Through school and back again: A new CART provider’s journey

Back before the stress, frustration, and soul crushing — ahem, challenging — days of court reporting school, I did something much easier: I went to a four-year university.

And I loved it. So much so, in fact, that I just wouldn’t leave. I blissfully flitted from Greek mythology to earthquake science to Italian and racked up almost 30 more credits than I needed to graduate. I like to be thorough. And I do find the vast majority of subjects (sorry, economics) quite interesting.

At the time, I justified this binge of academia with a dreamy “I love learning!” The older, wiser, and bitterly indebted me, who is still paying for it all, thinks I might as well have just said, “I hate money!” But I digress.

The point is that as soon as I heard about CART in theory class, I knew it was the career for me. Being able to directly help others access their education while working in an intellectually stimulating and ever-changing environment, actually using that knowledge of Greek mythology in everyday life? Sign me up!

Going through court reporting school with the goal of becoming a CART provider was not as straightforward as preparing to become a reporter. For reporting, the dictation is legal in nature, the class requirements are determined by the court reporter’s board, and realtime is something you’re only encouraged to do after a couple of years in the field. CART is somewhat of an afterthought or even seen as something you can resort to if you get stuck at 180.

My teachers gave me some great suggestions on how to prepare myself for CART, but without the formal instruction and guidance provided in my court reporting classes, I was often left to my own devices and made some mistakes along the way. Fortunately, I did find a fantastic CART class at a different school late in my education, and I highly recommend taking one if you can, but I think classes like these are all too rare.

In my most productive summer ever, I finished school in June 2013, passed the July CSR, and started working in August. Since I know not all students have access to CART training, I would like to share my top 10 tips — both the things I did and wish I had done — to prepare for CART work straight out of school.

1. Clean up your realtime. Get used to punctuating while you write, resolving your conflicts, and practicing your numbers for those math classes. Do not neglect accuracy; remember, you shouldn’t be doing much editing when doing CART. Push for speed as well, but keep it balanced. While I think low- and mid-speed students should be working on fixing fingering problems, I see no problem with high-speed students defining misstrokes if they don’t conflict with anything. I have 30 entries just for INSTRUCTOR, and my eternally dragging right ring finger would destroy my realtime if I didn’t define, for example, “SAPBLD” as “sand.”

2. Become a fingerspelling champ. This is the number one thing I wish I had worked on more, and I still have not achieved champ status. I used to sit in trial-speed classes and fingerspell random words.

CART JCR Weekly photo13. Sit out. This is invaluable. I actually still sit out with experienced CART providers and always pick up new and brilliant tips. Just figuring out where to sit can be challenging in this job, not to mention what you should do if, for example, the professor turns on an uncaptioned video or speaks in another language. I jot down questions during class, and the CART provider is always happy to talk afterward.

4. Get comfortable with other people looking at your screen. I know it’s scary at first! I was the student who would find an isolated corner and tilt my screen away from of any other human’s possible line of sight until my teacher forced me to get over that by standing behind me and staring at my realtime. Because you know what your clients will do? To practice, grab a bored family member, be the weirdo at Starbucks with all your equipment, or set up smack-dab in the middle of your lab — no small text or screen tilting allowed.

5. Keep your legal briefs and software settings separate. You don’t want 25 lines per page, you don’t want “Q BY MR. ATTORNEY” randomly popping up, and you don’t want the word “pathos” translating as “page objection sustained.” In addition to having a legal dictionary, I have two separate user IDs in my software so I can switch from CART to court reporting without adjusting my layout settings.

6. Know your software. You’ve heard it a million times, but there’s a reason for that. Setting up phonetic translation and being able to manipulate your display, for example, are crucial. Two minutes before class started one day, my client asked me to change my text color, background color, and text size. It should have been simple, but there were unexpected problems, such as the black background causing my include files to be invisible since they were programmed with black text. Then my headers turned on unexpectedly, causing huge jumps in my display.

It was just a mess. That day still haunts my dreams.

7. Get a mentor. Or get two, as I did. I’ve bothered these wonderfully patient women with panicky questions on such topics as wardrobe, taxes, salary negotiation, and even wedding reception locations. (Obviously, we became friends. I would not suggest beginning your relationship with wedding-related questions, but consider yourself lucky if it ever does go there.)

8. Read up on CART ethics and guidelines. You know all those lovely codes you’re responsible for knowing as a certified court reporter? There’s a whole different set of rules for CART, and issues such as confidentiality and client sensitivity are a big deal. NCRA’s website is a good place to start.

9. Get certified. No, it’s not necessary, and I know some phenomenal writers who aren’t. But it helps to get your foot in the door, gives you more options, especially during school breaks when jobs are scarce, and covers you if employers ever decide to start requiring it. As a bonus, someone usually wants to throw you a party.

10. Build your dictionary like crazy and know it well. I know reporters who started taking depositions with fewer than 20,000 entries, but I don’t think that would work in CART. That being said, prefixes and suffixes are imperative and allow you to create significantly more words than entries, so it’s not as hard as it may seem to have a functional dictionary. I practice to anything I can get my hands on: newspapers, books, magazines, podcasts, my little sister’s textbooks, and lists of names. This will help you get used to writing unfamiliar words. You know what I’ve never written on the job? “Beyond a reasonable doubt.” You know what I have written? “Ethylenediaminetetraacetate.”


Christine Ahn is a court reporting student in Santa Monica, Calif. She can be reached at

Student’s Corner: Gotta love that Latin!

By Lisa Selby-Brood

If you start to study Latin, you will learn the words – like any other language — and you’ll learn lots of legal terminology as well. Best of all, you won’t get so thrown by Latin terms. Here are a few goodies, plus some regular English words that I just have to throw in because I think they’re really funny!

Nunc pro tunc. It sounds pretty much just how it looks. I love this one! Kind of rolls right off your tongue. Fun to write, too! Anyway, the Latin is “Now, for then,” and basically it is a judgment or order by a court correcting usually a clerical rather than a judicial error. It applies retroactively to an earlier ruling.

Say for example there’s a divorce. For some unknown reason, the final divorce decree never got filed, so therefore, the divorce is technically not final. This could bring us some huge problems, for instance, if one of the parties decided to remarry.

A nunc pro tunc order would be issued by the court making the divorce final, retroactive to the earlier date.

Res ipsa loquitur. This one pretty much sounds the same as well, but don’t ask me for a brief on this one. I don’t hear it come up much, but I remember this from when I was in school. The Latin means “The thing speaks for itself.” The doctrine of res ipsa loquitur states that the elements of duty of care can sometimes be inferred due to the very nature of an accident, even without direct evidence. An example would be getting hit by a rock that flew off a passing dump truck.

Ipso facto. I like this one, too. Latin for “By the fact itself.” An example would be an alien, ipso facto, has no right to a U.S. passport.

Corpus delicti. All right, class, we all better know that “Corpus” means “body.”

Corpus delicti means “body of crime.” It doesn’t refer to an actual body, as one person I knew made the mistake of saying, “They can’t find him guilty of the murder, because there’s no corpus delicti.” (I loved this person dearly, so I didn’t have the heart to correct her. She was referring to the fact that the body was never found in a murder.)

It refers to the fact that it must be proven that a crime has occurred before a person can actually be convicted of committing same. In other words, corpus delicti would be the body of evidence, so to speak. For example, you can’t charge somebody with larceny if you can’t prove something was taken.

In the case of murder, I’m sure there’s plenty of people sitting on death row right now who got convicted of a murder saying to themselves, “How could they convict me if they didn’t find the body?” Answer: Good circumstantial evidence.

Okay. Enough Latin.

Here are some words that are just plain funny to me! They don’t sound (well, maybe one does) anything like what they look like, and they’re in my dictionary exactly the way they sound.

Segue. (Sounds like SEG-way) It means a smooth transition from one thing to another. This case or this doctrine or this line of questioning or whatever segues into my next point. Something along those lines.

Hyperbole. (Sounds like high-PURbowl-lee) This one has to be my favorite. Hyperbole is a figure of speech, kind of like a simile but not quite. Saying “this thing weighs a ton” when it doesn’t weigh anything near that, or saying “we knew each other about 100 years ago” are examples of hyperbole. This one, believe it or not, is in my dictionary as Hyper-bowl. I’m sorry, I can’t do it any other way.

Bailiwick. (Sounds like BALE-ewick.) My boss loves this one, because she uses it a lot! Originally it referred to an area of jurisdiction of a bailiff. Today it usually means a sphere of authority or expertise. The first time I heard it from her was when I had some question about something going on in the criminal arena and she said, (in an email, of course) “Not my bailiwick. Ask Sandi!”

Students, study language! The more familiar you are with it, the better you will be at your job.

Lisa Selby-Brood, RPR, is a freelance court reporter in Palm Harbor, Fla. She can be reached at and through NCRA’s Virtual Mentors Program.


Reporting: Family law acronyms and slang for court reporters

By Michael Mattice

If you have been assigned to a family law or domestic relations or juvenile court, get ready for a whole new language! Lawyers and judges in these courts routinely use dozens of acronyms to save time in their conversations and space in their documents. Unfamiliarity with these “acronyzed” terms and other family law slang may, for the unprepared court reporter (hereinafter, “CSR”), cause stress that more than offsets the economy in keystrokes.

The problem is two-fold for CSRs. There is a wide variety of terms, and there are no uniform rules of pronunciation. Whereas some acronyms are spelled out, so that “CSR” for example is pronounced “see əss ar,” others are pronounced in ways that resemble a fourth grader’s first venture into reading a foreign language. Thus we have FLAR PL’s (“flar’ pəls”), UIFSA (“ew if ’ sə”), and QDRO ’s (“kwa’ droz”). (Pop quiz: How do you say FUSFSPA? Or UIEDVPOA?)

The following is a list of the acronyms most commonly used on the record in family law courts and a bit of slang. Pronunciations are offered when the acronym is not simply spelled out.

Regrettably for CSRs, this list only addresses some of the slang heard during the average family law calendar because of localized dialect in this legal field and also because practitioners tend to make nouns or verbs at will out of case names. We’ll hear, for example, of pensions that are either Verner-ized1 or Gillmore-ed,2 or both, and unmarried couples who Marvin-ize.3 When spousal support is being discussed, get ready for “Gavron4 orders,” and “Zlatnik, 5 anti-Vomacka6 language.”



AB assembly bill

ADR alternative dispute resolution

AP account payable

AP alternate payee (of pension benefits)

AR account receivable

ATRO automatic temporary restraining order (or “ah’ tro¯ ” [pl. “ah’ tro¯ z”])

AVD alternate (or alternative) valuation date

B&P Business and Professions (Code)

BF biological father (or “bio-dad”)

BF boyfriend (sometimes also “bio-dad”)

BFP bona fi de purchaser

BIA Bureau of Indian Affairs

Bifo bifurcation (“by’ fo¯ h”)

BK bankruptcy

BM birth mother (or “bio-mom”)

C child (sometimes, C1 and/or C2, etc.)

CASDI California state disability insurance (or “kaz’ di”)

CASIT California state income tax (or “kah’ sit”)

CCE child care expense

CCP Code of Civil Procedure

Cert certiorari (or “sərt”)

CMC case management conference

COBRA Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (or “ko¯ ’ brə”)

COLA cost of living allowance (or “ko¯ ’ lə”)

CP custodial parent (see also NCP, below)

CP community property

CPA certifi ed public accountant

CPS Child Protective Services

CRC California Rules of Court (usually mentioned by the judge)

CS child support

DCSS Department of Child Support Services

Depub depublished (or “di pub’d”)

Disso dissolution (of marriage)

DOB date of birth

Docs documents (“dahks”)

DOG date of grant (of stock options, distinguished from “you dog!”)

DOH date of hire

DOM date of marriage

DOR date of retirement

DOS or DOMS date of (marital) separation

DOS date of strike (of stock options, sometimes, “strike date”)

DP domestic partner (see also, RDP)

DRO domestic relations order (or “dro¯ ”; these usually relate to pensions)

DRTRA Domestic Relations Tax Reform Act (or “der’ trə”)

DV domestic violence

DVPA Domestic Violence Protection Act

DVRO domestic violence restraining order

EC evidence code (also usually mentioned by the judge)

EPO’s emergency protective orders, or ex parte orders

ERISA Employee Retirement Income Security Act (“ə ris’ ə”)

ESOP employee stock option (or ownership) plan (“ee’ sop”)

Eval evaluation (usual usages: “vo¯ c eval”; “custody eval”)

FCCR family centered case resolution

FCCRP family centered case resolution plan

FCS Family Court Services

FDD final declaration of disclosure

FERS Federal Employees Retirement System

FICA Federal Insurance Contributions Act (“fy’ kə”)

FIFO first in, fi rst out (“fy’ fo¯ ”; see also LIFO, below)

FIT federal income tax

FLARPL family law attorneys’ real property lien (“fl ar’ pəl”)

FMV fair market value

FPKPA Federal Parental Kidnapping Protection Act

FRV fair rental value

FTB Franchise Tax Board

FUSFSPA Federal Uniformed Services Former Spouse’s Protection Act (“fuf’ spə”)

GF girlfriend (sometimes aka “BM” or “bio-mom”)

GM grandmother

H husband (sometimes, H1 and/or H2 etc., sometimes formerly known as“BF”)

HEW health, education, and welfare

HH-MLA head of household, married living apart

I&E Income and Expense Declaration (sometimes “IED” or “FL-150”)

ICE Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ice”)

ICWA Indian Child Welfare Act (“ick’ wə”)

INS Immigration and Naturalization Service

IRA individual retirement account (“eye’ rə”)

IRC Internal Revenue Code

IRMO in re-marriage of (“er’ mo¯ ”)

IRS Internal Revenue Service

JT joint tenancy

K thousand (typical usage: “This house has $35K of equity in it.”)

LIFO last in, fi rst out (“ly’ fo¯ ”; see also FIFO, above)

LLC limited-liability company

LTA living together (or long term) arrangement

M million

M marriage

M mother

Mmmm This cake tastes good. Whose birthday is it?

MFJ married filing jointly

MFS married filing separately

MOD modification (“mahd”)

MSA Marital Settlement Agreement

MSC mandatory settlement conference

MSOL marital standard of living

NCP non-custodial parent

Nonpub non-published

NP natural parent

OT overtime

OPM Office of Personnel Management (federal)

OSC order to show cause

P&A Points and Authorities (sometimes “peez ‘n ayz”)

PAS parental alienation syndrome

PAS preliminary alcohol screening (“pahz”)

PC penal code

PDD preliminary declaration of disclosure

PERS Public Employee Retirement System (“purz”, sometimes “Cal-PERS”)

PI personal injury

PI private investigator

PKPA Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act

POPS Parental Opportunity Program statement (or declaration; usually: “pahps dek”)

Prenup prenuptial

Psych psychological (“syke testing” or “do we need a psych?” or “you need a psych!”)

QCP quasi-community property

QDRO qualified domestic relations order (“kwa’ dro¯ ”)

QJSA qualified joint survivor annuity

QMCSO qualified medical child support order (“kwam’ sko¯ ”)

QPSA qualified pre-retirement survivor annuity (“kwip’ sə”)

QRI qualified residence interest

Quit Can we quit this quazy stuff and go get a beer?

RDP registered domestic partner

REA Retirement Equity Act (“ri’ ə”)

Recomp recomputation (“ree cahmp”)

Refi refinance (“ree fy”)

RFA request for admissions

RFO request for order

RO restraining order

RURESA Revised Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (“rər ee’ sə”)

S & L savings and loan

S & M (Don’t ask)

SB Senate bill

SC status conference

SCRA Servicemember’s Civil Relief Act

S/E self-employed (compare “1099 earner” and “W-2 employee”)

SH shareholders

SL or SOL statute of limitations

SIDS sudden infant death syndrome (“sids”)

SLAPP strategic lawsuits against public participation (“slap,” sometimes “antislap”)

SLC sole legal custody

SM subject matter jurisdiction

SOD statement of decision

SP separate property

SPC sole physical custody

SS spousal support

SSI supplemental security income

Stip stipulation

STRS State Teachers Retirement System (“stərz”)

T trustee (sometimes “’tee”)

TCT trial court

TS time-share (either child time-sharing between parents, or a condo in Hawaii)

TANF Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (“tan’ əf”)

TILA or TLA Truth in Lending Act (“tee’ lə”)

TIN taxpayer identification number

TMC trial management conference

TPR termination of parental rights

TRDP termination of registered domestic partnership

TRO temporary restraining order

TSC trial setting conference

TSOD tentative statement of decision

UCCJA Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Act

UCCJEA Uniform Child Custody Jurisdiction Enforcement Act

UFTA Uniform Fraudulent Transfer Act

UIEDVPOA Uniform Interstate Enforcement of Domestic Violence Protection Orders Act

UIFSA Uniform Interstate Family Support Act (“ew if’ sa”)

Unpub unpublished (or “ən pub’d”)

UPA Uniform Parentage Act

UPAA Uniform Premarital Agreement Act

URESA Uniform Reciprocal Enforcement of Support Act (“ər ee’ sə”)

USC United States Code (distinguished from “fight on, fight on, for USC!”)

USCA United States Code, Annotated

USSCT United States Supreme Court (sometimes “SCOTUS” or “sko¯ ’ təs”)

VAWA Violence Against Women Act (“va’ wə”)

VTC vocational training counselor

W wife (sometimes, W1 and/or W2 etc., sometimes formerly known as “GF”)

W-2 IRS form W-2 Wage and Tax Statement (tax records for “W-2 employees”)

W&I Welfare and Institutions (Code, sometimes “WIC”)

WD withdrawal

WCAB Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board

WHA withholding allowance

WIP work in progress

1. Verner v. Verner (1978) 77 Cal.App.3d 718 [143 Cal.Rptr. 826]

2. In re Marriage of Gillmore (1981) 29 Cal.3d 418 [174 Cal.Rptr. 493; 629 P.2d 1]

3. Marvin v. Marvin (1976) 18 Cal.3d 660 [134 Cal.Rptr. 815; 557 P.2d 106]

4. In re Marriage of Gavron (1988) 203 Cal.App.3d 705 [250 Cal.Rptr. 148]

5. In re Marriage of Zlatnik (1988) 197 Cal.App.3d 1284 [243 Cal.Rptr. 454]

6. In re Marriage of Vomacka (1984) 36 Cal.3d 459, 204 Cal.Rptr. 568, 683 P.2d 248


Please note: A few of these entries are unique to California, e.g. CASIT – California State Income Tax (or “ka’ sit”). However, most are heard throughout the United States. Also, lawyers and judges in other states have used analogous acronization techniques, e.g., Massachusetts State Income Tax is known as “MASIT” (“ma’ sit”).


The Hon. Michael Mattice has been a California Superior Court judge since 2003, and has had supervising family law, all-purpose felony, all-purpose civil, and appellate division assignments.

CART-Wise: You are only as good as your dictionary

By Jennifer Porto
How many times have you been on a job and thought, “Why don’t I have that word in my dictionary?” For every easy job, there is that one job that humbles us when we quickly realize that we will never have enough words in our dictionary, nor will we ever write fast enough.
My story begins on the first day of a new semester. With my first glance — or whiff — of the professor, I knew this was not going to be a typical Bio 211 lecture class. The lanky professor kicked off his worn Birkenstocks as he unpacked his satchel of textbooks. Staring, I willed myself to look away.
Why does it smell like cinnamon and sweaty socks? I couldn’t take my eyes off of the brown cotton socks with snags where the buckles from his Birkenstocks rest. His frayed, multistained Levi’s made me wonder if he had worn these jeans while foraging for wild mushrooms. His hair mimicked a shorter version of Einstein’s.
The student whom I was writing for and I made our introductions. The professor asked if I had ever captioned a biology class. “Of course; no problem,” I told him.Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt, I thought. Math, biology, chemistry, and the like are my favorite classes to caption.
I had done everything in my power to prepare, just as I do for all of the classes I am assigned. I create what seems like never-ending lists of words before each class. I knew that most of the words would be multisyllabic, so it would not be enough to merely put the words in my dictionary just once. I would stroke out each phonetic syllable over and over, creating new prefixes and suffixes.
I was 100 percent confident in my dictionary — until the professor began the PowerPoint presentation on the subjects to be covered during the semester.
The first time he said, “synapomorphy,” my fingers froze. I thought, Syn-nappy-what? I sat up straighter. I was repeating the syllables in my head as I cleanly stroked SEUPB/AP/PHOR/TPAOE, scolding myself, “Why don’t I have a brief for ‘morphy’? What did he say?” Words and syllables that I’ve never heard were whizzing past my ears like bullets in a combat zone. “Symplesiomorphy,” SIPL/PHRAEUZ-what? “Autapomorphy,” AUTwhat-PHOR/TPAOE. I knew I had to drop, but he was speaking so quickly that there was not a clean place to pick it up again. This is about when my self-talk got the best of me. He’s talking so fast! “Clades.” I write KLAEUD/Z, Thankfully, I knew that word would come up. “Cladogram,” Okay, I can get this word to come up too. Concentrating, I stroke, KHRAEUD/O/TKPWRAPL. “Cladogram.” Ugh, that’ll have to be good enough. I’m no longer rhythmically writing; rather, I’m pounding because my fingers feel like they have weights attached to them. I’m suddenly aware of the horrible acoustics in the auditorium. Is that the acoustics or is he mumbling? He’s mumbling. My thoughts were frantic now. Why is he walking around in holey socks? Stop mumbling.
When the professor finally spoke the words, “Okay. See you next week,” I inhaled deeply. I must have been holding my breath for what felt like the entire two-hour class. My legs were aching from pushing my feet hard into the floor to help me channel my concentration. Saving the transcript and turning off my computer, I thought about the tiresome task of editing the notes for the student. I knew I would be Googling every other word. There was only one positive thing I could be certain of: I was going to have a stellar dictionary at the end of the semester.
Briefs, unfortunately, were mostly of no use in this case except for a few. Synapomorphy came up often, so I used SAEUP. Most of the terminology changed weekly as the class progressed through the textbook; unfortunately, the only constant was the stinky, shoeless professor and his holey socks.
I am not the first reporter to be blown away by the terminology on a job. When we arrive at our jobs, while we will never know if we have a chair to sit in or if the environment around us will be a distraction, one thing we can be in control of is how well our dictionary is prepped. How do you make your dictionary better? To me, editing my transcripts and working on my dictionary are a priority. The better your dictionary is, the better you write because the words will, hopefully, come up on the first attempt; ultimately, your concentration will be better, and the job becomes less stressful. Prepping may be tedious, but having an idea of the terminology allows me to think less because I’m not struggling to write every word. I write faster and easier.
There are many things I do to find new words to build my dictionary. One of my rules is to look up every word before putting it in my dictionary to make sure I have the correct spelling, capitalization, whether it needs a hyphen, and so on. What good is a word in your dictionary if it is not correct? When you read the morning paper, novels, recipes — these are all resources to finding new words that are not in your dictionary. There are also a variety of lexicons that can be useful to finding terminology on specific topics. For
example, I had a job once that was discussing the Harry Potter books as they relate to Greek mythology. Do you have Albus Dumbledore and Severus Snape in your dictionary? I didn’t.
For me, hearing the words as I realtime is the most efficient way. How many times have you phonetically entered a word by sight, and then realized the word is pronounced differently than the way you phonetically stroked it? It happens to me all the time when I’m inputting words from the lecture’s PowerPoint. I use websites such as Khan Academy, YouTube, and TED Talks for dictionary-building resources. You can search almost any topic and listen to lectures and speeches to help you practice writing the words.
While in school, we are so focused on building our speed that we don’t spend a lot of time building our dictionaries. I believe it is our duty to provide the best realtime possible for our students and/or clients. One of the greatest aspects of our job is that it is different every day. There are always a multitude of situations where we must be flexible and solve problems on the fly, but you are in control of your dictionary before you walk through that door. Ask yourself: Aside from editing, how much time do I spend researching words? Can I watch the news and know that every word said is in my dictionary, if just for one minute? Try it.
Jennifer Porto is a CART provider in the Southern California area. She can be reached at