NCRA member quoted in article about the Veterans History Project

NCRA member Debbie Sabat, RPR, Trumbull County, Ohio, a probate court reporter, was quoted in an article posted May 28 by the Tribune Chronicle about NCRA’s involvement in the Veterans History Project program.

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The benefits of pro bono work

Lisa Migliore Black

By Lisa Migliore Black

The call from the out-of-state attorney seemed much like any other. “We’ll need a court reporter and videographer to cover a deposition. Are you available?” But this call turned unusual.

After obtaining the scheduling information, the next question was, “Do you do pro bono work?”

Now, I’ve done pro bono work before for select parties who couldn’t afford our services, for the Veterans History Project, even offering our services on immigration cases for which our existing clients were providing their legal services free of charge. My only hesitancy here was the lack of knowledge of this particular firm, the case at hand, or any of their history with pro bono work. This left me wondering if I would be agreeing to help promote a noble cause, aid someone truly indigent in seeking justice, or just stupidly discounting our services. Hesitantly, I said, “Yes.”

I provided the caller with a summary of our state association’s guidelines for pro bono work. In part, the pro bono guidelines state, “A volunteer reporter will provide 50 pages of transcript at no charge. All subsequent pages will be billed at the reporter’s regular page rate unless the reporter waives this fee or negotiates a discounted page rate.” The client happily agreed, and the first deposition date was set.

On the eve of the deposition, the reporter assigned to cover the case did a bit of research to prepare for the following day’s proceedings. The search of the case style, “State of Florida v. Clemente Javier Aguirre-Jarquin,” resulted interesting details about the case. Aguirre was serving a sentence on Florida’s death row for the murder of his neighbors Cheryl Williams and Carole Bareis, and his team of lawyers was seeking to have his conviction overturned.

“On the morning of June 17, 2004, Aguirre found the bodies of Cheryl Williams and her mother, Carol Bareis, in their trailer home. They had been stabbed dozens of times. Distressed by the violent scene, Aguirre checked the victims to see if they were still breathing, at which point he got the victims’ blood on his clothing. Realizing they were dead, Aguirre picked up a knife that was near Williams’ body, fearful that the perpetrator was still present, but then panicked, throwing the knife into the yard and returning to his neighboring trailer.

“When questioned by the police, Aguirre initially reported that he knew nothing about the murders; at that time, Aguirre was an immigrant from Honduras with no criminal history but feared deportation from the United States. Later that same day, however, he asked to speak to police again and voluntarily disclosed that he’d been in the trailer earlier that morning and discovered the bodies. The officers arrested him that day and charged him with evidence tampering. He remained a person of interest and was held without bond until he was charged 10 days later with the double murders. Aguirre had no previous criminal history.”

Our witness was to be Samantha Williams, the daughter and granddaughter of the victims. Williams did not appear for the first date scheduled, but ultimately the deposition did proceed. The attorney who hired us represented Aguirre through the Innocence Project, a volunteer organization whose mission is to exonerate the wrongfully convicted and seek justice reform, a mission near and dear to my heart.

Because I am a videographer, court reporter, and firm owner, I was able to pay the reporter in full, donate my time as the videographer, and heavily discount the remaining charges to about one-fourth of the usual cost. The payoff for me, other than the gratification of doing the right thing? Approximately nine months later, our office learned of Mr. Aguirre’s exoneration.

The pro bono work I’ve done has proven to be some of the most interesting and personally rewarding work of my career. This case was no exception. We applaud the efforts of the Innocence Project and take great pride in the role we were able to play in our justice system.

Lisa Migliore Black is a freelance reporter and owner of Migliore & Associates, based in Louisville, Ky. She can be reached at Lisacr99@hotmail.com.

NCRA member participates in fifth graders Law Day

On May 15, The Frontier and Holt County Independent posted a story about a Law Day that was held for local fifth graders in which NCRA member Kami Hooey, RPR, CRR, an official court reporter from Atkinson, Neb.,  participated.

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Court reporting featured at local career fair

NCRA Director Cindy Isaacsen, RPR, a freelance court reporter from Shawnee, Kan., was featured in a photo and quoted in an article posted May 10 by The Miami County Republic,  about her participation in a recent career fair held a local middle school.

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NCRA member showcases court reporting and captioning at California school

NCRA member Trudy O’Brien speaking at Grizzly Youth Academy

On April 19, NCRA member Trudy O’Brien, a freelance court reporter from Morro Bay, Calif., showcased the court reporting and captioning professions to students at the Grizzly Youth Academy (GYA) in San Luis Obispo, Calif.

The GYA is a partnership between the California National Guard and the Grizzly Challenge Charger School. It serves youth between the ages of 16 and 18 who have dropped out of high school or are at risk of dropping out. The curriculum offers a high-structured environment that promotes leadership, cooperation, and academic skills, while building self-esteem, pride, and confidence.

According to O’Brien, while she didn’t have any of the students asking where to sign up to learn the profession, she is hopeful the seed was planted in some of them.

“I could tell they were fascinated by my writing by what they were saying, so they definitely saw the magic happen. The kids enjoyed being able to take away bags and highlighters, and I made sure that they all left with a flyer,” she added.

A growing number of NCRA members have realized the value in attending career fairs as a way to promote the profession. Members report that they have participated in career fairs held at middle schools, high schools, community colleges, and other venues to promote the benefits of a career in court reporting or captioning. Below is a list of tips that include ways to find a career fair event near you and help you to plan a successful career day demonstration.

  • Visit a local high school website and contact counselors or directors of public relations/admissions.
  • Contact the Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, or other youth organizations in your community to see if there is an opportunity to introduce the students to the court reporting and captioning professions. 
  • Contact high schools in your area to see if they are holding any college fairs.
  • Sign up to exhibit at your state’s high school guidance counselor convention to showcase what you do.
  • Bring along a short transcript to use as part of your demonstration. Let the students get a flavor for what goes on in the courtroom or the deposition suite by letting them have a turn at being the judge, the prosecutor, the defense attorney, or the defendant. 
  • Share personal stories of why you chose this profession. Let students know how diversified the profession is and more about the various work venues, flexibility, salary potential, training required, and job availability.
  • Be sure to have on hand materials such as flyers and information about where to learn more about the profession.
  • Be sure to pack plenty of your personal business cards. Offer interested students the opportunity to shadow you or a colleague in whatever area of our profession may be of interest to them. Give them the chance to see just how exciting the career is.

NCRA members who are interested in presenting at career fairs can access a variety of resources available from the Association. The Resource Center at DiscoverSteno.com has fliers, posters, a PowerPoint presentation, and more.

Members may also find value in the resources at NCRA.org/Awareness. These materials are focused on Court Reporting & Captioning Week, but members can adapt them for other promotional purposes or use them to find ideas for highlighting court reporting and captioning.

Other good sources to tap into for opportunities to showcase the court reporting and captioning professions include the American School Counselors Association (ASCA) and the National Association of College Admissions Counseling (NACAC), which holds college fairs on national, state, and regional levels.

Members who do participate in career fairs or any other promotional activities are encouraged to contact pr@ncra.org to have their stories possibly included in the JCR or JCR Weekly. Keep in mind that any photos taken at a school career event will likely need to hide any identifying features of minors, especially faces.

Sunrise Rotary learns about Veterans History Project

NCRA member Jill Layton, RMR, an official court reporter from Toledo, Ill., was featured in an article posted April 12 by the Effingham Daily News, about her volunteering to record the stories of Illinois veterans for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project.

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Angel Donor Profile: Marjorie Peters

Marjorie Peters

The National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) supports the advancement of the court reporting and captioning professions through education, scholarship, recognition, and programs critical to preserving the past, enriching the present, and securing the future of the profession. NCRF is able to do the great work it does with donations from individuals and organizations through various donor programs, including the popular Angels program.

Each month, NCRA will highlight one of the more than 100 Angels who support the National Court Reporters Foundation year after year. This month, the column kicks off with a profile of Marjorie Peters, RMR, CRR, who also holds NCRA’s Realtime Systems Administrator certificate.

JCR | Let’s begin with learning where you are based and what you do.

MP | Based in Pittsburgh, Pa., covering Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland. I am a freelance reporter and small firm owner covering complex realtime and all types of litigation, large and small.

JCR | How long have you been an Angel?

MP | Since the Angel program started, nearly 15 years ago!

JCR | Clearly being an Angel is important to you. Why?

MP | I did not attend college, but having a skilled trade that has become a career has offered me the opportunity to achieve goals and work in places with people I never would have imagined. It has given me freedom of choice and flexibility in my life. I want everyone to realize their own goals as well, and the Foundation programs offer those opportunities to others as well.  How can I not support that!?

JCR | Are you involved with the Foundation in other ways?

MP | I am on the Angels Gatherers Committee! Ask me about being an Angel! It’s not as hard as you think. After I was an Angel for the first couple of years, I realized it was a commitment that I would always make to myself and others because NCRF’s programs really do help others. Foundation programs empower!

JCR | What is your favorite NCRF program?   

MP | Well, the easy answer is the Oral Histories Project. It is a labor of love and the best day you will ever have. The Foundation programs support education through scholarships, support reporting firms by offering legal education resources, and of course the Corrine Clark Professionalism Institute supports fledgling reporters and firms. The Foundation lifts students, reporters, and firms to success personally and professionally.  

Learn more about the NCRF Angel Donors program, or become an Angel.

Do well by doing good: The pros of pro bono

Benjamin Franklin, one of America’s founding fathers, is credited with the phrase, “Do well by doing good.” Pro bono work is just that. In Latin, the term means “for the public good.” For many NCRA members, it means giving back to their community by providing services at no cost for a variety of venues and audiences. The opportunity for the provider to grow their network, sharpen their skills, possibly learn new skills, and, of course, to make a difference are among the benefits of offering your services on a pro bono basis.

Providing pro bono services (judicial, CART, captioning)

Pro bono services are defined by the Council of the Academy of Professional Reporters (CAPR) as “providing court reporting, realtime, CART, or captioning services for which compensation in any form was not rendered.” In practice, this can include any variety of services, such as providing CART captioning for a deaf consumer at a meeting or church service or taking depositions for litigants who could not afford reporting services. Specifically, 0.25 PDC will be awarded for a minimum of 2.5 hours of pro bono service, of which 30 minutes can be the preparation involved. Services for two one-hour events plus 30 minutes of preparation, for example, can be combined for one submission. The preparation time will be accounted for on the honor system. Members will submit an NCRA form along with the processing fee when requesting the credits. The form must be signed by either the deaf consumer or the host of the event for which the pro bono services were performed. The JCR recently reached out to several NCRA members to learn more about the pro bono work they do and why they do it.

LeAnn M. Hibler, RMR, CRR, CRC, is a freelance CART provider and captioner from Joliet, Ill.

JCR | Where and when did you volunteer your services pro bono?

HIBLER | Every spring for the past 12 years, I have provided overhead CART captioning on a pro bono basis for an Illinois Hands & Voices event called Mom’s Night Inn. The “moms” of deaf and hard-of-hearing children stay overnight at a hotel, and they share experiences and information. On Sunday morning they have a panel of people with hearing loss, which is what I provide the captioning for.

JCR | What motivated you to offer to provide your services pro bono?

HIBLER | At the time I was providing captioning for an undergraduate student whose mom was involved with Hands & Voices. She fought to have captioning for her son in high school and then college. She wanted to spread the word about CART captioning and asked me if I would provide my services at a Mom’s Night Inn, and the rest is history.

JCR | Did you use this experience to earn Professional Development Credits from NCRA?

HIBLER | I think it’s great that NCRA allows its members to earn PDCs for providing pro bono work, but, no, I have not taken advantage of it yet.

JCR | Why is it important for any professional to provide their services pro bono?

HIBLER | It’s important on a professional level because it’s a great opportunity for networking and business growth. Oftentimes when you are working on a pro bono basis, you are allowed to disseminate your business information free of charge. How can you go wrong with free advertising?

JCR | Do you have plans to provide more of your services pro bono in the future, and if so, do you know where and when yet?
HIBLER | Well, clearly a year from now I’ll be working again with Hands & Voices. My pro bono work comes into play when a special situation arises. A couple years ago, I was asked to work a memorial service for the nephew of a consumer I knew. It was a few blocks from my house, and I was more than happy to do it pro bono.

JCR | What have been the greatest personal rewards for you from these activities?

HIBLER | Oh, I just love people. I’ve met the most wonderful people through my captioning jobs and learned about non-profit organizations that do great work. I have no problem providing a couple hours of captioning for free, especially for organizations that hire me on a regular basis. I figure I have the time, I have a fantastic skill, and I’m happy to do a nice thing for our consumers from time to time.

JCR | What would you say to someone to encourage them to offer their services pro bono?

HIBLER | If you think of pro bono work as a hassle, you’re never going to want to do it. What you should do is pick an event that means something to you in some way. Maybe you have a soft spot for indigent litigants. Maybe you’d like to caption for the parishioners in your church. Maybe you’re trying out some new technology and need an audience. Remember, you can use your pro bono work as a way to introduce yourself to potential new clients. You may be working for free today, but it could bring new business for tomorrow. Just do it. It might even make you feel good!

Gayl Hardeman, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, CRI, is a freelance CART provider, captioner, and agency owner from Pinellas Park, Fla.

JCR | Where and when did you volunteer your services pro bono?

HARDEMAN | In December we were contacted by a grant recipient who needed interviews with survivors of human trafficking transcribed. The transcripts were to be used to create a docu-drama to educate people about the scourge of human trafficking. There were 10 interviews to be transcribed within a few weeks’ time, as the grant recipient was facing a deadline with the performance to take place in late January. I decided her cause was genuine and one that aligned with my values; namely, to help people know about this established network of traffickers and unwitting trafficking victims. I knew I couldn’t transcribe almost 25 hours of interviews over the holidays, so I’d need help, and four of my colleagues stepped up and helped me meet the deadline. My colleagues — Tammy Milcowitz, RMR, CRR, CRC; Kathryn Bentley, RPR, CRC; Leslie Schwartz; and Holly McKay — were fantastic in giving their time and skills. Thank you!

JCR | What motivated you to offer to provide your services pro bono?

HARDEMAN | To serve those who serve, and to help spread the word that a whole pattern of modern-day slavery exists.

JCR | Did you use this experience to earn Professional Development Credits from NCRA?

HARDEMAN | I will probably do so soon.

JCR | Why is it important for any professional to provide their services pro bono?

HARDEMAN | It makes you feel good to assist people by using your skills to create an enduring and useful record for them.

JCR | Do you have plans to provide more of your services pro bono in the future, and if so, do you know where and when yet?

HARDEMAN | I have no plans to, but I often give of my time as a mentor and trainer.

JCR | What have been the greatest personal rewards for you from these activities?

HARDEMAN | I was educated about something I’d heard about. Now I’ve been a firsthand witness to several personal accounts of how young girls were lured into a life of forced prostitution. The best part of transcribing these accounts was finding that the young women emerged from their horrible situations to help others avoid and deal with the aftermath of that life.

JCR | What would you say to someone to encourage them to offer their services pro bono?

HARDEMAN | We get a kind of burnout at times in our career, so to reframe our skills as tools for human education and justice elevates our purpose and identity.

Ninette Butler, RPR, CRR, CRC, Realtime Systems Administrator, is a freelance court reporter from Orlando, Fla. She is part of a team that provides live streaming on Sundays at a local church.

JCR | Where and when did you volunteer your services pro bono?

BUTLER | First Baptist Orlando.

JCR | What motivated you to offer to provide your services pro bono?

BUTLER | A heart to serve and use our God-given talents for those in need.

JCR | Did you use this experience to earn Professional Development Credits from NCRA?

BUTLER | I do if I need additional credits to complete my cycle.

JCR | Why is it important for any professional to provide their services pro bono?

BUTLER | It’s a unique talent that we are blessed with. It only makes sense to share it with others.

JCR | Do you have plans to provide more of your services pro bono in the future, and if so, do you know where and when yet?

BUTLER | This is an ongoing ministry for us every Sunday.

 JCR | What have been the greatest personal rewards for you from these activities?

BUTLER | I feel we get so much out of it in return, by being able to hear such an impactful message every week. The people that we serve are also so very grateful. We don’t get that kind of gratitude in the legal setting!

JCR | What would you say to someone to encourage them to offer their services pro bono?

BUTLER | If there is a little voice inside you that is yearning to serve others, prayerfully consider where God will place you and look for opportunities. There’s always a place designed just for you!

Deborah Weaver is a freelance court reporter and owner of Alaris Litigation Services in St. Louis, Mo.

JCR | Where and when did you volunteer your services pro bono?

WEAVER | At Alaris we have a long-standing tradition of helping worthy causes. We are committed to giving back to organizations that make a difference in the communities we serve. Alaris is involved in many community efforts. A few of these include:

Let’s Start. For more than 13 years we have packed lunches for children to take on the bus when they go visit their mothers in prison.

Center for Women in Transition. Involved in providing resources and community support to women who have recently been released from prison.

Dollars for Depositions. By developing this program in partnership with the Missouri Coalition for the Right to Counsel (MCRC), we are able to provide funding for deposition services to support individuals who may not be able to afford them otherwise.

BAMSL Motion for Kids. For more than 24 years, Alaris has supported the Motion for Kids organization, which is a nonprofit that holds an annual holiday party for children in the foster care system or who have been severely impacted by the criminal justice system. Alaris distributes gifts for the kids at the Santa Station and helps with visits from Santa.

JCR | What motivated you to offer to provide your services pro bono?

WEAVER | As a company, Alaris believes by actively participating in the betterment of our communities, we build strong relationships with other organizations, volunteers, and community members while also becoming visible and present to those around us. This strengthens the position of our company, and strong personal relationships can often lead to strong business relationships. Additionally, our charity involvement has introduced us to relationships with people who have become friends outside of business hours.

JCR | Did you use this experience to earn Professional Development Credits from NCRA?

WEAVER | No, we did not.

JCR | Why is it important for any professional to provide their services pro bono?

WEAVER | I’m a firm believer in using your unique talents to serve the community in which you live and work. I believe it is something everyone should do, no matter how large or small. The legal community has always supported me personally and my companies, and this allows us to give back.

JCR | Do you have plans to provide more of your services pro bono in the future, and if so, do you know where and when yet?

WEAVER | We will continue to support these community projects, and if any come our way that align with our organization, then we are certainly open to supporting how we can.

JCR | What have been the greatest personal rewards for you from these activities?

WEAVER | On a personal level, I find it incredibly rewarding to bring hope, assistance, and joy to someone’s life, most especially a child’s life. It is also rewarding to see our staff get involved and be supportive in these efforts. I see it as “paying it forward,” using my talents to help make the world a better place one little effort at a time.

JCR | What would you say to someone to encourage them to offer their services pro bono?

WEAVER | Just do it! No, really, just do it. Whether it’s helping break the cycle of incarceration or beautifying your neighborhood, find what inspires you and make it an active part of your life. It’s such a privilege to be able to give back to one’s community, and the rewards you see from these efforts are always tenfold. Whether it’s strengthened business relationships, creating lasting personal relationships, or the simple joy of knowing you’ve made your community a better place to live and work, there is always something to be gained.

Nominations for NCRA Board of Directors sought

Serving on the NCRA Board of Directors is an excellent opportunity to use your leadership skills to help advance the premier organization that continues to empower the court reporting and captioning professions. As a Director, you will serve with others as fiduciaries to steer the organization towards a sustainable future by adopting sound, ethical, and legal governance and financial management policies as well as by making sure NCRA has adequate resources to advance its mission.

Declare your candidacy or submit recommendations to boardnominations@ncra.org by Jan. 18, 2019. As a courtesy, please contact your candidate directly prior to submitting his or her name.

A Web-based, no-obligation orientation will be held on Wednesday, Jan. 9, for anyone interested in seeking future Board service. This briefing will help you gain a better understanding of the process and expectations of serving on the Board. To sign-up for the Webinar, please click here.








It’s a giving time of the year!  Make a difference!

By Sandy Bunch VanderPol

Sandy Bunch VanderPol

When you love something, you want to support it all the time, even if it takes a lot of effort and time. This is how I feel about our profession and the National Court Reporters Foundation, the philanthropic arm of NCRA.  As a Trustee on the NCRF, I have the privilege to serve all of you, as members of NCRA. It is indeed a privilege.

As a freelance reporter and an independent contractor, it has always been in my heart to support the profession I so love. I do this by volunteering my time and by supporting the profession with my financial contributions, and I have benefited greatly from doing this. Financial generosity is an important element in the success of any organization that supports the philanthropic efforts of that organization, and your financial support is necessary to the success of the charitable work of the NCRF.

I would ask all of you to please take a moment to consider making a charitable contribution to NCRF. There is no amount too small or too large. Your contribution will be spent wisely in supporting the many programs of NCRF. Make a difference! The feeling of giving – what a feeling it is!

Thank you in advance for your support. I appreciate it. Oh, and I forgot to mention, your contribution is tax deductible. And if you contribute $1,000, you will be an “NCRF Angel,” which can benefit you through networking and a number of public relations and marketing opportunities.

 

Sandy Bunch VanderPol, FAPR, RMR, CRR, of Lotus, Calif., is an NCRF Trustee and longtime NCRF Angel. Visit www.bit.ly/NCRFYEA to donate to NCRF to support your profession.