NCRA member wins spot in 2019 National Small Business Week contest

Balboa Capital, a leading lender that specializes in small business loans and equipment leasing, announced in a press release issued June 6 that NCRA member Diane Emery, CMRS, founder of Executive Reporting Service, headquartered in St. Petersburg, Fla., was awarded $500 as a runner-up winner in its 2019 National Small Business Week contest.

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Shining a light on NCRA members

Isaiah Roberts, RPR

There’s no doubt about it: NCRA members take on some exciting, fascinating, and downright inspiring work. At the beginning of June, NCRA launched a new Web page as part of NCRA.org and our NCRA 2.0 effort to capture some of these stories highlighting our members. Recent additions to the site include Isaiah Roberts, RPR, and Stan Sakai, CRC, and their work captioning Coachella; Lisa Migliore Black’s experience with a Project Innocence death row case; and the fun of being court reporters on film from Helga Lavan, RPR, and Kate Cochran, RPR.

The purpose of the page is to shine a light on all NCRA members – court reporters, captioners, legal videographers, scopists, proofreaders, teachers, and everyone else – who have an inspiring story to share with other members. Too often, people in this profession are noticed only when there is a mistake, and the high standards you hold yourselves to may some days feel self-defeating. Let these stories remind you of the many great opportunities these professions offer. Whenever you need a reminder of all the cool things that you can do with your skill set, please take a look.

And if you happen to have a story about a great experience of your own, please share it with us at pr@ncra.org.  The great stories you offer about your work can be help more people understand how exciting and important your work is. NCRA will consider all submissions for one of NCRA’s publications or possible use on a promotion website maintained by NCRA.  

2019 class of Fellows of the Academy of Professional Reporters announced

NCRA has announced the 2019 class of Fellows of the Academy of Professional Reporters. The recipients will be recognized during an Awards Luncheon at the 2019 NCRA Convention & Expo in Denver, Colo., being held Aug. 15-18.

The 2019 class of Fellows are:

Susan M. Horak, RDR, CRR, an official court reporter from Columbus, Ohio, and Marjorie Peters, RMR, CRR, a freelance court reporter and firm owner from Pittsburgh, Pa.

Horak began her career in 1976 and worked as an official court reporter for the Franklin County Municipal Court in Columbus Ohio, from 1983 to 2017. As a member of the Ohio Court Reporters Association (OCRA), she contributed numerous articles to the membership publication, The Buckeye Record, and worked on key legislative issues, including modernizing the language in Ohio’s Revised and Administrative Codes regarding court reporters. Horak also held several positions at OCRA, including serving as District C Representative (2006-2008), Secretary-Treasurer (2008-2010), and President (2010-2011). She joined NCRA in 1976, serving for many years as a Chief Examiner for NCRA testing in central Ohio. Horak currently serves on NCRA’s Skills Writing Test Committee and the Proofreading Advisory Council.

Marjorie Peters

Peters and her firm cover complex realtime and various types of litigation, large and small. Beginning in 1999, she joined the Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association’s (PCRA) Board of Directors as a district representative and has served on numerous committees. She also has been a continuous supporter of the Community College of Allegheny County Court Reporting program. Peters has been a member of NCRA since 1991 and has served on several of the Association’s committees. She currently serves on the Education Content Committee.

Membership in the Academy symbolizes excellence among NCRA members. The designation of FAPR represents an individual’s dedication to the court reporting and captioning professions and expresses the highest level of professional ethics.

To be nominated for membership in the Academy, candidates must be a Registered Member of NCRA with at least 10 years of professional experience and have attained distinction as measured by performance in at least three of the five performance categories. This performance could include publication of important papers, creative contributions, service on committees or boards, teaching, and more.

Careers in court reporting: From Grandma’s diner to Rick Springfield

Aaron, Adam, and Kenneth Alweis

By Heidi Renner

Brothers Adam and Aaron Alweis recently each reached career milestones. They were both named the chief reporter for their respective courts in the New York State Unified Court System this year. Aaron, RPR, CRR, CRC, is chief in the 6th District and Adam, RPR, in the 5th District, but their careers as court reporters started well before 2019.

Their father, Edward, was a court reporter who retired in 1989, and they also had two uncles and an aunt who worked in the profession. It can all be traced back to their grandmother who owned a diner in Miami Beach in the 1940s. One day a court reporter came in, sat down, and ended up telling her all about his job. She decided it sounded like a great opportunity and told her children that’s what they should do. Their father had just started in court reporting when he went in the Army and worked in the Judge Advocate General Corps. They say it probably saved him from going overseas to Korea.

“We grew up in the profession,” Adam said. “We had some involvement most of our lives. It sort of just happened that way.”

Aaron said their father thought it was very important for them to have a marketable skill. They also say credit must go to the tremendous support their mother, Mary, has given to their father and how encouraging and supportive she has always been to her three boys.

“I was typing transcripts for my father since I was 12 years old,” Aaron said.

“I got out of school and within 12 hours, I was doing my first deposition,” Adam said.

At one time the family owned a freelance reporting agency and all three brothers worked for it. The third brother, Ken, is now a lawyer and partner in the firm of Goldberg Segalla.

Both brothers remember their father saying: “Thank God I found this profession; otherwise, I don’t know what I’d end up doing.”

Aaron went to graduate school for business, which he said has worked very well with being a court reporter. He was looking for a marketing position after college but didn’t find one, so he went back to court reporting and has stayed there.

Both Adam and Aaron started official court reporter positions and have been working in the courts for years.

They talk to each other often about their jobs.

“We bounce ideas off each other all the time,” Adam said.

Aaron has taught his children to scope, but he said none of them have wanted to start a career in court reporting. They both say they are in a profession where you are never bored.

“You’ll never find another profession where you are continually challenged by the material in front of you,” Adam said.

“It’s fascinating, it’s better than TV, it’s a front-row seat to history,” Aaron said. It’s a tremendous field. You can come into the field from any background. Whatever you bring into it adds to your knowledge base.”

Aaron said he remembers the first time he offered realtime in 1992 in a case involving a defendant who was deaf. Back then, offering realtime involved carrying a 50-pound computer into the courtroom. They also set up a viewing area for people from the community who were deaf and wanted to watch the proceedings.

“The advantages today are just tremendous,” Aaron said. “I recently did a CART assignment (outside court) where I sat with a hearing-impaired person at a conference. They were so appreciative to have access to what was going on. It’s because of the court reporting profession that people can do this. You make a difference in people’s lives.” Aaron also said he has been “incredibly fortunate to have the support and love and understanding from my wife, Miriam, through all of the very long hours involved in being a court reporter.”

“The advantages are far more than when we started,” Adam said. “We didn’t have realtime or captioning. Now with the technology, there is so much people can do with us. We are dying to have new blood come into the profession. This is a great field to get into; people should really think about it.”

While every day brings something new in their careers, both brothers have some cases that stick in their minds more than others.

Aaron remembers a case involving the death of the former New York Yankees manager Billy Martin and through that meeting some very interesting people.

Adam Alweis taking the testimony of Rick Springfield

Adam remembers an unusual case involving singer Rick Springfield being sued.

Adam said when Springfield got up to testify, he was fascinated at what Adam was doing and asked how he did it. Adam told Springfield it was like writing music, and the keys are like putting notes together.

“If it helps, you can think of me as the rock-and-roll court reporter,” Adam told him.

NCRA member and CART captioner honored

Kristen Wurgler

Recently the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Division of Student Life, honored NCRA member Kristen Wurgler, RPR, with the Wisconsin Idea award, recognizing her work and commitment at the institution for having a positive and significant impact on one or more communities beyond the borders of the campus.

Wurgler, a CART captioner from Cottage Grove, Wis., works at the university’s McBurney Disability Resource Center alongside a team to provide remote services to deaf and hard-of-hearing (DHH) students as an option for their captioning accommodation.

“I was incredibly honored to just be nominated, let alone win,” said Wurgler. “It means the world to me because it came from colleagues for whom I have the greatest respect. I feel blessed to be in the company of people who are deeply committed to being of service to others and believe that all people deserve equal treatment,” she added.

In a speech delivered at the award ceremony, it was noted that Wurgler’s work on campus, while often behind the scenes with little recognition, is integral to advancing access for students with disabilities.   

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.

Local court reporter lobbies lawmakers for reauthorization of training grants

The Herald-Whig posted an article on May 13 about NCRA’s Leadership & Legislative Boot Camp participant Kim Cottrell, an official court reporter from Quincy, Ill.

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Cats and Caffeine

NCRA member Angela Sidener, RPR, a freelance court reporter from Henrico, Va., was profiled in an article that appeared in the May issue of Richmond Magazine about Central Purrk, a coffee shop she owns that features adult cats available for adoption.

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NCRA member interviewed about SPCA benefit

ABC News Channel 13 interviewed NCRA member Penny Wile, RMR, CRR, a freelance court reporter and agency owner from Norfolk, Va., about the third Woofstock event to benefit the local SPCA being held at a local brewery.

Watch the interview.

NCRA Member Honored

The Hutchinson News reported on April 28 that NCRA member Susan Carden, RPR, an official court reporter from Hutchinson, Kan., will be honored with the Liberty Bell Award for her years of service to the Reno County Courts by the Reno County Bar Association on May 1 in recognition of Law Day.

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