NCRF Trustee recognizes Veterans Day with story of stenographer to MacArthur

NCRF Trustee Marjorie Peters, FAPR, RMR, CRR, of Alexandria, Va., took the time to recognize Veterans Day by transcribing the 2003 interview of veteran Joseph Jefferson Mickey, who was assigned to serve as stenographer to Gen. Douglas MacArthur in the final days of World War II. During his interview, Mickey recalled how MacArthur dictated to him the directive that land, sea, and air personnel were to be sent into Japan for occupation after that country had surrendered.

“It was a reminder to me personally of what our veterans have done and why this program through the Library of Congress is so important – and why the Foundation chooses to be involved in it,” Peters said. “Court reporters have been capturing history for hundreds of years. Here in our midst, we have brave veterans whose stories are compelling and original; they were involved with events that were profound. We have been given the opportunity to help with a crucial task – to give access to the personal firsthand histories of our veterans of every stripe and caliber to get a more nuanced and accurate view of the events. We listen like no other professional, we observe every nuance. We have the ability to preserve more histories more efficiently than any other profession.”

Mickey was drafted in late 1944 and served as a Tech Sergeant in the Pacific Theater, where he served in the Philippines and Japan. Since he was one of few people with training on a stenotype machine, Mickey was pulled from guard duty to work under Gen. MacArthur, who needed someone in that position. Although he hadn’t worked as a stenographer between the time he received his training in the late 1930s and his stint in the army, Mickey said that the theory he learned came back to him easily. He added: “It probably saved my life because a lot of guys never came back from the jungles of Leyte in the Philippines.”

In the interview, he also spoke about his experience in Japan following the surrender, including the desperate plight of many people there, what it was like to work under MacArthur, and his opinion of MacArthur’s legacy.

“Many times, it is also deeply important for the veterans themselves to have their personal story recognized and recorded with reverence,” Peters reflected on her experience. “Let us honor their contribution and sacrifices. I promise you, reporting a Veteran’s Oral History will be the best project you have ever worked on.”

The National Court Reporters Foundation invites NCRA members to participate by transcribing a veteran’s pre-recorded history or interviewing a veteran you know. The Veterans History Project (VHP) started in 2003 when the Library of Congress was directed to collect the moving stories of many U.S. war veterans, building a lasting legacy of the diverse group of men and women who have served and sacrificed for our nation during wartime. Since then, the Foundation has worked with NCRA members to transcribe more than 4,500 interviews to support this program. Earlier this year, NCRF announced that it renewed its Memorandum of Understanding with the Library of Congress Veterans History Project for the next three years.

More information.

Virtual career day in the courtroom

By Shaunise Day

Earlier this year, I was excited to announce that I had partnered with KIPP, a nationwide non-profit network of public charter schools, to promote our court reporting and captioning professions to their schools. In order to promote our profession during a career fair, it was suggested that maybe I could put together a full career fair that represents the legal profession. I was able to get the courtroom approved to hold the career fair. We were going to have the panel set up in the courtroom, provide lunch for the students, give a mini-networking session with the students and professionals, set up a few steno machines to allow the students to try them out, and then finally give a tour of the courthouse. COVID-19 happened and changed everything.

Over the summer, we all witnessed parents and students struggling with homeschooling. I could only imagine what that must have been like. I contacted the director for the KIPP Academy in the Bay Area of California to see if we could still possibly put this career fair together but make it a virtual career fair. What better time than now to encourage and remind our youth that their goals and dreams of going to a college or trade school still mattered? This was the perfect time. This would also give parents some relief and bring some positivity to this pandemic. Director Chris Walker from KIPP Academy- Bay Area, California, was on board with this whole idea that I presented, and we brainstormed to make this first ever virtual career fair come alive.

After participating in two career fairs on behalf of the California Court Reporters Association last year, I knew that I wanted to keep this up. I gave up four hours last year to promote the profession on behalf of my state association. We have 365 days in a year, and all it took was four hours to do something good to promote the profession. I knew going forward that I would continue to set aside a few hours per year to give back and promote steno to the public.

I decided that my target audience would be inner-city schools. The reason why I selected KIPP Academy was because of its inclusion and diversity. This was near and dear to my heart. After setting up the first KIPP Academy career fair, I decided to take it a step further and contact another chapter of KIPP Academy, in Houston, Texas. The director immediately was on board with my plan. I thought we could make October a month to promote the profession. By this time, I had a total of four virtual career fairs planned.  After the organizing and planning was complete, it was now time to reach out to our reporting/captioning community and see who would be available to volunteer a few hours to help promote the profession.

I also created a new Facebook group: The Steno Xperience. It is for those in the steno community who are interested in promoting the captioning/court reporting professions through career fairs while promoting the NCRA A to Z® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand Program. The group was also created to share ideas on how to promote the profession, share pictures of other steno-related career fairs, give talking points to the public while promoting the profession, and maybe inspire others to get involved and give back.

Career Fair #1 for teen girls

We kicked off our first virtual career fair with a small group of teen girls from Dallas, Texas. This virtual career fair was held on Oct. 3. We had six stenographers participate. We had Linda McSwain, RPR, an official reporter in Mobile, Ala.; Kimberly Xavier, RDR, CRR, CRC, CMRS, CRI, an official reporter in Arlington, Texas; Lenora Walker, a freelance reporter in Oceanside, N.Y.; Adriana Johnson from California; Vertina Yeargin, a freelance reporter in Lauderhill, Fla.; and Stephanie Hicks, a freelance reporter in Bronx, N.Y. These stenographers did such an awesome job promoting the profession and giving words of encouragement. I sat back and let these ladies do what they do best and that’s share their passion for the profession. After the Zoom meeting, Hicks decided to register for the RPR for the next testing cycle. You see, when a group of stenographers are together, we encourage and motivate each other. This was one of the highlights about the career fair. Empowered stenographers empower stenographers.

Career Fair #2 and #3 – Kipp Academy

The career fair for KIPP Academy Houston was done in two parts. This career fair panel was made up of the professions that you would see in a courtroom. We had Judge Dunson from Houston, Texas; attorney Eddrea McKnight from Houston, Texas; and police officer Sheldon Theragood from Houston, Texas. We had our very own stenographers Mekailah McChriston, an official reporter in Spring, Texas; Leticia Villanueva from Houston, Texas; Erminia Uviedo, RDR, CRR, CRC, a freelance reporter in San Antonio, Texas; and Adriana Johnson from California provided the captions. I was so proud at how passionately each professional spoke about the legal profession.

The second career fair was Oct. 5. The director requested that we record the professionals who could not make it to the live virtual career fair and also wanted a person to be present during the live career fair to answer the questions that students may have. During this pandemic, the stenography world has been busy. It was hard to get reporters to commit during the morning hours to promote the profession. I ended up being the presenter for the live career fair. I had no clue that I would be speaking to four different classes on two different days. Each class was for 50 minutes. For some of the periods, we had classes that would combine and join the Zoom meeting. One class may have had 42 students, while another may have had 26 students. I put together a PowerPoint presentation and made sure that I had enough material to cover the entire class schedule while leaving room for questions at the end. The resources that I used were pulled from NCRA’s website. Between the PowerPoint presentation and the professional short video clips, the timing was perfect. I also included steno TikTok videos that the students enjoyed and could relate to. I was able to answer all questions and provide handouts and information on the NCRA A to Z® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand Program. I promoted the profession for two days straight with a total of eight classes. The director and students were impressed, and we have been asked to promote the profession at their next career fair. The next time I will be sure to have stenographers on deck where there is someone for each class

Career fair #4 – Bay Area, California

The fourth and final virtual career fair was held at KIPP Academy- Bay Area, Calif. This virtual career fair was different from Houston’s career fair. The director only wanted the panel to be present and we did a Zoom recording only. All professionals submitted pictures and their bios, and the students sent in their written questions ahead of time. Once we held the Zoom meeting, all professionals gave an introduction and answered the students’ questions. The panel included Judge Jo-Lynne Lee from California; attorney Peter Langley from California (husband to our very own stenographer Early Langley, RMR, a freelancer in Danville, Calif.); Shacara Mapp, a freelancer in Warren, Mich.; and Chase Frazier, RMR, CRR, CRC, a CART captioner and court reporter in Murrieta, Calif., who provided the captions while he and Mapp both spoke eloquently about our profession and answered the students’ questions.

The virtual career fairs turned out better than I expected. Since we were not able to hold our traditional career fairs, the main goal was to inspire our youth that their dreams are still important despite what we are going through with this pandemic. Our stenographers promoted our court reporting/captioning professions. The judges, attorneys, and police officer shared why the judicial system was important and the importance of finishing school. Each virtual career fair ended with words of encouragement. From the judges to the attorneys, they made sure to acknowledge our court reporting/captioning profession. Doing things remotely is now the new thing. I find myself saying this on a weekly basis, “When technology evolves, so will stenography.” As a profession, we have to continue to find ways to stay with the times and make sure we are educating the public on who we are and what we do. Judge Lee was impressed to find out what captioners actually do. Let’s continue to keep the steno conversation going. Although these virtual career fairs were for the students, I think we all walked away learning something new from another profession. I definitely learned something new and was inspired by all participants. 

Shaunise Day is a student from Oakland, Calif.

Thank you for your (volunteer) service

NCRA would like to thank those members who have graciously volunteered their time to caption events ranging from Town Halls with the president to the numerous webinars the Association has made and continues to make available to members. Here’s a special shout-out to those volunteers:

  • Tina Dillon, RPR, CRR, CRC, Chicago, Ill.;
  • Lisa Doyon, RPR, CRC, Eagle, Idaho;
  • Kim Falgiani, RDR, CRR, CRC, Warren, Ohio;
  • Patty Nelson, CRC, Annapolis, Md.;
  • Anissa Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI, Boise, Idaho;
  • Sheri Smargon, RDR, CRR, CRC, Riverview, Fla.;
  • Angie Starbuck, RDR, CRR, CRC, Columbus, Ohio
  • Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, Portland, Ore.; and
  • NCRA Director Heidi Thomas, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, Kennesaw, Ga.

The JCR recently reached out to these volunteers to learn more about what motivates them to serve their association and fellow members. Tina Dillon told the JCR why she volunteers. Here’s what we learned from our other volunteers.

JCR | What motivates you to volunteer to caption for NCRA’s events and webinars?

Kim Falgiani, RDR, CRR, CRC

Kim Falgiani | The challenge of captioning before my peers is what motivated me initially. Once I volunteered and was a part of planning, I saw how much others contributed and wanted to continue being a part of all the hard work that goes into these events. 

Anissa Nierenberger | To encourage others to volunteer for our national Association and to highlight the awesome career of captioning.

Sheri Smargon | I would love for other members of the Association to branch out and do something they may find terrifying, writing live in front of their peers. It’s a great way to promote the Association and show why we are the gold standard over other methods of taking down the record.

Angie Starbuck | I enjoy giving back to a profession and Association that has given me so much in my career. I have been a member since graduating from court reporting school, and I am honored to give back as a way to thank all of those people who have served NCRA over the years and helped shape me into the court reporter I am today.

Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC

Carol Studenmund | I volunteer to caption for NCRA out of a love for our profession, the friends I have in this organization, and the need to bring more people into the profession

JCR | Why is it important to volunteer your time and skills to assist the Association?

KF | As a member, I have a responsibility to participate in NCRA. Not everyone is at a place in their careers where volunteering fits into their hectic schedules. If you can find the time to volunteer, then go for it! You will have so much fun and overcome the trepidation of sitting before your peers and writing realtime. 

AN | As a past president of the Michigan Association of Professional Court Reporters and after volunteering five years on the Board, I saw the benefits of volunteerism to boost up others so that we can all represent our industry as professionals. The same applies at the national level.

SS | The profession can only move forward in its advocacy and its mission of proving we are the gold standard for preserving the record as well as a channel of communication in the deaf and hard-of-hearing community if we all support it through our deeds and our words. When we showcase our skills, in whatever way we practice our profession, we bring awareness of the skill, professionalism, and dedication to people who may not realize we’re even there.

Angie Starbuck, RDR, CRR, CRC

AS | An association needs its members as much as the members need the association. We wouldn’t be able to advance our profession without volunteers! If you want to see a change in your profession, you have to be willing to step up and volunteer. Getting involved in your association is the best way to make a positive impact for others in the court reporting and captioning field.

CS | I’m a big believer in organizations. I make friends; I learn about captioning; I spend time with people who understand what my work is.

JCR | What would you say to encourage others to volunteer their time to caption for NCRA events and webinars?

KF | For any captioners who may feel that they are not fully engaged in the organization, volunteering is a great way to get involved. Participation helps the Association promote captioning. It also fosters an appreciation for the work NCRA does to support court reporters and captioners alike.

AN | Don’t let self-consciousness hold you back! Thousands of people have already seen your captions, so go for it!

SS | When I volunteer within the Association, I honestly feel like I’m giving back to something that has given me so much. When you are able to pay it forward by donating your time, talent, and energy, you’re giving back. If this career has been good to you, it’s definitely something you should consider. You don’t have to live caption a Town Hall. You can serve on a committee that piques your interest. Are you interested in deciding what seminars are on tap for the next in-person convention? Join the Education Content Committee. Do you want to be part of writing the questions that appear on the certification exams? Join the WKT Committee. Do you like the thought of shaping where your profession is going and how your association is going to best represent you and what you need? Become a Board member. There are so many avenues within NCRA that don’t require you to be “live, on stage.” Our Association runs mostly through reporters willing to step up to the plate and volunteer.

AS | It’s a great feeling to volunteer your services, and it’s a way to help the Association by doing what we do best. Many times, captioners are so busy with families and their career that they may not have time to serve on a committee. This is a perfect opportunity to serve NCRA and its members without a large expenditure of your time!

CS | You will only grow in experience and knowledge but also in friendships when you volunteer for NCRA.

JCR | How long have you been a captioner?

KF | Eighteen years now, but I had a 22-year court reporting career first, both as an official and a freelancer.

Anissa Nierenberger, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI

AN | I’ve been a captioner for 28 years!

SS | I have been captioning since 1992. I graduated court reporting school in February 1992 and began working for my local county government captioning the Board of County Commission meetings. The team I was a part of was the first county in the nation to open caption their government meetings. I think I’ve come a long way from the stage fright that caused, “You need to slow down. I think it’s coming up in Russian up there” to writing live for an NCRA Town Hall. I couldn’t have done that without the support and guidance my Association provides.

AS | I have been providing CART and captioning services since 1995. It is the most rewarding part of my job!

CS | Since 1992.

JCR | How did you hear about the profession?

KF | During my senior year in high school, I was involved in a Gregg Shorthand contest at a local business college. During that competition, we were shown the school. We were taken to a classroom where students were writing away on these strange machines. I inquired that day about the program, and I couldn’t be convinced to pursue any other career after that day. 

AN | I sat in with a court reporter at a career day in high school, and I knew at age 14 that this was what I was meant to do.

SS | When I was a senior in high school, the local tech school presented at a career day. I had never heard of stenographer or court reporters, but it seemed mildly interesting. I am an incredibly bad procrastinator. I didn’t have the grades to get a scholarship into college, and I certainly couldn’t pay for it myself. And I knew if I didn’t do something after high school, I would end up doing nothing, so to speak. I would have no career and would just work an anybody-can-do-it job.

AS | My husband heard a famous radio advertisement in our city for “court reporting jobs going unfilled” back in 1990. He came home and told me I should check it out. I became a court reporter first and then was trained by my mentor, Linda Sturm, to provide CART and captioning. Here I am 30 years later still doing a job I love and working with amazing colleagues!

CS | My grandfather was a court reporter in Oklahoma in the 1910-1940s. I knew he made a very decent living through the Great Depression. Then a friend told me about the court reporting school here in Portland and how the classes were organized, and I thought I’d give it a try. It was a great match from the start.

JCR | What is the most interesting event you have captioned in your career?

KF | Earlier in my captioning years, I would have said the Tour de France without hesitation. But it’s difficult for me now to pick one since my remote broadcast captioning has expanded into on-site CART and open captioning. On-site CART for the Democratic National Convention in 2016 was very interesting, in the true sense of interesting. Traveling to Harvard to be a part of “Jagged Little Pill” was a joy. In fact, “isn’t it ironic, don’t you think” that I am scheduled on a virtual reception now with Alanis Morissette and the cast of “The Jagged Little Pill” in just a couple days? Those types of jobs among common captioning jobs make every day interesting. 

AN | I’ve traveled to Menlo Park, Calif., numerous times and captioned Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook. I love tech captioning along with sports and anything that challenges me. Professional trainers and mentors got me to where I am now: Janet Cassidy-Burr, Larry Driver, Judy Brentano, Jen Schuck, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, among others. I’m a very fortunate girl. I encourage all reporters/captioners to do something today that makes you better than you were yesterday. 

SS | I have captioned a lot of interesting things. My first day on the air when I worked for VITAC was the Oklahoma City Bombing. Nothing like trial by fire. Sept. 11. There’s always good, bad, and indifferent when you’re captioning. I may have started my captioning day captioning a fluff tabloid show and ended the day by captioning hard-core national news.

I’ve captioned the Golden Globe Awards a couple times. I captioned the Stanley Cup Finals one year. “My” team wasn’t playing, so I didn’t have a dog in the fight. I used to love when I’d caption a show I’d watch anyway, like “The Voice” or “Saturday Night Live.”

I’ve captioned the Olympics eight times. There’s nothing like preparing for something “easy,“ like track and field, only to end up with soccer between two countries that you are almost sure are made up.

But no matter what I’m captioning, if possible I try to learn something from every event. I have learned to expect the unexpected and remember that I’m there to help someone understand. If I find myself wavering and getting annoyed with a job, I recenter and think about my Dad, and now Mom, who almost wholly rely on closed captioning to watch television. Would they be proud of the job I’m doing?

This profession gives back in so many ways, noticeable and unnoticeable. You just have to pay attention.

AS | There have been so many interesting things over the years: presidential commencement speeches, Big 10 football games, NHL hockey games to name a few. I would say my favorite was probably captioning an in-person Joe Rogan comedy show! My most proud (and most challenging) moment was being asked to provide on-site captions for one of the presidential debates in Ohio in 2019.

CS | It’s hard to pick between captioning onsite for the Dalai Lama and captioning for the stadium where the Seattle Seahawks won the Super Bowl.

If you are interested in captioning an NCRA event, please contact Laura Butler at lbutler@ncra.org.

Members volunteer during quarantine downtime

Stephanie Lachowicz, RPR, fosters kittens for the Jacksonville Humane Society.

A recent JCR Weekly poll asked if NCRA members were spending more time volunteering with their downtime during quarantine. Answers varied from volunteering in the community to donating money and spreading the word about court reporting and captioning. Some members are also transcribing for the National Court Reporters Foundation’s Veterans History Project. Here is a sampling of what some of our members have been doing.

“I constantly try and spread the word about court reporting. I know we need more people to come into our field all around the country, but especially here in Louisiana. So I am constantly talking to people, trying to recruit new people to the field of court reporting, whether it’s parents for their high school or college children or young adults or adults looking to change their careers. I love what I do still, even now in my 30th year of freelance reporting in the New Orleans metropolitan area. I am always learning something new every day, meeting new people every day, in a different place every day. I am my own boss and have a tremendous amount of flexibility, all while earning a fantastic income. And, yes, I will continue my everyday efforts, as I always have, to speak of the glories of reporting. I just can’t say enough good things about it!”

Wilma Geraci, RPR, is a freelancer in Destrehan, La.


“I foster kittens for the Jacksonville Humane Society. I’ve done it for three years, but I’ve had more time to spend with them during quarantine. I love animals, and this gives me an opportunity to help the most vulnerable cats [and] kittens that are too small and young to stay in a shelter before they’re ready to be adopted.”

Stephanie Lachowicz, RPR, is a freelancer in Jacksonville, Fla.


“I am volunteering more with Operation Christmas Child. We’re working toward a goal of 1,000 boxes this year. Because of the virus, I’ve been able to work on different projects to fill these boxes. We’re now making puzzles from old greeting cards and taking old T-shirts to make jump ropes. I work with a group of ladies from my church, but we have been able to devote more time toward accomplishing our goals during this time. I was drawn to this project because it enables me to teach my grandchildren about giving to others with a loving heart. We work toward gathering the contents and packing the boxes that are shipped all over the world in October for Christmas arrival. I’ve cleaned my office, organized all my files, cleared up my accounting records, and played many, many board games with all my grandchildren. Spending more time with them has been a blessing and when I look back in my past, I’ll have great memories. It is relaxing to slow down every once in a while.”  

Betty Minton, RPR, is a freelancer in Lake Charles, La.


“I have been spreading the word about court reporting and what a wonderful occupation it is for many years. I discuss it with anyone who expresses an interest in the occupation, I discuss it with people who are having employment issues, I have discussed it with moms who are looking to get their children employed. I am a member of Toastmasters and have been giving speeches about court reporting. I plan to continue doing what I have been doing for years. I began teaching it to one of my daughters a number of years ago until she decided to go in another employment direction. My wife and I are amazed at the number of people that are having problems paying their bills or finding employment, and that more people are not getting involved with an occupation in which there is a recognized need.” 

John Newton, Jr., RMR, CRR, CRI, is an official in Flemington, N.J.


“I have always been excited about my career. I know how important it is for the justice system to have qualified stenographic reporters. We are responsible for the recordkeeping of very serious matters. That’s why I have always taken the time to recruit/mentor students/reporters. 

“I have been a part of the Homeless Ministry at my church for a year and a half. I have continued to donate care packages and food to the homeless during COVID-19. I take after my father. He opened his home to homeless people. I met the homeless at his home and realized how passive, non-threatening, and human they actually are. I realized it was my turn to give back to society. I have several homeless friends. I have also begun to mentor new court reporters/students online virtually. I have always actively mentored and/or recruited new reporters/students during my 32 years working as a steno reporter.”

Lourdes Rodriguez-Restrepo, RPR, is a freelancer in Miami, Fla.


“I’ve typed six Veterans History Project transcripts so far over the last couple years. At first it was a good way to get my CEUs, but once I did my first one, I loved it. I really enjoy listening to our veterans’ stories. Some are heartbreaking. Some are so inspiring. All of mine have been men, so I’ll say that these men whose stories I’ve typed were so courageous and selfless. One gentleman, at the very end of his story, his voice broke because of all the death he had seen and the friends he had lost. He didn’t cry, but I did. I also look up all of ‘my’ veterans whose stories I type. I’m curious about them. I’ve been able to find some of them and look at their pictures and their funeral notices. It helps with spellings, too. I grew up as a military ‘brat’ for 20 years. My father was in the Air Force for five years, got out, didn’t like it, and went in the Navy for 15 more years, then retired. I lived on many military bases, so, to me, they are family. I love our veterans. Every single one of them are willing to sacrifice their lives for our freedom. I’m so blessed to be able to give something back by typing their stories and preserving their history.

“I really enjoy the WWI, WWII, and Korean War stories. I had an uncle who was in WWII and the Korean War. He was never the same when he came back. I was shocked at how bad our men had it in the Korean War. One gentleman told of a time when they were hemmed in by the enemy and were starving and our planes dropped frozen steaks and chocolate bars down to them. I typed one story of a pilot in WWII that was stationed in France. He was so young, but he just went all over the place in Europe. He loved it. Another gentleman was on ships in the Pacific during WWII, and he told of how they eluded the enemy boats, running around the outer islands and the coast of Australia, going to the Philippines. As I listen to their stories, I laugh sometimes and I cry sometimes, but all of them stay with me.

“I love history, have always loved history, and I think it should be told by the people who were there and preserved for future generations. These men and women sacrificed so much, so much. I love hearing their life stories.”

Linda S. Blackburn, RDR, CRR, CRC, is a freelancer and CART captioner in Lakeland, Fla.

NCRA members aid in law school’s court simulations

Sharon Saalfield, RMR, CRR

At the University of New Hampshire (UNH) Franklin Pierce School of Law, students in the Daniel Webster Scholar (DWS) Honors Program are allowed to graduate without having to take the traditional two-day state bar exam because the program involves a course built around court simulations and practical experience more than lectures. The program, which is the first of its kind in the nation, was launched in 2008 and has been accepted as an alternative to sitting for the bar exam in virtually all states. As part of the program’s court simulations, several NCRA members participate by volunteering their time to do what they do best: serve as the court reporters during court simulations.

“I hadn’t done any volunteer work outside of being on the board of the New Hampshire Court Reporters Association (NHCRA), so I decided to give it a try,” said Sharon Saalfield, RMR, CRR, a freelance court reporter from Merrimac, Mass., and president of NHCRA, who added that she volunteered for the program last year at the urging of then association president Kimberly Smith, RDR, CRR, CRC, a freelance court reporter from Salem, N.H.

“The room is set up like a courtroom, with the court reporter next to the witness. There was no judge when I was there. Next to me were four law students representing the defense team and four law students representing the plaintiff,” said Saalfield, who has been a court reporter for 27 years.

“Each student took a turn asking the witness questions. I’m not sure who the witnesses were, whether they were actual witnesses from an actual case or not. The case was an actual case, and the program uses this particular case year after year. In addition to the plaintiff and defense teams, there were many students in the room listening to the proceedings,” she added. 

Saalfield explained that her role in the proceedings was to act as the court reporter normally would during a trial. “I set up my realtime and gave the students access to my iPads so they could see the testimony as it was happening. At the end of the day, I was asked to give feedback to the students, which I did.”

According to the UNH website, students are accepted into the DWS program prior to their second year of law school and discover firsthand what it takes to succeed in today’s legal marketplace. They hone their skills in both simulated and real settings – counseling clients, working with practicing lawyers, taking depositions, appearing before judges, negotiating, mediating, drafting business documents – while creating portfolios of written and oral work for bar examiners to assess every semester.

Years in the making, the DWS is a collaboration between UNH Franklin Pierce School of Law, the New Hampshire Supreme Court, the New Hampshire Board of Bar Examiners, and the New Hampshire Bar Association. The program remains without parallel at any other law school and has drawn praise from judges, lawyers, and legal education scholars around the country.

“I think this program is extremely beneficial for those who take part in it,” Saalfield said. “They get to interact with a real witness and a real court reporter and make a record. They got to listen to my feedback about how to make a proper record and how to interact with court personnel and to see firsthand what a court reporter does,” she added. 

“As a court reporter, I definitely benefited from taking part in this program. I got to interact with students and future lawyers that I may be working with someday. I was able to show them what the court reporter’s role is in a deposition and/or courtroom and show them how to make a proper record.” 

Saalfield, who graduated from Hesser College in Manchester, N.H., said that as a junior in high school she was thinking about what she wanted to do with her life.  Her mother, she said, suggested becoming a court reporter. 

“She knew I was a good typist and that I wanted to be involved in the legal field. We went to Hesser for a visit, and I fell in love with it,” she said.

“The best part about my career is the flexibility. Being a freelancer gave me the flexibility that I needed as a mom with young children. I was able to schedule days off when I needed to be there for my kids’ activities or doctor’s appointments. Now that my children have grown, I’m able to spend more time at home. I love traveling to different places every day for work, but it’s great to be able to come home and finish my transcripts there.”

High school career day goes virtual

Kiyoko Panzella, RPR

A group of court employees from the Kings County Supreme Court in Brooklyn, N.Y., recently hosted a virtual career day via Google Meet for some high school students in lieu of an onsite one that was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Among the participants was NCRA member and one of the court’s official reporters, Kiyoko Panzella, RPR. She joined several judges and other court staff to provide an overview of their jobs in the courtroom. The event lasted about two hours and provided 37 high school students with the opportunity to learn more about careers in the legal field. The Brooklyn Eagle posted a story about the event, and the JCR Weekly has since reached out to Panzella to learn more about her experience.

JCR | How did you become involved in this event?

KP | The judge who organized the event contacted me and asked if I would be willing to be a part of the court career day she was organizing. Since the high school we were presenting to is predominantly black and Latino transfer students who are behind in credits, it was important to her to include a diverse group of presenters from all areas of court personnel so we could highlight the different paths that could lead to a career in the courts.

JCR | Have you promoted the court reporting profession before at onsite career days? If so, how was this different?

KP | This was the first career day that I’ve taken part in, so I don’t have an in-person experience to be able to compare it to. I will say that, before we started, I was a little apprehensive about the students actually paying attention and engaging since we wouldn’t physically be with them, but I shouldn’t have worried. The event actually ran an hour past the scheduled time because the students had so many questions! One of the students was a little too “engaged” — he got kicked out of the meeting because he kept muting the speakers.

JCR | What tips would you offer others who might be interested in participating in this type of virtual event?

KP | The “shared screen” feature that many of the virtual meeting platforms have is a great tool for demonstrating realtime. By using that feature I was able to not only demonstrate the realtime feed, but the students were able to simultaneously see the digital notes on my screen and I was able to show some of the features that end users don’t necessarily ever notice such as the “fix one word mistran” AccelerWriter. Google Meet has a captioning function that uses a voice-to-text program, which is a great way to compare their capabilities with a live reporter. It also helps to stay patient and keep a sense of humor. No matter how well prepared you are, technical glitches will happen, so you have to be ready to just roll with the punches.

JCR | What types of questions did the student participants ask?

KP | Most of the questions were for the judges and lawyers about what it’s like to practice law and how they make decisions, but I was specifically asked how I deal with a bunch of people talking at once and what it takes to succeed in my profession.

JCR | How long have you been working as a court reporter?

KP | I’ve been working as a court reporter for about eleven and a half years, about seven as a freelancer and four and a half in the New York court system.

JCR | Where did you go to school for court reporting?

KP | I went to New York Career Institute in Manhattan.  (The school has since merged with Plaza College in Forest Hills, Queens.)

JCR | How did you learn about this profession?

KP | I have an aunt who was a court reporter in the Los Angeles Superior Court Criminal Division. 

JCR | What has been the best thing about choosing this career path?

KP | Definitely the relationships that I’ve developed. This career has enabled me to meet a wide variety of people in different capacities who I probably never would have crossed paths with if not for the profession. I also love that no two days are alike, and I never know what will happen when I walk into the courtroom.

Kiyoko Panzella, RPR, is an official court reporter with the Kings County Supreme Court in Brooklyn, N.Y. She can be reached at panzellak@gmail.com.

Stenographers — we’re everywhere!

By Margary Rogers

The board of the Maryland Court Reporters Association proved that stenographers are everywhere on Feb. 15 during Court Reporting and Captioning Week. 

We promoted court reporting and stenography at the largest mall in the state of Maryland, Arundel Mills (owned by Simon Property Group), where around 5,000 shoppers visit on an average Saturday, and 291,667 shoppers visit each week.

I thought about doing a court reporting pop-up at Arundel Mills back in December 2019, but holidays got in the way.  Meanwhile, the MCRA had a board meeting Feb. 1, and we were brainstorming 2020 events and activities. The board consists of President Valerie Dawson, RMR, an official reporter in Salisbury, Md.; President-elect Ronda Thomas, RPR, CRR, a freelance reporter from Catonsville, Md.; Treasurer David Dawson, RPR (Ret.); Secretary Margary Rogers, RPR, CRI, an official court reporter in Washington, D.C.; and Board Member Cindy Davis, RPR, an official court reporter from Annapolis, Md.

We talked about Court Reporting & Captioning Week, Feb. 8-15, and discussed events that could be done quickly and effectively to promote the profession. We knew we only had two weeks to plan, so schools and job fairs were not available within that two-week time frame. 

So how could we make the most impact in a short time frame and in the presence of many people?

I mentioned promoting the profession at Arundel Mills Mall, an outlet mall.  The board agreed and thought it would be a great place to promote the profession where young people love to go and usually parents are in tow.  We, along with other court reporter volunteers, set up tables, handed out flyers, and provided realtime demonstrations to mall shoppers.

Ronda Thomas and I spearheaded the event. Ronda downloaded and printed NCRA career flyers and posters from the NCRA Resources online page, and I contacted the managers at Arundel Mills Mall. The mall managers were briefed on the profession of court reporting and about Court Reporting & Captioning Week. All relevant information, flyers, layout of the steno machine, and demonstration displays were provided to mall management.

The mall managers knew MCRA’s mission, and they were more than accommodating. They said “Yes, you can set up and promote your profession in the mall.” They gave MCRA three location options to host their event, and MCRA strategically decided on the food court, aka the Dining Pavilion, because this would be an area where shoppers would most likely be sitting down or walking slowly, making it easier for the court reporter volunteers to communicate with shoppers. The Dining Pavilion was also one of the entrances to the mall that was less crowded with walking individuals. (MCRA members were very cognizant of expensive steno machines and having enough safety space.)

 On Feb. 5 after the mall management said yes to setting up to promote the profession, they also said, “Just send us over your certificate of insurance, and you will be all set.” I immediately contacted the MCRA president and said, “We need a certificate of insurance to set up in the mall.” MCRA President Valerie Dawson and Treasurer David Dawson came to the rescue. They stepped in and contacted MCRA’s insurance company. After hours and days of being on the telephone with the insurance company and mall management, Valerie and David made sure we had the correct amount of insurance needed to set up in the mall. It was a small yearly amount, and MCRA has the insurance to use for a year in that mall and other malls in the DMV area.

The MCRA president, Valerie Dawson, made sure the event was advertised to all Maryland court reporters that MCRA had emails for and asked for support and volunteers. Ronda and I also were able to secure volunteers.  The court reporting volunteers were Juanita Price; Michelle Houston, RPR, a CART captioner in Brandywine, Md.; Roz DiBartolo; Susan Wootton, RPR, a freelance reporter in Brooklandville, Md.; and Dan Williams, RPR, a freelance reporter in Baltimore, Md.  Steno machine/realtime demonstrations were done by Susan Liebrecht, RPR, a freelance reporter in Eldersburg, Md.; Ronda Thomas; and me. There were also other court reporters that stopped by to lend their support, Marian Calhoun and Mary Ann Payonk.

The event was a success! There were many passersby. Our new court reporting prospects were teenagers and young adults interested in the steno machine, a career-oriented occupation, realtime and coding. Some words that were used to catch the attention of the patrons were “coding, career, flexible working schedules, working from home, income, closed captioning, and the free six- to eight-week NCRA A to Z® Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program.”

The reactions from some reporters were, “Wow, how were you able to pull this off?” or “We should try the same thing in our association.”

The mall patrons were curious, often doing double-takes as they were walking by.  They were turning around to see what that little machine was. Their reactions were, “Wow, we’ve never seen anything like this set up in a mall before. What are you typing? How do I learn more about it for myself or my child?” There was one shopper who was interested in stenography when she retires. She was interested in captioning from home.

MCRA handed out more than 50 NCRA career flyers, connected with about 25 people and directed those interested people to the Discover Steno web page to sign up for an A to Z program.

Now that we have insurance set up, we have more opportunities to promote the profession in many different venues. Other places of interest to promote the profession are museums, MGM National Harbor Food Court, grocery stores, schools, and department stores like Wal-Mart and Target. We are thinking about hosting Promote Our Profession pop-ups at least three more times this year.  

Margary Rogers, RPR, CRI, is an official court reporter in Washington, D.C.

School counselors see court reporting in action

NCRA staff connected with school counselors at their annual convention recently to spread the word about the court reporting and captioning professions.

The American School Counselor Association met in Boston, and Cynthia Bruce Andrews, NCRA Senior Director of Education and Certification, attended, along with Content Manager Heidi Renner.

“Attending the American School Counselors Convention continues to be a great event to get the word out about court reporting and the shortage,” Andrews said. “It is especially nice to have counselors who receive our newsletter compliment us on its content. It’s great to get that type of feedback; it demonstrates that we are making inroads with this group.”

NCRA members from the Boston area volunteered to demonstrate steno writing and talk about what they do with the counselors.

NCRA member Joan Cassidy demonstrates while NCRA Senior Director Cynthia Bruce Andrews speaks to school counselors.

“It was such a great experience,” said Joan Cassidy, RMR, CRR, a freelancer from Norfolk, Mass. “I loved explaining what we do to others, unraveling the ‘magic’ they think we court reporters make. Hopefully school guidance counselors from all over the country will in turn inspire and inform their students about this great profession of ours.  Additionally, it was wonderful to be able to give back to a profession that has been so generous to me and my family.”

Comments heard most often from school counselors included:

“I didn’t even know about this career!”
“My students really need to know about jobs like this.”
“Can I have a court reporter come to my school?”
“Is it too late for me to be a court reporter?”

NCRA member Kathy Silva in the booth with Andrews and a school counselor.

“Getting the word out to educators and school administrators is essential for the future of our profession,” said Kathy Silva, RPR, CRR, an official in Andover, Mass., who volunteered in the NCRA booth. “Because of this effort, I am certain school counselors will keep court reporting and captioning in mind when discussing possible careers with students.”

Justina Pettinelli, RDR, CRR, a freelancer from Quincy, Mass., also volunteered.

NCRA member Justina Pettinelli volunteered in the NCRA booth.

“It was such a pleasure to participate in the American School Counselor Association Conference with NCRA,” Pettinelli said. “The NCRA reps did a wonderful job educating everyone about court reporting, a profession that is largely unknown/unfamiliar to the general public. Everyone was both intrigued and impressed with seeing realtime in action with the steno machine, and they responded very favorably to the information provided to them about the profession. Attendance at these conferences is crucial in spreading the word to people who have the ability to reach thousands of children who will be our profession’s future, and I’d like to thank NCRA for participating and working so hard on our behalf.” 

NCRA member Teri Gibson.

Teri C. Gibson, RPR, CRR, CRC, CRI, a freelancer and CART captioner from Chelsea, Mass., also volunteered.

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.

Read more.

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.