New York court fights electronic recorders

An article in the July-August 2014 Public Employee Press, a website featuring news about New York City’s public employee union, DC 37, noted that the New York State Senate passed a bill banning the use of electronic voice recorders to replace Official Court Reporters in the state judicial system in June. The move, according to the union, protects members’ jobs and citizens’ rights to fair trials.

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William Mohr, U.S. Senate reporter of debates, dies at 95

The July 12 Washington Post reported the death of William Mohr, who was an official reporter of debates of the U.S. Senate for 23 years. Mohr, who retired in 1989, was the last pen writer to work on the floor of the Senate.

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In memoriam: Nicholas J. Cinciotta

My father, Nicholas J. Cinciotta, spent his career as a shorthand reporter. He died on Jan. 19, 2014, eleven weeks shy of his 100th birthday. He grew up in The Bronx, New York, where he finished high school at age 17. The family’s financial hardships during the Great Depression ended Dad’s dreams of college, and he focused on helping the family. A booklet describing the career opportunities of shorthand reporters opened a door. He enrolled in the four-year evening program of Clyde H. Marshall’s Fluency Shorthand Reporting Course in Brooklyn, where he learned the Pitman shading shorthand system of reporting verbatim. (The noshading Gregg shorthand system was not yet fully accepted.) The Pitman system emphasized light touch, flexible finger movement, and minimal motion. Dad gave up his love of baseball to avoid hand injury. After Dad spent two and a half years practicing Pitman drills for five to seven hours daily (and simultaneously taking courses in grammar, law, and medical subjects), Mr. Marshall decided that my father was ready. Late on a Friday evening in November 1933, Dad was offered a job in Washington, D.C., if he could be there by Monday. He managed to do it. His work as a shorthand reporter enabled Dad to keep his family financially afloat for the rest of the Great Depression.

A highlight of my father’s reporting experience was his selection as one of three reporters for the Special Military Commission, which tried the eight Nazi saboteurs who landed, from German U-boats, on the beaches near Amagansett, Long Island, and Jacksonville, Fla. The saboteurs were sent by Adolph Hitler to disrupt the U.S. war effort by blowing up bridges and railroads and undermining the production of tanks and airplanes. With the help of one of the saboteurs, the FBI captured all of them and thwarted their mission. Following the trial, six of the saboteurs were executed and two were deported to Germany. The 1942 trial remained classified for 50 years. Even Dad’s family did not know about the trial until after the Washington Post reported it in 2002, and the Michael Dobbs book Saboteurs: The Nazi Raid on America was published in 2004.

Following his service in the Army during World War II (where he was stationed in New Guinea, the Philippines, and Japan), my father worked for eight years as an official reporter in the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. He was then selected as one of the six official reporters of debates in the United States Senate where he served for 21 years. The reporters deliver a verbatim account of the remarks made by senators on the floor of the Senate, which are then transcribed as the official Senate record and published in the Congressional Record. In the early days of the Senate debates on voting rights and other civil rights, Dad and his colleagues reported filibusters that ran around the clock.

During his years with the Senate, my father served as the official reporter for the inauguration of John F. Kennedy as president. Dad was on the platform near the president to report the proceedings, including the president’s famous inaugural address: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” The weather was so frigid that day that Dad was concerned that the ink in his fountain pen would not flow, so he wrote the proceedings in pencil. Less than three years later, Dad was the official reporter on the Senate floor when the news of President Kennedy’s assassination was reported to the Senate.

Following his retirement from the United States Senate in 1974, my father continued working as a freelance shorthand reporter, doing mostly depositions, for five more years. He said he became an object of curiosity when he uncapped his fountain pen and wrote on his pad of paper. By then, stenotype, voice-repeating, and direct recording were the methods of writing. Dad’s pen shorthand had become a dying art. He said he retired before he became “entirely fossilized.” He donated his collection of 16 fountain pens to The Smithsonian Institution, where they are in the permanent collection of The National Museum of American History.

My father was a career-long member of the NCRA, and in 2001, he donated to the organization a volume of articles from the monthly Shorthand Reporter from the year 1935.

The three things that mattered most to my father were faith, family, and country. He was blessed to find love twice: first in marriage to my mother, LaVerne Oakley Cinciotta, for 63 years until her death in 2004, and then with marriage to Lydia Evan for eight years until his own death in 2014. He is sorely missed by three daughters, four grandchildren, and four great-grandchildren.

 

Linda Cinciotta Olguin

Rockville, MD

NCRA advocates for Training for Realtime Writers grants in Congressional hearing

On April 24, NCRA CEO & Executive Director Jim Cudahy, CAE, submitted written testimony to the Senate Appropriations Committee for a hearing regarding the importance of federal investment to help innovate the American private sector. NCRA’s statement focused on the importance of the Training for Realtime Writers grants that are funded annually to approximately four court reporting programs. These grants have allowed court reporting programs to effectively modernize their educational approaches and provide technology that has led to the tremendous growth of the broadcast and CART captioning professions. Cudahy explained:

“Government investment in court reporting through these Training for Realtime Writers grants has resulted in the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicting a 10 percent growth in court reporting, CART captioning, and broadcast captioning over the next 10 years … However, should the federal government stop investing in such industries, much technological innovation will slow or simply cease to exist. For court reporting in particular, students may lose access to the latest equipment, software, and other advanced technologies to ensure that they can meet the demands of an increasingly complex twenty-first century marketplace.”

NCRA was one of approximately one hundred organizations that submitted written testimony for the hearing, Driving Innovation through Federal Investments. To view Senate Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski’s opening statement, as well as other organizations’ written and oral testimonies, visit the Senate Appropriations Committee home page.

Contact NCRA’s government relations department with any questions.

NCRA member Ellen Coulter serves as court reporter for Lundergan Grimes fundraiser

NCRA member Ellen Coulter, RPR, with Coulter Reporting in Louisville, Ky., was recently honored with the opportunity to serve as court reporter for speeches given by former President Bill Clinton and Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes at a recent Louisville fundraiser. Grimes is currently in one of the most hotly contested U.S. Senate races in the country and is challenging the long-held Senate seat of Kentucky’s Mitch McConnell.

The standing-room-only event held in Louisville “was an experience of a lifetime,” said Coulter.

“When we received the call from attorney and Emerge Kentucky activist Jennifer Moore, there was no hesitation to respond. Even after 35 years of reporting, this career continues to take me to places I never imagined,” Coulter added.

Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid honors retiring court reporter and acknowledges the profession’s importance

On Jan. 30, Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid recognized the hard work of court reporters and their importance in ensuring history is preserved during a speech honoring U.S. Senate court reporter Joel Breitner, who is retiring after more than three decades of service. Reid noted that Breitner was one of the first court reporters to use computer aided translation in the U.S. Senate. Reid, whose younger brother is also a retired court reporter, acknowledged that court reporters often put in long hours in sometimes tense surroundings. To see Reid’s speech, go to http://www.c-span.org/video/?317507-1/SenateSession5385. The segment starts at the 24:50 mark.

Majority Leader thanks Senate stenographers

According to a Dec. 13 post on RollCall.com, Majority Leader Harry Reid visited the team of legislative reporters transcribing every word of the marathon 35-hour session last week to vote on several motions. According to the article, Reid said the reporters were taking naps as they shared the 15-minute shifts.

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Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing to support CRPD Treaty

On Nov. 5, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in an effort to garner the support of two-thirds of the Senate, the amount needed for ratification. The CRPD was the first international treaty created to protect disability rights on a global scale, and it establishes a standard to help people with disabilities participate in society.

The United Nations adopted the CRPD in 2006, and it has since been signed and ratified by 132 countries. Despite the treaty being modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act, the U.S. has not yet ratified it. Adoption of the CRPD would not require any changes in U.S. law; instead, the treaty would serve as a model for other countries that have yet to accept its conditions.

President Obama signed the treaty in 2009. On Dec. 4, 2012, the U.S. Senate considered ratification, but, despite intense lobbying, it fell just five votes shy of the required two-thirds majority.

Last year, NCRA, through the Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing Alliance, submitted a letter to all senators, asking for their full support. NCRA continues to stand ready to work with the U.S. Senate to ratify the CRPD, and the association is optimistic that ratification will occur this session.