seat

I met the juror at 8 a.m. on Monday morning in the jury assembly room. I discussed with her the services I would be providing, a little bit about the technology, and got some background on her hearing challenges. My employer provided me with a rolling cart, and I followed the juror wherever she was directed to go. She received my streaming feed through an iPad. I had two other iPads on a constant charge, ready to change out for the one she was using. I use a wireless router for the room only. While she was able to view the feed on the iPad, I noticed that my router would cut out when I moved the cart to another room. In the future, unless the juror is sitting in the jury box further away from me, I will just have them view the feed on my computer.

Eventually she was called into a courtroom and was put in the box on the first call by the clerk. I sat behind the official court reporter and provided a feed for her during the voir dire process. Shortly thereafter, she was approved and sworn in as a juror. 

When the trial began, I was sworn in as an interpreter. Having this be a new experience for myself and the judge, I took the liberty of printing out some information from NCRA, the state of North Carolina’s policies on ADA requirements for trial participants, and a few other articles. I highlighted and tabbed the areas most pertinent to the situation and handed it to the judge. It was soon determined that I would act as an interpreter of sorts. My sole job during the trial was to meet her needs. When the jury went in and out of the courtroom, I was with her. I purposely did not stay in the courtroom during the parts of the trial when the jury was gone. I wanted to remove myself from any knowledge of the case and/or any impropriety. 

She did express a desire to have me in the deliberation room because, when everyone was talking, she didn’t think she would be able to hear folks on the other side of the room. That moment came, and I got the enviable opportunity to be a fly on the wall during a jury’s deliberation process. I informed the jury of my role and that my iPad feed was just to be viewed by her, not to ask me any questions, and to treat me as if I was invisible in the room. I did, however, request that they “try” to speak one at a time. Any experienced reporter knows that this will not happen when you have 12 impassioned folks discussing an issue, but I felt I had to make the request anyway.

The deliberation takedown was fast and furious. One juror had been dismissed so it was a jury of 11 (civil case).  In my mind, that was one less voice to pick up and write. I sat in the middle of the room. My client was to the left of me. Eventually we got into a rhythm. She heard what the people were saying to her left and next to her. I wrote mostly what I heard on the right side of me. I would not write what she said. 

Logistically, I had literally five minutes to prepare for this, as the judge got the case to the jury rather quickly, so I had no time to prepare speaker IDs. As it turns out, I would not have had time to identify each speaker anyway due to the fast nature of the conversation. So what I ended up doing was adding two to three lines to my paragraphing stroke. When someone new spoke, I paragraphed and the screen went down a couple of lines. This provided space in between speakers. I know this was not the most ideal, but it’s what I had in the moment and it was my first time going through this experience.  

On a side note, I am so very thankful for the NCRA CART group inside of Facebook that I feverishly made requests in that day. Several reporters chimed in on suggestions for deliberation takedown. I have such appreciation for my seasoned colleagues who have journeyed through this before me. 

When the deliberations were finished, I had written 110 pages in one and a half hours. Mind you, this includes extra lines between speakers, but it was still extremely fast. What an exhilarating challenge that was! They threw the kitchen sink in, metaphorically, with the whole conversation. The terminology varied wildly — everything from religion to hematomas to DUI alcohol terms.

It was also interesting to observe the process. Eleven people who remained silent were suddenly full of thoughts and opinions, waiting impatiently to be the next one to voice their ideas. Most folks were boisterous while the minority were a bit reserved. In the end, however, they came to a consensus as a group because members were willing to compromise without relinquishing their principles. There was some heated conversation and one member who seemed to stand out from the rest on his opinions. This all reminded me of my bachelor’s classes in behavioral science. We studied things like this — what causes a group of people to respond and make a collective decision the way they do; how do outside influences, life experiences, and core beliefs affect a group decision? I was fascinated, like reading a book, to see this process unfold. 

JCR | Did the juror say anything to you about her experience?

TK | Yes. At the end, I was in the jury room with the jurors and the judge. Everyone was speaking frankly and openly about the case and the experience. My client made it a point to thank me and the judge for allowing her to be an involved participant in the process. She said she had been very nervous about the experience (as are most prospective jurors) but especially because she had serious doubts about her ability to serve successfully. She said that my services made that possible for her. The judge also said he had never seen this technology being utilized before. He was familiar with realtime technology but not how it was used for a juror. 

JCR | How long was the case? 

TK | The juror entered the courtroom on a Monday afternoon, was sworn in at the end of voir dire, then came back the next two days for the trial. So it lasted about two and a half days.

JCR | Would you be interested in doing this again? 

TK | I would definitely like to do this again. However, next time I would tweak my dictionary a bit to have more room sound definitions than I currently have; i.e., laughter, loud noise, private conversation held. I would also only bring my laptop into the jury room (thank you, NCRA Facebook group member suggestion). When someone recommended that, I metaphorically slapped my forehead like “oh, yes!” It would have made things go a lot faster had I just provided the juror with a view of my laptop instead of everyone waiting for my technology to reboot in a different room. But I don’t fault myself for any of this because it was all new terrain for me, professionally speaking, so I chalked it up to a wonderful learning experience.

While this appeared to have been a positive experience for the juror, it was eye-opening for me how beneficial court reporters are to the hearing-impaired community. There are folks like this juror who have no idea that this opportunity exists — people who do not fit the black-and-white description of a hearing-impaired client. I wish that CART was more readily known because so many people would find a genuine benefit from this technology. I would love to be involved in creating a CART-in-the-courtroom training program for our officials in North Carolina because, when preparing for and going through the juror’s time in our courthouse, I did not find much information on how to perform my role. It would have been nice to have a crash course of sorts or a cheat sheet to take with me throughout the assignment. We also need to update the verbiage in the interpreter oath, as it did not reflect my role during deliberations. All in all, though, I would definitely do this again because the experience far outweighed the challenges.

How an “Evil Zombie Vampire Court Reporter from Hell” figures prominently in NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week

Maxyne Bursky

By Maxyne Bursky

NCRA’s 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week is a great impetus for veteran reporters to head into reporting schools and give both students and newbies a taste of what successful and amazing careers lie ahead of them. As experienced professionals, we have the privilege and advantage (and obligation, I would offer) of being able not only to show them a living, breathing sample of what’s possible, but also to give them a leg up on the mistakes, errors, or omissions (yes, omissions) we have made and bring this whole industry into perspective for a new generation of verbatim reporters. We are the face of the past and present, and they are our future.

On Feb. 9, I, along with my husband, Richard, a reporter of nearly 45 years, was honored to present a film I wrote and produced called “Evil Zombie Vampire Court Reporter from Hell” to students at Brown College of Court Reporting in Atlanta, Ga. The film is a 43-minute spoof of a deposition in which the star commits 47 professional infractions, any one of which could have gotten her dismissed from her job and many of which could have potentially ended her career.

Just to give you a little taste, the court reporter is 15 minutes late to the deposition, and she offers no apology or excuse. In fact, within the first five minutes, her actions clearly point to the fact that the attorneys in the film are in for a very, very long day.

Every time over the past five years that I have presented this film — as well as its sequel, “Evil Zombie Vampire Lawyer from Hell” — I watch it from beginning to end along with the attendees. I never tire of hearing students and veteran reporters alike gasp and giggle at the evil reporter’s bad behavior. It heartens me to know that the principles of preparedness, professionalism, and propriety, not to mention common sense, are ingrained in the majority of court reporters.

Even so, there are those who have come up to me at the conclusion of my lecture at a reporting school or even at a state convention and complained that the film is misguided in that, for example, not being prepared with exhibit stickers, extension cords, and the like is not so bad, or showing up 15 minutes before the start of a proceeding is acceptable. I typically arrive 45 minutes to an hour early, and when a student is shadowing me, I require them to meet me 60 minutes before the scheduled time so that we can chat about what is going to transpire once we are on the record.  My usual response to these naysayers is, “Well, you keep doing that, and next time those clients will call me, not you.”

Each person who watches the film receives a list of those 47 sins that evil reporter has committed, and I encourage everyone to hold off looking at the list and write on a separate piece of paper the number of bad behaviors they observed and then compare that list to the distributed material. I am so pleased to say, when we got to the lecture portion of the session at Brown College, the students were able to volunteer more than half of the unprofessional antics demonstrated in the film.

Brown College requires my book Talk to the Hands, a practical guide for the newbie, to be used by students in their career development class, which is one of the courses offered just prior to graduation. At each film presentation, I supply a workbook for that book, along with exemplars of cover, appearance, and certificate pages, among others, for students to use as a template when first entering into the court reporting workforce.

As a proud participant in NCRA’s online mentoring program, before I get off the phone with a dedicated court reporting student who’s stuck at 150 wpm or who has just emerged from theory and is feeling overwhelmed, I make sure that they know I went through the same angst, managed to get through it, and love (nearly) every minute of my workday.  And the paychecks aren’t bad either!

Because our profession has expanded so rapidly through technology, one of my mantras at every “evil” film presentation, on every mentoring phone call, at every meet and greet for new students, is realtime, realtime, realtime. That skill is what separates the proverbial men from the boys and expands our opportunities for personal and professional growth. In fact, the “evil reporter” is vehement in refusing to provide realtime to the movie’s attorneys.  In my early days of doing realtime, I felt as if I were sitting in the conference room in my dirty pajamas, and everyone present could plainly see how incompetent I was because of a misstroke here and there. I’m not afraid to share this and other similar observations with newbies, to let them know that with time and experience and a commitment to attaining higher speed through practice even after graduation, these insecurities will fade and be replaced with a satisfaction and acknowledgement of one’s own competence that will give rise to that new generation of professional court reporters.

Maxyne Bursky, RPR, CRR, CRC, is a freelance court reporter from McDonough, Ga. She can be reached at bullymax1@aol.com.

2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week is happening nationwide

NCRA’s weeklong National Court Reporting & Captioning Week kicked off Feb. 9 with state associations, schools, and firms sharing how they are celebrating the week. This is the seventh year NCRA has hosted the event designed to help promote the court reporting and captioning professions to the public by hosting demonstrations, open houses, and more.

At the national level, U.S. Rep. John Shimkus from Illinois recognized the week in a written speech submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives’ official record. In addition, U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis from Iowa is expected to deliver a similar speech from the House floor later in the week recognizing the event.

Arizona

Official proclamations have also been secured in the following states:

Arizona

California

Idaho

Illinois

Iowa

Mississippi

North Carolina

Ohio

Oklahoma

Iowa

Eugene, Ore.

South Carolina

South Dakota

Tennessee

Wisconsin

What the states are up to

The California Court Reporters Association (CCRA) is hosting several events throughout the week for its members including a “Spread the Love” submission contest via its Facebook and Instagram outlets with a prize of a one-year association membership. CCRA members are also encouraged to share their steno talent at a career fair or volunteer to mentor a court reporting student to mark the week. Throughout the week CCRA will also dedicate one day each of social media posts to highlight members who are official court reporters, captioners, and freelancers. The freelancers’ day will also feature a digital “mixer” via Facebook where freelancers can connect and chat. CCRA is also auctioning off a new ProCat writer on its Facebook page and is hosting a live broadcast about NCRA’s A to ZTM Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program.

“Court Reporters, the Eighth Wonder of the World,” is a poster the Florida Court Reporters Association has developed for its members to display in their courthouses and offices. The poster provides information about broadcast captioners, CART providers, realtime captioning, and court reporters.


President of the Kansas Court Reporters Association (KCRA) Jennifer Olsen, RPR, CRI, an official court reporter from Topeka, and other association members marked Court Reporting & Captioning Week with a presentation to local county commissioners in Shawnee County in Topeka. KCRA members will also be handing out information and treats all week to attorneys, judges, court staff, administration staff, and building staff in at their courthouse.

In Iowa, members of the Iowa Court Reporters tagged NCRA in one of their Facebook posts, and to date it has reached more than 22,500 people and generated more than 3,500 engagements and 220 shares. In addition, members are posting daily photos of their board members in super hero apparel and encouraging others to share photos of themselves with their machines either with or without super apparel.

President of the Ohio Court Reporters Association (OCRA) Terri Sims, RDR, CRR, an official court reporter from Clinton, Ohio, submitted a letter to the editor to all major newspapers in the state about the important work court reporters and captioners provide. In addition, OCRA members are being invited to participate in a Sip & Paint social event being held on Feb. 17.

In Oklahoma, members of the Oklahoma Court Reporters Association are hosting “A Day at the Capitol” for legislators that will include live demonstrations by court reporters and captioners as well as speakers.

Schools the celebration

Anoka Technical College in Anoka, Minn., is hosting an on-campus Court Reporting & Captioning Exhibition in conjunction with the Minnesota Association of Verbatim Reporters & Captioners. The event will feature demonstrations of state-of-the-art technology, tours of the school’s captioning lab, and short presentations. In addition, industry leaders representing realtime captioners and court reporters will also be on hand for the festivities. There will also be pizza, steno cake, coffee, soda, and prizes.

Faculty from the court reporting and captioning program at Green River College in Auburn, Wash.,  have tasked students with going out into the community and setting up their machines, practicing, and taking photos to try to spread the word about how great a career in court reporting or captioning is. Students will also be armed with information and be posting on social media throughout the week. In addition, one student will be traveling to Italy with her machine and will provide pictures. The photos will then be collected and used for a calendar. To further help students celebrate the week, Byers & Anderson, a court reporting firm in Tacoma, will be hosting a tour of its facilities and host a brunch and a Q & A session with working professionals.

Firms are celebrating too

AB Court Reporting & Video in Denver, Colo., branded a flyer designed by NCRA to help promote the week and the important work that court reporters and captioners do that the firm will share on its social media outlets throughout the week.

For the second consecutive year, Planet Institute, a division of Planet Depos, based in Washington, D.C., is offering three $1,000 scholarship opportunities to qualified students and recent graduates of the nation’s court reporting schools. Those who qualify to apply for one of three $1,000 scholarships are, specifically, students near completion of the program or who completed a court reporting program within the past three months.

And don’t forget the prizes

The NCSA State Challenge is a friendly contest among state associations and individual NCRA members to spread the word about the benefits of a career in court reporting or captioning. The 2019 NCSA State Challenge marks the fifth year the gauntlet has been thrown down. Winners will receive a variety of prizes ranging from complimentary NCRA event registrations to vouchers for continuing education.

This year, NCRA has issued its own challenge as well that calls on all state affiliates to help celebrate this year’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week by securing an official proclamation recognizing the week by their state governor or a state lawmaker. States that submit a copy of their official state proclamation to pr@ncra.org will be entered into a drawing to win one free 2019 Convention & Expo registration.

A downloadable sample proclamation is available on NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning resource page.

For additional resources, visit NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week resources page. No matter how you celebrate 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week, be sure to share your stories and photos with NCRA’s Communications Team at pr@ncra.org.

Read more about what others are doing to celebrate NCRA’s 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

Nominations open for awards and scholarships, including the all-new NCRA A to Z scholarships

It’s time to recognize someone special! Every year, NCRA offers members several scholarships and awards to bring attention to the people who are contributing to the profession in important ways. In addition to the annual scholarships managed by the Council on Approved Student Education (CASE), the National Court Reporters Foundation has initiated an all-new scholarship to help students who have completed the NCRA A to Z™ Intro to Machine Shorthand program with the next step in their training. Scholarships are supported by funds from the National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF).

Nominations are now open, so consider nominating individuals for these special opportunities:

CASE scholarships.Five scholarships are available. Students attending an NCRA-approved court reporting program and writing between 140 and 180 wpm are encouraged to apply for this scholarship. Teachers and mentors, let them know that you see their potential. The nomination period opens Feb. 15 and nominations close April 1.  

NCRA A to Z ™ scholarships. Up to 10 students will receive a $500 scholarship. Qualified applicants must have completed the NCRA A to Z™ Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program as well as pass a skills test writing between 60 and 100 wpm, among other eligibility requirements. Nominations open Feb. 15 and close April 1.

 CASE Educator of the Year. This special award is for a court reporting instructor. Was there someone special who inspired you, who got you through the ups, downs, and plateaus of your court reporting classes? If your teacher was an incredible influence in you getting started, now is the time to say thank you by nominating that special someone for the CASE Educator of the Year Award. Nominations open Feb. 15 and close April 1.

Fellow of the Academy of Professional Reporters. If you know a dedicated court reporter or captioner who has contributed to the profession in a big way over the years, nominate that person as a Fellow. Candidates must be active practitioners in the field and have at least 10 years of experience. Criteria for nomination include the publication of important papers, legislative or creative contributions to the field, and service on committees or boards. Nominations open Feb. 15 and close April 1.

NCRA member recognized by judge he serves

NCRA member James Pence, RMR, CRR, an official court reporter from San Diego, Calif., is recognized for his work by the Hon. Judge Barry Moskowitz, a U.S. District Judge who is suffering from a rare neuromuscular disease, in a profile posted by The San Diego Union-Tribune on Feb. 5.

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NCRA member quoted in article about East Texas court reporter shortage

KLTV, Tyler, Texas, aired a story on Feb. 7 about the shortage of court reporters currently being experienced in East Texas that quotes NCRA member Kristy Crawford, RMR, CRR.

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Summary Judgment 101: Movants, Make Sure Your Evidence Is In ‘Admissible Form’

JD Supra posted a blog on Feb. 8 with the following takeaway: Affidavits must be signed and properly notarized; deposition transcripts must be certified by a court reporter and signed by the deponent; a proper foundation must be laid for each record relied upon in the motion, especially business and medical records; and, importantly, hearsay statements must be qualified for the court’s consideration under one of the many hearsay exceptions.  

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