Lexitas acquires three reporting companies

In a press release issued May 6, Lexitas announced that it has acquired the New York, N.Y.- based firms of Barrister Reporting Service and American Stenographic, and the Boston, Mass. – based Eppley Court Reporting.

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Tennessee law gives criminal court reporters pay increase

Tennessee Court Reporters Association members convinced state legislators to adopt a law to increase pay for criminal court reporters.
Tennessee Court Reporters Association members convinced state legislators to adopt a law to increase pay for criminal court reporters.

The Tennessee legislature passed a pay increase for criminal reporters in the state. The bills, SB 667 and HB 729, were passed through both state houses with the support of the Tennessee Court Reporters Association (TCRA) legislative committee, and the bills were fully funded in the state budget. The increase is expected to go into effect July 1.

Getting this bill through the houses and signed into law was quite the coup for Tennessee reporters, according to NCRA President-Elect Max Curry, RPR, CRI, who spearheaded the legislation. “A little more than 10 years ago, Tennessee did away with the employee status of criminal reporters in Tennessee and has moved to a contractual status for the criminal courts around Tennessee. Due to the substantially lower amount in per diem and page rate offered by the criminal courts, more and more stenographic reporters were refusing to cover the work in lieu of more lucrative private sector work. The situation was creating a shortage of coverage by stenographic reporters in the criminal court system, and the Administrative Office of the Court (AOC), which administers the criminal reporters in Tennessee, had begun training ER recorder reporters to cover the criminal courts. Of course, as an association we don’t want that, so we got to work on trying to find a solution,” Curry said. 

“The clearest solution was to increase the funds being paid to attract stenographic reporters,” explained Curry. “The AOC expressed a lack of willingness to move the rate up.  We were only asking for them to increase it to the same rate as that offered by other state entities that use stenographic reporters for their hearings, depositions, EUOs, arbitrations, etc., including the Department of Labor, Department of Health, Department of Transportation, and so on. All of these organizations offered higher rates. The AOC couldn’t even compete with the other State entities, much less on an open market. The situation was spiraling out of control quickly, with the AOC offering no solutions that kept the stenographic reporters involved.

“Since the new rate is competitive with other state entities, we feel this will effectively correct the issue and get the criminal courts back on an even keel with the other State entities,” Curry continued. “It will simply be up to the AOC to do rate increases to keep up with inflation and what the other State entities are offering.”

The legislation moved through the process quickly. Every other year, Tennessee’s legislature runs on a fast track, and 2019 was a fast-track year.  “Over three months, we managed to maneuver the bill through the committee/subcommittee system of both House and Senate, work with the legislature on balancing out the fiscal impact of the bill as a law, and get it passed,” said Curry. “It was passed on the final evening of the 111th Tennessee Legislature being in session this year. We literally did this just under the wire of one legislative session, which is next to impossible!

“I took the lead on lobbying to work the bills through the process in the Tennessee House and Senate. Various people from our committee would show up for some of the interviews with legislators, and I would be remiss not to mention them. They were: Dana Webb, TCRA president when the process started; Stephanie Falkner, CRI, CPE, TCRA’s state president as we finished up; Sheila Wilson TCRA past president and legislative committee member; Sheryl Weatherford, RPR, another TCRA past president and legislative committee member; and Peggy Giles, another wonderful reporter who was part of the legislative team. Each of these people took turns to accompany me to meetings with legislators and advocated for and educated the legislators about our bill and about the court systems in Tennessee and how court reporters are used. In addition, criminal court reporters Lisa Moss, Lori Bice, Gloria Dillard, and Kim Davidson, and many others would show up for subcommittee or committee meetings to show their support of this legislation,” Curry said. “Many of TCRA’s members were involved in the grassroots portion, too, and they did a stellar job of emailing and calling legislators’ offices. I would often hear from the state senators and representatives that people were reaching out and how impressed they were with how organized it all was.”

When asked what he credits the success to, Curry said: “First, we had an excellent game plan. Sheila, Stephanie, and I had all been to NCRA’s Boot Camp in the past, so we had the training. Also, Sheila, Peggy, and I had been through the legislative efforts previously in Tennessee, so all three of us knew how the process worked, and we worked very hard to educate and train the others. In addition, our grassroots organization and ability to get info out to the membership via email blast at a moment’s notice was truly impactful as well…. and they then took action as a group!  Engagement meant everything!

“Most importantly, we had Judge Dee Gay, who is a criminal courts judge here in Tennessee, who worked with us closely, advocated for us, and got us in touch with key legislators to help us,” Curry continued. “One of the attorneys who practices in front of Judge Gay regularly is William Lamberth, who happens to be a State of Tennessee Representative, and who more importantly happens to be the Majority Leader in the House and was our House bill sponsor! This was impactful and quickly opened doors and conversations for us. We did the leg work, and he worked the power struggle in the back. He also worked very hard at making sure we found the money in the budget to address the fiscal impact of this bill as a law. Leader Lamberth also recruited as our senate sponsor a very powerful ally: Pro Tem Speaker of the House Sen. Ferrell Haile!

“That’s not to say that the process was free of problems. While the legislative committee was working to get the legislature to pass the bill to increase pay to the criminal court reporters, two competing bills were also working their way through the process. It took additional education and lobbying to make sure that the legislators understood the impact of these other bills,” explained Curry.

“One of the bills we called the ‘Free Copy Bill,’ which basically would allow litigants (or anyone for that matter) to get a free copy of the transcript once the original was purchased and filed with the court. The second bill was to install an audio recording system in every single courtroom in the state of Tennessee. Because of our involvement, the legislators just let these bills die in committee,” said Curry. “This has been an amazing legislative year in Tennessee and one I’m proud to have been a part of!”

Phipps Reporting opens new office in Wisconsin

Phipps Reporting, based in West Palm Beach, Fla., announced in a press release issued April 8 that it has opened a new office in Milwaukee, Wis., headed up by Scott Marcus.

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ProCAT launches new program to support A to Z students

Trade in your old writer for a new ProCAT Xpression, and the company will supply a writer to an NCRA A to ZTM Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program participant.

According to Deby Sebastian, national sales manager for ProCAT, which is based in Calabasas, Calif., the program was prompted by the number of phone calls the firm has been getting from interested participants in the A to Z program looking for machines to use. ProCAT has been a partner and providing machines to the A to Z program since it began.

“We have a waiting list for machines at all times it seems. This prompted our decision to do a push for people to trade their old writers in and upgrade to a newer model. When they do, we will donate the machines to NCRA for them to use for A to Z programs. We are hoping this will help with the shortage of machines and allow many more to embark on this exciting field of court reporting,” Sebastian says.

The program, which just launched, has already generated several responses, so the firm is hopeful the offer will prompt trade-ins.

“We literally just put this out but have had several responses, so hopefully it will start bringing in the writers. We will literally take any old writer. I had a brand-new student today who wanted to trade in a four-month-old student Blaze writer to help the program. I told her to wait a bit but thanked her for her heart that wanted to help,” Sebastian says.

“We attend so many conventions and see many reporters still using old writers. We really hope that everyone will reach out, help a student, and help themselves. The newer writers are so much easier on their hands, arms, and necks,” Sebastian added.

“NCRA appreciates ProCAT’s generosity in supporting students in the A to Z program by providing them access to machines,” says Cynthia Bruce Andrews, NCRA’s Senior Director of Education and Certification. “Learning on real steno machines gives students an even better experience when exploring the basics of steno to see if court reporting and captioning would be a good career choice for them.”

ProCAT is offering reporters a $1,300 trade-in value towards a new Xpression writer.

Epiq announces new leader of Global Legal Solutions Business

Epiq announced in a press release issued today that Roger Pilc has joined as president and general manager to lead the firm’s global legal solutions business.

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15 words and phrases that I never use

By Santo (Joe) Aurelio

There are 15 words and phrases that are so confusing that I cannot and will not use them. The principal dictionary consulted was/is Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 11th ed. Each of the following words and phrases has at least two different meanings – and therein lies the problem:

  1. biannual (twice a year and every two years)
  2. biennial (twice a year and every two years)
  3. bimonthly (twice a month and every two months)
  4. biweekly (twice a week and once every two weeks)
  5. cleave (to cut and to adhere)
  6. duplicitous (deceiving and duplicative)
  7. fey (visionary, crazy, precious, and doomed)
  8. fulsome (lavish, abundant, attractive, and disgusting)
  9. inflammable (flammable and inflammable, both of which mean easily excited, ignitable, and burnable)
  10. lucked out (did well and did not do well)
  11. remit (to pay, to not pay, to defer, to cancel, to send back; [other meanings]); and sign off (to agree, to not agree, to end [as, a message]) N.B.- The phrase “sign on” can still be used since most people understand it to mean “to agree.”
  12. cash back – with reference to sales pitches, especially automobile pitches. A price reduction is meant — not actually giving cash back to the purchaser.
  13. 110 percent — as, He’s such a hard worker, he gives 110 percent. Impossible. The most one can give of anything is 100 percent. E.g., the most energy a person can expend is all (that is, 100 percent) of his or her energy.
  14. throwaway or (see 15)
  15. disposable camera — Cameras are not thrown away or disposed of by picture takers. Cameras are returned to processors for processing. Later, the processors send those cameras to plants (as, Kodak) for the recycling of most parts of those same cameras.

Frankly, I have no problem not using the above 15 words and phrases. If I want to say, “twice a month,” I say those exact words. And if I want to say, “every two months,” I say those exact words. I never want whatever I say or write to be misunderstood. Therefore, I do not use words and phrases that have two or more meanings. So, in conclusion, as they say in court, I now rest my case.

Want to hear more of Aurelio’s take on language? Sign up for his live webinar, “Homonyms & Pseudohomonyms, The Nemesis of Reporters, Part 5,” set for April 17 at 6:30 p.m. ET. You can even earn CEUs for attending.

Dr. Santo “Joe” Aurelio, FAPR, RDR, a former official court reporter for 40 years, earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Harvard University, and a doctorate in education from Boston University. Dr. Aurelio is a visiting professor at colleges in the Boston area, where he teaches a variety of subjects, but mainly English grammar and medicolegal terminology. 

U.S. Legal Support Completes Acquisition of First Choice Reporting & Video Services

U.S. Legal Support, Houston, Texas, announced in a press release issued April 2 that it has acquired First Choice Reporting & Video Services based in Florida.

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TransPerfect Legal Solutions (TLS) recognized by National Law Journal

In a press release issued April 1, TransPerfect Legal Solutions, New York, N.Y., announced that the firm was recognized last week in the National Law Journal ’s “Best of 2019 Reader Rankings” as a top provider of legal services in five different categories, including the court reporting and deposition service provider.

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HLAA to celebrate 40th anniversary at 2019 convention in Rochester, N.Y.

The Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA), Bethesda, Md., announced in a press release that it will mark its 40th anniversary during its 2019 Convention being held June 20-23 in Rochester, N.Y., which will feature keynote speaker Rebecca Alexander, a psychotherapist, disability rights advocate, group fitness instructor, extreme athlete, and author, who has hearing and vision loss.

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PohlmanUSA cares about customer service, and it shows

In a press release issued March 25, PohlmanUSA announced that the firm was awarded the 2019 Best of Awards by St. Louis Small Business Monthly for its customer service.

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