Registration is now open for the Registered Skilled Reporter Skills Tests

Registration is open for aspiring court reporters to test in January 2020 for a new NCRA certification, the Registered Skilled Reporter (RSR). This new designation will recognize those stenographic professionals who are looking to validate their beginning level of competency. Previously named the Registered Apprentice Reporter (RAR), the NCRA Board of Directors, after careful review, determined that the term ‘skilled’ better reflects the mission supporting this latest professional certification than the term ‘apprentice.’

“Those new professionals who make the commitment to earn the RSR are also showing their commitment to continuing their skills and proficiency through professional practice while earning an income,” said NCRA President Max Curry, RPR, CRI.

Earning the RSR will demonstrate an ability to hold a verified level of skill to current and potential clients, current and potential employers, and fellow reporters.

Created as a stepping-stone credential to ultimately achieving the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) designation, the RSR certification will offer the prestige of an NCRA certification for those new or returning to the court reporting profession who have yet to be able to get their writing speeds up enough to earn the RPR.

Current or aspiring stenographic reporters are eligible to earn the RSR and do not need to be members of NCRA to take the RSR tests.

Candidates seeking the RSR need to pass three 5-minute Skills Tests:

  • RSR Literary at 160 words per minute
  • RSR Jury Charge at 180 words per minute
  • RSR Testimony/Q&A at 200 words per minute

To pass, an accuracy level of 95 percent is required for each leg. Passed RPR skills tests cannot be used toward earning the RSR.

There is a critical need for qualified, competent stenographers, and the RSR certification will help employers differentiate among candidates applying for these opportunities.

“When you earn the RSR, you have an opportunity to continue learning but begin to enjoy the personal satisfaction of seeing your skills used in professional practice and earn income while you continue your learning,” said NCRA Vice President Debra A. Dibble, RDR, CRR, CRC of Woodland, Utah. “It’s a win/win!”

Visit the NCRA website for more information. 

New Professional Profile: Bethany Glover

Bethany Glover

By Mike Hensley, RDR

Bethany Glover, RPR, is a new professional residing in Long Beach, Calif.  Not only is she new — within her first year of work as a freelance deposition reporter — she finished school in a blazing 16 months. She is excellently poised to take the world by storm, and she has graciously shared insights with us as a newly licensed court reporter.

JCR | Why did you choose to become a court reporter?

BG | I grew up dancing, moved to New York City to earn my bachelor’s in dance at a prestigious school, traveled the world performing as a professional dancer, and had to cut short my dancing career early due to a back injury. I wanted a career that would still give me the freedom to travel while also earning a good living. I also loved how crucial court reporting is for getting a record of people‘s experiences and for the judicial system as a whole.

JCR | What’s your “can’t live without” item in your steno bag?

BG | Definitely back-up USB flash drives. I always, always back everything up, because you just never know when technology is going to be cranky.

JCR | What is your biggest challenge as a new reporter?

BG | My biggest challenge as a new reporter is learning how to have a good work/life balance. I really love what I do, so I tend to get lost in my work. I’m trying to learn to step back and take time to do things for myself outside of work too. Self-care is crucial!

JCR | What is your next goal? What is a long-term goal?

BG | My next goal is working on realtime. I’m learning that the cleaner that I write while on the job, the less work I have to do editing. I want to be writing realtime as soon as I can.

A long-term goal of mine is to be able to take depositions internationally. I would love to travel for work. That’s the dream.

JCR | What do you like to do when you’re not reporting?

BG | When I’m not reporting, I love to take yoga classes and explore new neighborhoods. I really enjoy being outside and walking. I also want to get into doing volunteer work with animals.

JCR | What do you love about your career?

BG | I absolutely love meeting new people and going to new offices every day. It’s always something different, and there are no two days the same.

JCR | How has involvement with state and national associations benefited your career thus far?

BG | Being involved with associations has been so important for me on my journey to becoming a court reporter. I have met wonderful reporters through the associations who have supported me, cheered me on, and have been there for me for every question that I have. The court reporting community is like no other, and the reporters I have met through associations inspire me every day.

JCR | What was the best piece of advice that you received from another court reporter that helped you?

BG | The best piece of advice I ever received from another court reporter is to be confident in my skills and to not be afraid of taking charge. Being a new reporter can be a little intimidating sometimes, but you just need to walk in with a smile on your face and your head held high.

Mike Hensley, RDR, is a freelancer from Dublin, Calif. He can be reached at stenomph@gmail.com.

At a glance: Taking depositions in Europe (UPDATED)

An updated blog posted by JD Supra on Nov. 20, offers tips for taking depositions in Europe, and addresses such issues as managing language gaps, travel access, scheduling ease, and more.

Read more.

New experience for California court reporter

An example of Columbini’s work from the trial.

Joan Columbini, RPR, a freelance court reporter from Walnut Creek, Calif., recently had a first-time reporting experience.

She was working with a trial witness who could only communicate with her eyes. The woman’s aide would hold something showing rows of letters. The aide would say each letter until the woman signaled by looking up that it was the correct letter. In this way, they put words together.

Columbini said some answers took three pages for her to put a sentence together.

No one in the court had experienced this before either, Columbini said. She had to decide the best way to write what was happening.

She asked herself how to proceed since this process was different than the usual way to work with an interpreter. She decided to report everything verbatim.

Columbini said once she figured out how she was going to write, “it was not hard at all to report, I briefed everything.”

“If I was a new reporter, I would have freaked out,” she said. “Having been a reporter for so long, I just handled it.”

Columbini was a freelance reporter for more than 20 years before she became a reporter in Federal Court for 13 years. After retiring from there, she is now freelancing again.

If she was in this situation again, Columbini said she would probably try to sit down with the judge and other parties and explain what it would look like in a transcript. Possibly they could have treated the aide like an interpreter and just put the finished product in the transcript.

300 words a minute: A day in the life of a court reporter

NCRA member Sandra Mierop, FAPR, RPR, CRR, CRC, of Anchorage, Alaska, explained many aspects of the skills of court reporters in an interview published Oct. 16 by webcenter11.com based in Fairbanks.

Read more

Corporate deposition — multiple witnesses at the same time?

A blog posted by JD Supra on Sept. 30 offers tips on taking a corporate deposition that includes multiple witnesses at the same time.

Read more.

A Helter Skelter Trial Memoir

By Early Langley

Nov. 19, 2017, marked the death of one of the most vile cult leaders and murderers in California history: Charles Manson. Much has been written about him, his loyal worshippers, the murders, and the trial. One of those books was Helter Skelter by Vincent Bugliosi, the chief prosecutor, and writer Curt Gentry.

By the time I became a court reporting student, the evil of Charles Manson had become legend. Chapter after chapter of Helter Skelter flew by, dictated at high speeds. My teacher was right: Better to hear the worst of the worst now. Any reaction to testimony that inflames the mind might influence a jury.

Perhaps that is why, again as a student, I was able to sit quietly and listen, without emotion, to the gut-wrenching and brutal testimony of the four defendant “Zebra murders” that terrorized San Francisco in the 1970s. Police named the case “Zebra” after the special police radio band they assigned for the investigation. Years later, I met the dispatcher who sent out that radio call and named it “Zebra.” She is now a San Francisco Superior Court Clerk. She described how terrifying it was to walk to work. She once alarmed fellow coworkers by thumbing a ride at night. The car was filled with plainclothes officers in an unmarked car. She knew that, but her coworkers didn’t. In total, 16 people had been murdered, although some authorities thought the defendants might have killed as many as 73 people or more.

The trial started on March 3, 1975, and lasted close to a year-and-a-half, the longest criminal trial in California history at that time. I was only there towards the end. One juror conceived and delivered during the trial. After 18 hours of jury deliberation, based on testimony filling 8,000 pages of transcripts and of 108 witnesses, all four defendants were convicted of first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit first-degree murder. They were sentenced to life imprisonment, and all convictions were affirmed on appeal. Judge Joseph Karesh, who presided over the trial, was an exceedingly patient jurist. In spite of the heinous crimes and the helter-skelter nature of the trial, not one defendant was placed in shackles. There were no glass bulletproof barriers and no metal detectors. Clinton W. White, the defense attorney who led the team, was elevated to the California Court of Appeal.

Robert L. Dondero, then deputy district attorney, was also elevated to the California Court of Appeal. Tensions mounted during that trial, as they do in all trials. One defense attorney got palsy from the stress. Joe Ament was both my teacher and the official court reporter for the entire trial. His relief court reporter came close to a nervous breakdown at the end. Both retired soon afterwards.

I guess it wasn’t enough of a deterrent to keep me away from reporting trials, though I haven’t done a criminal trial since I was an official many years ago. My trials are civil now. I hear stories of great love and great despair, deep pain and deep gratitude.

I have a front row seat to courtroom drama. Good trial lawyers have a sixth sense of anticipating the next move. Their eyes circulate the landscape: the judge, the jury, the witness, the audience, and the staff — including you!

The tension for me is just as nerve-racking. Everyone’s looking at my iPads. Everyone’s getting the rough pretty close to immediately after the day ends, the final in the evening, and sometimes late into the evening. Here’s my list of to-do items: indexes, exhibits, witnesses’ testimony, and even sometimes keeping track of time.

Now I have students come in and sit. There’s nothing like the real thing. They marvel at it all. Through my UC Berkeley Alumni Externship Program, I even take college students to court. They go behind the scenes and meet the judge. We discuss the importance of law, public policy, and a court reporter’s record.

I love it when court reporting students can sit in for as long as possible. It teaches them endurance and speed, procedure and decorum, and the anatomy of a trial. If I were to pin down one of the most important assets to have, it’s speed. Trials move fast and furious. Once the judge announces the jury’s deliberation date, it’s a race to the finish line. Rates of speed get high and sustained.

Trials have a helter-skelter nature of their own. And you just gotta love it. Yes, it can be exhausting. Yes, you need to anticipate the unexpected and have backup plans. Yes, you need to do your homework on the technological terms that you’ll hear. Yes, you need to get your realtime and all of your files running. Once that’s set up, you can manage any helter-skelter moment!

Early Langley, RMR, B.A., is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of the University of California at Berkeley. She is a member of the NCRA Education Content Committee. She is past president of the California Court Reporters Association and a senior staff reporter with Aiken Welch Court Reporters.

A court reporter’s work is never done

Photo by the Hon. Melba Marsh

A recent story in TheJCR.com highlighted NCRA member Taleesa Smith, RPR, an official court reporter from Hamilton County, Ohio. She found herself reporting a sentencing proceeding from outside of an ambulance.

That led us to ask through NCRA’s social media accounts for other stories about unusual places court reporters and captioners have worked. Here are some of the answers:

Michael Anthony Scire, RPR, CMRS, Sarasota, Fla.

Parking garage. The jury had to see the car where the crime took place, so the parking garage was turned into a makeshift courtroom. My twin brother was the official that day in the courtroom. In order to not disrupt his realtime, we dressed alike that day and I pretended to be Richard S. Scire in the garage while he stayed in the courtroom.

Amanda Daniel, Tampa, Fla.

In a shed in the backyard of the witness’s house. The backyard shed was home to her billing service business. I knocked on her front door, her husband answered the door in nothing but his boxer shorts and pointed me to the backyard, and, oh, by the way, watch out for the dog. I sat on a filing cabinet in a corner of a shed with my machine on my lap. And it was a rush order. Because of course it was.

Lora Barnett, RMR, Overland Park, Kan.

Lora Barnett

On the side of a ski slope in Keystone, Colo., during ski season. It was on a “black” run, a ski run for more experienced skiers. It was a lawsuit about a skiing accident that happened on that run. The biggest problem was trying to keep the ink in my machine, and my fingers, from freezing.

Frances Ray, RPR, Florence, S.C.

We had a defendant who was very obese. Because of his size it was decided it would be too risky for him to use the elevator in the courthouse, so the judge agreed to take his guilty plea in the parking lot. The defendant sat in his truck and I was sitting in a chair in the parking lot with my writer, taking down the proceedings.

Paul G. Brandell, RPR, Lansing, Mich.

On a bus traveling across the Ambassador Bridge from Detroit to Canada and then standing up in a duty- free warehouse.

Julie Patti-Andolpho, Boynton Beach, Fla.

On a very high floor in a building that was being constructed in Miami. I had to wear a hard hat and boots. Very scary.

Shannon Roberts, RPR, Canton, Ohio

On a dirt road next to a pig farm, talking about property lines, sitting on bumpers of cars. I finally asked for a better seat and got an old feed bucket.

Tiffany Treffeisen, RPR, Lake Panasoffkee, Fla.

I’ve had a few, but the top two are on a man-made berm that the entire court staff had to ride airboats to get to and; second, a jury view with multiple stops outside in the middle of a road being constructed through a family’s farm.

Sherree DeAnda, Sacramento, Calif.

It was in Jalisco, Mexico, and involved a two-hour drive on a dirt road to a hut-like structure.

Susan Gee, RMR, CRR, Cincinnati, Ohio

The old Reds stadium where somebody was injured in the field. It was tough keeping my paper in the tray because it was windy. Also at a table at Perkins where every five minutes the waitress asked if we were ready to order. Sheesh.

Maryl Jonas, RMR, Canton, Ohio

Sitting on a bar stool in the kitchen of a guy who did fabricating out of his barn. I had to balance my machine on my lap, and his elderly Doberman slobbered down my leg. The guy had no kitchen table and a framed picture of the Dobie on the wall.

Rhonda Hall-Breuwet, RDR, CRR

On the Ringling Brothers train.

Get the edge by attending NCRA’s CRR Boot Camp

Professionals considering taking the Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR) test have the opportunity to gain an advantage by attending the CRR Boot Camp being offered at the 2019 NCRA Convention & Expo in Denver, Colo., being held Aug. 15-18.

NCRA’s CRR certification represents realtime pro­ficiency for those who earn it as it is recognized in the industry as the national certification of real­time competency. Holding the CRR also can lead to an increase in salary, as noted by a number of recent NCRA surveys.

“As the CRR Chief Examiner in Massachu­setts, I saw so many candidates come back time and time again to take the certification test. It was bittersweet. They couldn’t pass, but they kept trying,” said Kathryn Sweeney, FAPR, RMR, CRR, a freelance reporter and agency owner from Acton, Mass., who helped develop the boot camp pro­gram and who will be teaching it at the NCRA Convention & Expo.

“The idea of the boot camp came about when the Board of the Massachusetts Court Reporters Association (MCRA) approached me with ques­tions as to why there were not more people pass­ing the CRR exam and what I could do to maybe help those candidates,” said Sweeney, who also served as a beta tester for NCRA’s online testing system and as CRR Chief Examiner on behalf of the Association for 17 years.

“They gave me two hours and a place to give a seminar back in October of 2009. It was originally named ‘Ready? Begin.’ Those are the two most dreaded words for even the most skilled court reporter,” Sweeney said.

Because it was felt that the original name of the program might actually scare people away, it was renamed the CRR Dress Rehearsal. Over the years, however, said Sweeney, the presentation turned into a three-hour session and was appro­priately renamed again to the CRR Boot Camp.

Word about the program has been spreading across states, according to Sweeney, who has been presenting the session all across the country, with more state associations contacting her about presenting it at their meetings.

Unlike NCRA’s newest certification, the Certi­fied Realtime Captioner (CRC), which requires participation in a 10-hour workshop before being able to take the test, the CRR Boot Camp is not a prerequisite for taking the CRR test. However, said Sweeney, it can certainly help with increasing the chances of passing on the first take.

In the course, she explains to attendees the testing requirements, covers NCRA’s What is an Error?, discusses what is not an error, and talks about the online testing process. She also offers tips on working on self-preparation, includ­ing what to have on test day, what to do and not do on test day, and how and why candidates fail. Participants in the session are also asked to bring their equipment with them because Sweeney said she also lets them take a couple of practice tests, as well as manipulate the system settings and dictionary entries.

“There is so much material. Even if just one thing I teach resonates with an attendee, one thing that they can go back and fix or change, it may just be the one thing that pushes them over the hump and gets them that CRR desig­nation,” said Sweeney.

One reason she attributes the program’s success in helping CRR candidates be suc­cessful in passing the test is because much of the material she covers about being prepared includes information often missed, such has having flash drives or SD cards properly for­matted, which is included in the recommended reading on the testing website and contained in the pre-test emails they receive.

“The most frustrating part of being the proc­tor at brick-and-mortar testing sites was that I could not help the candidates. It was simply not allowed. They were supposed to just know all this stuff. Heck, candidates showed up without their driver’s license because they didn’t know they needed to show it to me,” she said.

“I strongly believe taking the CRR Boot Camp will increase the chance of passing this test. When I finished my presentation in Geor­gia, a woman who already had her CRR came up to me and said that she wished this seminar was around when she was preparing for the test; that it had all of the information and steps that she muddled through on her own. She said it took years of figuring out what was being asked of her and then changing her writing and learning her equipment and software in order to pass,” Sweeney said. “With this boot camp, I can help you in three hours.”

Perhaps the greatest benefit of taking the CRR Boot Camp is that attendees will know if they’re ready to take the test or not, while those who have taken the test before will realize why they didn’t pass, she noted.

“I am a huge proponent of not throwing money away. If you’re not quite ‘there’ yet, then don’t spend (the money) on this test. You will learn what you need to work on before you take the plunge and sign up for the test. You will know when you’re ready, instead of just winging it and hoping for the best,” Sweeney added. “The CRR really is the easiest test you’ll ever fail. But why fail at all? Learn what you need to do in order to pass. Come to my boot camp!”

Sweeney, who has been a court reporter for 28 years, served eight years on her state association’s Board of Directors, two years as president, and recently joined as a director again in April.

To earn the CRR certification, professionals are required to hold the Registered Profes­sional Reporter (RPR) certification, be a current member of NCRA, and pass a realtime testi­mony skills test at 200 words per minute with 96 percent accuracy.

For more information about or to register for NCRA’s CRR Boot Camp and the 2019 Convention & Expo, visit NCRA.org/events.

Help wanted: Court reporters needed nationwide

The Kearny Hub, Grand Island, Neb., posted an article on May 20 about the nationwide shortage of court reporters.

Read more.