Huseby Announces Acquisition of Discovery Litigation Services

In a press release issued March 11, Huseby, based in Charlotte, N.C., announced that the firm has acquired Discovery Litigation Services, headquartered in Atlanta, Ga.    

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Reporting from the courtroom to jury deliberations

Theresa (Tari) Kramer, RMR, CRR, CPE, an official court reporter from Charlotte, N.C., recently provided CART to a juror. She described the experience for the JCR Weekly.

Tari Kramer

JCR | How long have you been a court reporter?

TK |28 years.

JCR | Have you been the reporter for a juror before?

TK | Yes, one other time, but the juror did not make it into the jury box. This was my first time one made it all the way through the trial process.

JCR | How did you get this job? 

TK | I obtained this assignment based on my skills, equipment, and experience and because our courthouse recognizes the benefit and convenience of utilizing a certified realtime reporter. The jury services office advertises CART as an ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) option for hearing-challenged prospective jurors. They refer to it as a “note taker.” We have two full-time realtime reporters, and I was assigned to cover the assignment. The juror had requested someone to provide note-taking services during their jury orientation and during all phases of the trial process.

JCR | How would you describe the experience? What were you doing, and how did you do it? 

TK | This was such a rewarding experience. I can confidently say that it was the most rewarding week of my career. It’s one thing to be involved in the trial process on a daily basis, but it’s an entirely different and humbling experience to help one on one with someone who otherwise would not have been able to participate in the jury process.   

Through this experience I have realized that there are some folks who fall within a gray zone of not being deaf and only somewhat hard of hearing, people who don’t need a full-time interpreter and function well on a daily basis without any assistance. My juror was not fully deaf, has not been diagnosed with any hearing deficit, and does not read lips or communicate through sign language. She was fully capable of communicating her thoughts, articulate with her words, and responded appropriately to attorneys during voir dire. 

Her challenge, as relayed by her, came when people speak soft, there are other noises in the background, or when the speaker is not looking in her direction. The sound suddenly cuts in half, and she begins to panic. Knowing this challenge and realizing the importance of her role as a juror, she decided to ask for a note taker to fill in the gaps during these kinds of moments. 

The view from the juror’s seat

I met the juror at 8 a.m. on Monday morning in the jury assembly room. I discussed with her the services I would be providing, a little bit about the technology, and got some background on her hearing challenges. My employer provided me with a rolling cart, and I followed the juror wherever she was directed to go. She received my streaming feed through an iPad. I had two other iPads on a constant charge, ready to change out for the one she was using. I use a wireless router for the room only. While she was able to view the feed on the iPad, I noticed that my router would cut out when I moved the cart to another room. In the future, unless the juror is sitting in the jury box further away from me, I will just have them view the feed on my computer.

Eventually she was called into a courtroom and was put in the box on the first call by the clerk. I sat behind the official court reporter and provided a feed for her during the voir dire process. Shortly thereafter, she was approved and sworn in as a juror. 

When the trial began, I was sworn in as an interpreter. Having this be a new experience for myself and the judge, I took the liberty of printing out some information from NCRA, the state of North Carolina’s policies on ADA requirements for trial participants, and a few other articles. I highlighted and tabbed the areas most pertinent to the situation and handed it to the judge. It was soon determined that I would act as an interpreter of sorts. My sole job during the trial was to meet her needs. When the jury went in and out of the courtroom, I was with her. I purposely did not stay in the courtroom during the parts of the trial when the jury was gone. I wanted to remove myself from any knowledge of the case and/or any impropriety. 

She did express a desire to have me in the deliberation room because, when everyone was talking, she didn’t think she would be able to hear folks on the other side of the room. That moment came, and I got the enviable opportunity to be a fly on the wall during a jury’s deliberation process. I informed the jury of my role and that my iPad feed was just to be viewed by her, not to ask me any questions, and to treat me as if I was invisible in the room. I did, however, request that they “try” to speak one at a time. Any experienced reporter knows that this will not happen when you have 12 impassioned folks discussing an issue, but I felt I had to make the request anyway.

The deliberation takedown was fast and furious. One juror had been dismissed so it was a jury of 11 (civil case).  In my mind, that was one less voice to pick up and write. I sat in the middle of the room. My client was to the left of me. Eventually we got into a rhythm. She heard what the people were saying to her left and next to her. I wrote mostly what I heard on the right side of me. I would not write what she said. 

Logistically, I had literally five minutes to prepare for this, as the judge got the case to the jury rather quickly, so I had no time to prepare speaker IDs. As it turns out, I would not have had time to identify each speaker anyway due to the fast nature of the conversation. So what I ended up doing was adding two to three lines to my paragraphing stroke. When someone new spoke, I paragraphed and the screen went down a couple of lines. This provided space in between speakers. I know this was not the most ideal, but it’s what I had in the moment and it was my first time going through this experience.  

On a side note, I am so very thankful for the NCRA CART group inside of Facebook that I feverishly made requests in that day. Several reporters chimed in on suggestions for deliberation takedown. I have such appreciation for my seasoned colleagues who have journeyed through this before me. 

When the deliberations were finished, I had written 110 pages in one and a half hours. Mind you, this includes extra lines between speakers, but it was still extremely fast. What an exhilarating challenge that was! They threw the kitchen sink in, metaphorically, with the whole conversation. The terminology varied wildly — everything from religion to hematomas to DUI alcohol terms.

It was also interesting to observe the process. Eleven people who remained silent were suddenly full of thoughts and opinions, waiting impatiently to be the next one to voice their ideas. Most folks were boisterous while the minority were a bit reserved. In the end, however, they came to a consensus as a group because members were willing to compromise without relinquishing their principles. There was some heated conversation and one member who seemed to stand out from the rest on his opinions. This all reminded me of my bachelor’s classes in behavioral science. We studied things like this — what causes a group of people to respond and make a collective decision the way they do; how do outside influences, life experiences, and core beliefs affect a group decision? I was fascinated, like reading a book, to see this process unfold. 

JCR | Did the juror say anything to you about her experience?

TK | Yes. At the end, I was in the jury room with the jurors and the judge. Everyone was speaking frankly and openly about the case and the experience. My client made it a point to thank me and the judge for allowing her to be an involved participant in the process. She said she had been very nervous about the experience (as are most prospective jurors) but especially because she had serious doubts about her ability to serve successfully. She said that my services made that possible for her. The judge also said he had never seen this technology being utilized before. He was familiar with realtime technology but not how it was used for a juror. 

JCR | How long was the case? 

TK | The juror entered the courtroom on a Monday afternoon, was sworn in at the end of voir dire, then came back the next two days for the trial. So it lasted about two and a half days.

JCR | Would you be interested in doing this again? 

TK | I would definitely like to do this again. However, next time I would tweak my dictionary a bit to have more room sound definitions than I currently have; i.e., laughter, loud noise, private conversation held. I would also only bring my laptop into the jury room (thank you, NCRA Facebook group member suggestion). When someone recommended that, I metaphorically slapped my forehead like “oh, yes!” It would have made things go a lot faster had I just provided the juror with a view of my laptop instead of everyone waiting for my technology to reboot in a different room. But I don’t fault myself for any of this because it was all new terrain for me, professionally speaking, so I chalked it up to a wonderful learning experience.

While this appeared to have been a positive experience for the juror, it was eye-opening for me how beneficial court reporters are to the hearing-impaired community. There are folks like this juror who have no idea that this opportunity exists — people who do not fit the black-and-white description of a hearing-impaired client. I wish that CART was more readily known because so many people would find a genuine benefit from this technology. I would love to be involved in creating a CART-in-the-courtroom training program for our officials in North Carolina because, when preparing for and going through the juror’s time in our courthouse, I did not find much information on how to perform my role. It would have been nice to have a crash course of sorts or a cheat sheet to take with me throughout the assignment. We also need to update the verbiage in the interpreter oath, as it did not reflect my role during deliberations. All in all, though, I would definitely do this again because the experience far outweighed the challenges.

2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week is happening nationwide

NCRA’s weeklong National Court Reporting & Captioning Week kicked off Feb. 9 with state associations, schools, and firms sharing how they are celebrating the week. This is the seventh year NCRA has hosted the event designed to help promote the court reporting and captioning professions to the public by hosting demonstrations, open houses, and more.

At the national level, U.S. Rep. John Shimkus from Illinois recognized the week in a written speech submitted to the U.S. House of Representatives’ official record. In addition, U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis from Iowa is expected to deliver a similar speech from the House floor later in the week recognizing the event.

Arizona

Official proclamations have also been secured in the following states:

Arizona

California

Idaho

Illinois

Iowa

Mississippi

North Carolina

Ohio

Oklahoma

Iowa

Eugene, Ore.

South Carolina

South Dakota

Tennessee

Wisconsin

What the states are up to

The California Court Reporters Association (CCRA) is hosting several events throughout the week for its members including a “Spread the Love” submission contest via its Facebook and Instagram outlets with a prize of a one-year association membership. CCRA members are also encouraged to share their steno talent at a career fair or volunteer to mentor a court reporting student to mark the week. Throughout the week CCRA will also dedicate one day each of social media posts to highlight members who are official court reporters, captioners, and freelancers. The freelancers’ day will also feature a digital “mixer” via Facebook where freelancers can connect and chat. CCRA is also auctioning off a new ProCat writer on its Facebook page and is hosting a live broadcast about NCRA’s A to ZTM Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand program.

“Court Reporters, the Eighth Wonder of the World,” is a poster the Florida Court Reporters Association has developed for its members to display in their courthouses and offices. The poster provides information about broadcast captioners, CART providers, realtime captioning, and court reporters.


President of the Kansas Court Reporters Association (KCRA) Jennifer Olsen, RPR, CRI, an official court reporter from Topeka, and other association members marked Court Reporting & Captioning Week with a presentation to local county commissioners in Shawnee County in Topeka. KCRA members will also be handing out information and treats all week to attorneys, judges, court staff, administration staff, and building staff in at their courthouse.

In Iowa, members of the Iowa Court Reporters tagged NCRA in one of their Facebook posts, and to date it has reached more than 22,500 people and generated more than 3,500 engagements and 220 shares. In addition, members are posting daily photos of their board members in super hero apparel and encouraging others to share photos of themselves with their machines either with or without super apparel.

President of the Ohio Court Reporters Association (OCRA) Terri Sims, RDR, CRR, an official court reporter from Clinton, Ohio, submitted a letter to the editor to all major newspapers in the state about the important work court reporters and captioners provide. In addition, OCRA members are being invited to participate in a Sip & Paint social event being held on Feb. 17.

In Oklahoma, members of the Oklahoma Court Reporters Association are hosting “A Day at the Capitol” for legislators that will include live demonstrations by court reporters and captioners as well as speakers.

Schools the celebration

Anoka Technical College in Anoka, Minn., is hosting an on-campus Court Reporting & Captioning Exhibition in conjunction with the Minnesota Association of Verbatim Reporters & Captioners. The event will feature demonstrations of state-of-the-art technology, tours of the school’s captioning lab, and short presentations. In addition, industry leaders representing realtime captioners and court reporters will also be on hand for the festivities. There will also be pizza, steno cake, coffee, soda, and prizes.

Faculty from the court reporting and captioning program at Green River College in Auburn, Wash.,  have tasked students with going out into the community and setting up their machines, practicing, and taking photos to try to spread the word about how great a career in court reporting or captioning is. Students will also be armed with information and be posting on social media throughout the week. In addition, one student will be traveling to Italy with her machine and will provide pictures. The photos will then be collected and used for a calendar. To further help students celebrate the week, Byers & Anderson, a court reporting firm in Tacoma, will be hosting a tour of its facilities and host a brunch and a Q & A session with working professionals.

Firms are celebrating too

AB Court Reporting & Video in Denver, Colo., branded a flyer designed by NCRA to help promote the week and the important work that court reporters and captioners do that the firm will share on its social media outlets throughout the week.

For the second consecutive year, Planet Institute, a division of Planet Depos, based in Washington, D.C., is offering three $1,000 scholarship opportunities to qualified students and recent graduates of the nation’s court reporting schools. Those who qualify to apply for one of three $1,000 scholarships are, specifically, students near completion of the program or who completed a court reporting program within the past three months.

And don’t forget the prizes

The NCSA State Challenge is a friendly contest among state associations and individual NCRA members to spread the word about the benefits of a career in court reporting or captioning. The 2019 NCSA State Challenge marks the fifth year the gauntlet has been thrown down. Winners will receive a variety of prizes ranging from complimentary NCRA event registrations to vouchers for continuing education.

This year, NCRA has issued its own challenge as well that calls on all state affiliates to help celebrate this year’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week by securing an official proclamation recognizing the week by their state governor or a state lawmaker. States that submit a copy of their official state proclamation to pr@ncra.org will be entered into a drawing to win one free 2019 Convention & Expo registration.

A downloadable sample proclamation is available on NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning resource page.

For additional resources, visit NCRA’s Court Reporting & Captioning Week resources page. No matter how you celebrate 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week, be sure to share your stories and photos with NCRA’s Communications Team at pr@ncra.org.

Read more about what others are doing to celebrate NCRA’s 2019 Court Reporting & Captioning Week.

NCRA member shares about her career and how she became a court reporter

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyNCRA member Jessica Sheldon, RPR, CRR, Charlotte, N.C., was interviewed on radio station WBT 1110 AM about her career as an official court reporter, how she became one, and how the steno machine works. Sheldon also talked about the need for more court reporters and the various venues they can work in.

Listen here.








Providing access in a crisis: Captioning with FEMA

By Deanna Baker

Sheri Smargon, RDR, CRR, CRC, has shared her experiences on social media working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and I thought everyone would enjoy hearing more about these adventures.

Sheri, tell us a little about your background as a CART captioner, I know it’s extensive.

I started captioning directly out of court reporting school in 1992, working for our local county commission. We were the first county in the nation to caption its government meetings, and it was in an open caption format, which means that anyone turning to the channel could see the captions, whether they wanted to or not. In the early days, it probably was more of a “not” situation. The people in charge figured if you could write “on that machine,” you must be able to caption. Boy, we proved them wrong!

After two years, I moved from Florida to Pittsburgh, Penn., and went to work at VITAC, the country’s largest captioning provider. I loved the job, but hated the weather. I’m from Massachusetts originally and thought I missed snow and seasons. Not so much! So after two years, I moved back to Florida and started freelance work for the local court reporting firm who had the contract with the county courthouse for court reporters.

During that time, even though we had a seniority system, I was the only one with any realtime or captioning experience, so I was given the opportunity to realtime a vice presidential debate with Al Gore and Jack Kemp. I was realtiming, and a transcript of my work was being printed every 15 minutes for the hundreds of national and international media that were in attendance. It was quite the experience.

I only did court reporting for a short time because then I got a job with Caption Colorado, captioning from home. I worked there for seven-and-a-half years. During my time with Caption Colorado, I captioned a lot of news, baseball games, and the Olympics a few times.

Then the opportunity to caption in Sydney, Australia, popped up. So I moved to Sydney to work for the Australian Caption Centre. While there, I captioned everything from news and reality TV to sports, like cricket and rugby. It was quite a learning curve because I had to adjust my dictionary to true English spellings (colour, favour, etc.) I worked there for six months and moved back to Florida, picking up with a few captioning companies and a court reporting firm.

I went to an NCRA Convention & Expo in New York City and ran into my old boss and former NCRA President Kathy DiLorenzo. She told me VITAC was hiring, so I should apply again. I did apply because now they were allowing people to work from home, versus having to move to Pittsburgh. I was hired on by VITAC in 2007.

While there, I captioned everything from CNN to the Stanley Cup Finals to the Olympics. I also captioned a couple of musicals on NBC: “The Sound of Music” and “Peter Pan.” Never having seen either the movie or the stage production of either tale, there was a bit of a learning curve for sure!

I left VITAC in January of 2016 to strike out on my own as an independent contractor, trying to find different CART and captioning experiences. My final job with VITAC was captioning the Golden Globe Awards. So I think I went out on a high point.

(August 18, 2007 Denver, Colorado)  FEMA's Denver based MERS leave for Texas to support operations ahead of hurricane Dean. Photo: Michael Rieger/FEMA

(August 18, 2007, Denver, Colo.) FEMA’s Denver-based MERS leave for Texas to support operations ahead of hurricane Dean.
Photo: Michael Rieger/FEMA

How is it you started working with FEMA as an independent contractor? What was the hiring process like?

I am the administrator of a group on Facebook called The Captioning Klatch. I started it a few years ago, just as a place to come and talk about all things captioning and CART related. One of our members posted that FEMA was hiring for CART writers, so I looked at the job description and decided to apply.

The hiring process involved a lot of paperwork … reams, it seemed like at times. Eventually, I was given an interview, but no one told me it would be a Skype interview. So I was in my pajamas, with no makeup on, because I was in the middle of my captioning day. I kept my webcam aimed pretty high that day for sure!

I was asked a lot of questions by interviewers, both hearing and Deaf, and then I was given a practical examination, where the interviewers could see me caption. The clip they played for me was a press conference from the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Luckily, I had captioned the news from Louisiana during that time, so I had all of those cities and parishes in my dictionary.

A short while after the interview, I was offered the job, contingent on a thorough background check and security clearance. While I have nothing to worry about, having the FBI contact friends and family is kind of freaky!

You were deployed to an assignment in North Carolina. What was an average day, the good and the bad, and how you were helping in this emergency situation? How much notice did you have beforehand?

When there’s a disaster and the Joint Field Office (JFO) is opened, that becomes the hub in the state for FEMA employees to go and work. They go out in the field to different locations, called Regional Field Offices (RFOs) but in general, the main administration and IT, etc., are located at the JFO. They work a minimum 12 hours a day, seven days a week, in the first couple of months, just because of the sheer number of things that have to be accomplished to help the disaster survivors.

When I arrived at the JFO, the disaster was so new that in the first few weeks of the aftermath, staff was in a temporary location while they looked for a permanent location. FEMA remains on-site, with a state presence, for quite some time. There is still FEMA staff in Louisiana working on Katrina, if that gives you a timeline. So I was with everyone else in the temporary offices, basically, just finding a spot to sit where I could.

My first day at the temporary JFO, I was issued a FEMA computer, signed paperwork, got login information. All of the usual boring, but necessary, aspects of being on a temporary assignment with the government. I then had to be issued a projector and a portable screen for me to take to any realtime jobs that may be scheduled. When all was said and done, between my personal equipment, a FEMA computer, a projector, and a screen, I had more than 100 pounds of equipment to carry with me.

There are no average days when it comes to a disaster. The slogan is “If you’ve been to one disaster, you’ve been to one disaster.” Every day is different. I would go into the office at 7 in the morning, and see what the schedule was like for the day. If a disaster site wanted or needed sign language interpreters, they would put in a request and that was added to the interpreters’ schedule. And almost always, the meeting was at 5 or 6 at night with a couple hours’ drive to get to the location. Because I was the one and only realtime reporter, I was assigned to larger events, so that we could reach more people. Sometimes, it was a gymnasium with 200 people; sometimes, it was a city council chamber with 30 people. Every day was something different.

There were also days where we had no assignments to cover, but I would still go into work at 7. I would work on my dictionary, go through a recently written file to add acronyms or anything I may have gotten wrong. Eventually, on days where I didn’t have a meeting, I decided to hook up my projector and aim it toward the wall and practice to whatever I could find on the Internet.

I believe you were gone for two weeks. How were you able to manage your own clients and regular work at home?

Because I work with a great court reporting firm, they were able to take me off the books the week before I deployed. I was initially supposed to deploy to a staging area in Atlanta, Ga., because of the fact there was no office set up in North Carolina yet. So I was already off the books for my court reporting firm and wasn’t accepting or bidding on any CART or captioning work. I ended up not going to Atlanta and just having my deployment delayed a week, which was great for me because I had a court reporting training class in Washington, D.C., that I had scheduled months previous to my deployment. Gratefully, scheduling worked out for me.

Were you using your own equipment? What was your setup? Were you working with any other CART captioners?

I was mostly using my own equipment, yes. So I brought my Luminex, cables, cords, extensions, laptop, and cool table with me. FEMA provided the projector and the screen. I wrote a proposal for FEMA to buy everything they needed for the CART project, but as of this time, it’s still bogged down in purchasing … or somewhere governmental.

FEMA wants to hire 37 more CART captioners over the next three years. So far, they have hired myself and one other reporter in Ohio, Molly Adams. We both deployed once with the caveat we will use our equipment one time, and then FEMA would have to purchase what we needed. Our concern was if our personal equipment breaks while in the field, we can’t work while deployed and we can’t work when we get home. It’s not like you can go buy most of our gear at Best Buy. So, Molly and I continue to wait.

Are there any unique skill sets that are needed for this type of work?

You have to be okay with not being home for an extended period of time. I did 30 days, and that was a lot. Most people do 60- to 90-day deployments and can rotate home for two weeks at a time.

You have to be okay with being in a strange place and not having your creature comforts of home, potentially. I was in a rural area, and I’ve never traveled behind so many tractors! You’re staying in a hotel, most likely. And while the hotel I was in was nice, there was no oven. It had a stovetop and a fridge and microwave, but no oven. What I wanted most was a roast. I learned tips and tricks on how to find rooms with full kitchens, so next time I get deployed, I am hopeful a roast will be in the offing.

Would you recommend this type of work to other CART captioners?

I would totally recommend this to CART captioners. While there were never any people who were Deaf or hard of hearing at any of the meetings I went to, I was thanked quite a bit by people in attendance, who either were taking notes and missed what was said or just thought it was nice to have access. Most didn’t even realize how the “words were getting up there” on to my screen. They didn’t realize it was a real person. So the education aspect was especially nice.

Is this a long-term assignment?

We have a two-year contract, which may or may not be renewed when that time comes. Hopefully, I will be able to report a positive update in the next few months regarding our equipment. Obviously, if you get deployed, it means someone, somewhere, is having the worst day of their life. You wouldn’t want that, but you also want to be there to be helpful, if you can.

I wouldn’t want this to be my full-time job due to the traveling and being away from home, but branching out and helping people, actually one on one, is quite a rewarding experience.

 

Deanna Baker, RMR, is a broadcast captioner in Flagstaff, Ariz. She can be reached at dpbaker@mindspring.com.








Huseby names new president

jcr-publications_high-resHuseby, Inc., of Charlotte, N.C., announced in a press release issued Jan. 25 that Mark Schaffner has been named president of the company effective Jan. 1. Schaffner will report directly to Chairman and CEO Scott A. Huseby Sr., RPR.

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Captioning grant available to NC State faculty

On Jan. 21, North Carolina State University posted on its blog that it has established a captioning grant to assist faculty in creating accessible videos. The grant provides funds for faculty to obtain captions for instructional videos used in their online, blended, and face-to-face courses. In addition to providing content to people who are hard of hearing, captions create a learning environment that supports Universal Design for Learning.

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Court reporting firm to pay court reporters instantly

Huseby, a court reporting firm based in Charlotte, N.C., has instituted a program called Instant Pay for Reporters to instantly compensate court reporters, videographers, and trial technicians, according to a press release dated Oct. 31.

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North Carolina budget increases court reporter pay

WFMY TV 2, Greensboro, N.C., reported on Sept. 16 that state lawmakers have approved salary increases for court reporters after cuts a year ago led to many reporters leaving to seek jobs in other states. The salary cuts had forced Forsyth County to shut down half of its district courtrooms.

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North Carolina’s highest ranking court officer calls for review of judicial branch

An editorial posted May 30 in The News & Observer, Raleigh, N.C., threw support behind the state’s Chief Justice Mark Martin for announcing his plans for a new commission to review the judiciary branch. Martin, who holds the state’s highest judicial office, calls the state’s current system stymied by out-of-date technology, burdened by a growing caseload, and starved by cuts in funding. In March, Martin announced his plans for a commission in a rare address by the chief justice to a House-Senate session of the General Assembly.

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