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Virginia State Capitol, Richmond
Taking a stand on Virginia's SB 216
— a restrictive proposal is put on hold . . . for now . . .
In January a proposal to set up a powerful new Board
of Court Reporting in Virginia was introduced in the
state Senate (SB216), and it zipped through that
body in under a month — without public hearing, and with
precious little debate.
This Board would regulate every aspect of reporting and
transcribing: testing, licensing, continuing education —
even hearing complaints against practitioners brought by
"anyone" in the state, not just potentially aggrieved clients.
Several aspects of this bill were troubling:
It would create yet another level of expensive
bureaucracy, ostensibly to regulate / control court
reporting, yet dominated by one segment of the
industry. (Where have we seen that before?)
It also imposed highly punitive sanctions against
those "practicing court reporting" without imprimatur
of this new Board.
It actually defined the only methods which the
Board could ever find acceptable to license: machine stenography,
voice-writing / stenomask, and manual shorthand.
As noted, it would allow anyone in the state to file a
complaint in these matters, whether or not that person
had ever set foot in a courtroom or been adversely
affected in any way.
Those currently practicing in any of the "defined
methods" (which, of course, pretends E-Reporting does
not exist) would be "grandfathered" into full licensure.
Proponents argued that the Board is needed because some
who practice in one of the "defined methods" produce
unacceptable transcripts, or fail to produce at all.
The theory is that Board licensure would prevent such
failures in the future. Unhappily, merely "grandfathering"
licenses to these very same practitioners virtually assures
that problems will most certainly occur again.
A significant flaw in SB216 is that it would grant a voting
majority on the Board to representatives of only a portion
of our industry. If it is bad public policy to let an industry
commandeer the government's regulatory powers to
"police" itself, then it is even worse when only a segment of
that industry wields such power. Inevitably, there is less
innovation when vested interests control the public's
regulatory apparatus, and even write their own rules.
After its remarkably quick trip through the Senate, the bill
went to Virginia's House of Delegates, assigned to the Civil
AAERT's Directors concluded this restrictive proposal was
both unwise and unnecessary, so asked our members to
register their views by letter, e-mail, or phone.
Neal Gross (Washington, D.C.), past AAERT vice-president,
appeared before the subcommittee in late
February, along with Michele Satterlund (Richmond,
Virginia). Together, they presented a persuasive case
against SB216 — and provided valuable information to
educate committee members. (One legislator admitted
that he had never even heard of E-Reporting! Well, now
The Subcommittee has declined to "report" this measure to
the full House, and the legislature has adjourned, so it will
not be considered again until 2007, if then.
Thank you all for your input and support!
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Nearly lost in
ONLY direct audio recording, whether digital or analog, preserves ALL
participants' actual spoken words, regardless of the languages involved,
for later authoritative scrutiny.
"Unable to speak English, Juan Ramon Alfonzo stood
before a judge and expected to receive probation for
stealing a toolbox. To his surprise, the judge sentenced
him to 15 years in prison, followed by 15 years of
probation, for stealing a dump truck valued at $125,000.
"Now, court officials agree Alfonzo entered the wrong plea
because his court-hired interpreter . . . provided an
incomprehensible translation." (Daytona Beach News-Journal,
Florida, 12 January 2006.)
So, how did anyone know the interpretation
Take a wild guess. You got it: Florida's
Seventh Circuit is among the
many forward-thinking court systems
which have adopted digital audio
recording. Thus, when questions arose
in the Alfonzo case, the actual spoken
words of both the English-to-Spanish
and Spanish-to-English translations
were preserved in this case for later
review by a qualified interpreter.
As America's courts increasingly come
to deal with litigants who speak
various languages other than English,
this unique benefit of digital recording
is becoming increasingly important —
a feature not available with older,
traditional methods of court reporting.
For example, California has nine
"designated languages," according to
Charlie Kim, an instructor of
interpretation and translation* at
UCLA Extension in Los Angeles.
They are Arabic, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Spanish,
Portuguese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and Mandarin. "Those
nine languages have the greatest need for interpreters
within the court system," he said.
What the Future Holds . . .
Direct audio recording's value to the legal system, as
America diversifies even further, is a simple matter of
extrapolation. Again using Los Angeles as an example, the
current school-age population there receives instruction
in over ninety languages.
Although educators hope a majority of these students will become fluent in
English, experience should lead to the
prudent conclusion that many will not
— requiring, therefore, further
interpretation capacity within our
Additional "designated languages"
means a growing group of interpreters,
and more frequent use of translation
to conduct court business. More non-English testimony given in court
proceedings means an ever-increasing
need for electronic reporting to ensure
justice is actually done — not merely
appearing to be done, when based
solely upon the English record.
And what about Mr. Alfonzo down in
Daytona Beach? The good news is, his
sentence was vacated and his court
process was begun anew — once
again electronically recorded, of
Usage note: although it is common (and acceptable) to
interchange them, strictly speaking, translation is
more properly limited to written texts, and interpretation
to spoken words.
— Monterey Institute of International Studies (California)
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Living the vision of a few . . .
As this issue goes to print, Janet Harris, AAERT president, is on a period
of personal leave, and I was asked to write the column for this edition
of The Court Reporter.
It's odd to me that Webster defines vision
as skill in anticipating the future, yet
the kindest meaning allotted to visionary is
given to fanciful or impractical ideas, views or
schemes — "a visionary enthusiast." Odd, yes, but an accurate reflection of how those words are viewed.
Don't ever forget that a handful of founders and early Board members proudly
wore the "visionary" stamp, so that we could live the vision together.
When I look around the industry today, it is both challenging and affirming
to see the technological and administrative advances in electronic court
reporting. Throughout the country electronic court
recording equipment continues to be installed at record rates. It has
been encouraging to see court administrators hire professional staff to run
the equipment and ensure a clear digital court recording and, if required,
AAERT certification has continued to be added to job announcements as
"preferred," and this is a marked accomplishment of the vision and work of
our founding members who realized the need for a national certification long
before it was required.
We have seen increased membership in our Association, along with both formal
and informal gatherings of electronic court reporters at the State
level. In our ever-evolving culture we have seen the rapid increase
of non-English-speaking residents, and again electronic court reporting rises
to meet a need by recording not only English content, but any language spoken.
Two years ago we met with some of our counterparts from Asia and Australia who wanted to model an electronic court
reporter association after AAERT. This past year that goal was realized, and members of their association will be in Las
Vegas to share their accomplishments with us. Come to our 2006 conference and take a moment to live the vision.
And from all of us to the few of you who put action to ideas twelve years ago — thank you!
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The Nature of Words
This is the time of year when those of us who enjoy growing things
are working the soil, digging trenches to add soil amendments, to plant new
stock, to divert rainwater.
Trench comes from the Old French trenche, a path made by
cutting. A bit removed from gardening is trenchant, incisive
or cutting, a participle of the Old French trenchier, which
comes from the Latin truncare, to lop. A club lopped off of a
larger piece of wood is a truncheon.
Those who don't garden but who transcribe are likely to run across another
cousin of trench, tranche, a class of bonds; literally,
The trunk of a tree may be a truncated bole, with limbs and branches lopped
off, or at this time of burgeoning growth, a trunk may be lush with new
shoots; burgeon comes from Middle English burgeonen, through
Old French burjon,, a bud; from Latin burra, a shaggy
garment. Trunks used for storage were so named because they were
commonly made of wood from tree trunks.
— Laurel H. Stoddard, CET
On The Record Reporting & Transcription, Inc. (Texas)
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— similar, yet different
Here is a
on homophones, words which (usually) sound alike, but are
The quiz is self-scoring while
you take it, yet its results are entirely private. See how you
fare by clicking here.
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Why are we called court reporters,
and not secretaries, clerks, scribes, or something
Battle of Hastings, 1066, The Bayeux Tapestry, detail
The kingdom was already an ancient one, but now,
during an eventful week in mid-October, it fell
suddenly to a foreign invader. Defeat was bad
enough, but even worse, he brought with him a vast,
permanent army of occupation and a rapacious entourage
of new nobles, none of whom, including the conqueror
himself, spoke the people's language or knew their local
customs and laws.
William of Normandy, once a mere French duke, now
King of England, faced a dilemma: he was determined to
establish absolute Norman control over these resentful
Anglo-Saxons in his newly annexed realm — but how?
Knowledge is power, so he commissioned a census /
inventory of everyone and everything in the land, down to
the chickens, ducks, and pigs on each farm. And as a sop
to local sensitivities, William and his successors allowed
prior legal arrangements to continue operating as before,
under the people's "customary," "from time immemorial,"
or so-called "common law" — on condition that judicial
decisions of any importance be reported to the king's
"chief justiciar," who could then review and overrule them
if he disagreed with the results.
At first, local judges and magistrates prepared their own
notes to summarize the facts of cases they heard and the
decisions they rendered, and these reports were forwarded
quarterly to London — somewhat akin to taking minutes of
meetings for some chairman of the board's final approval.
No one should conclude that these findings of fact and
opinion, or court activity reports, were equivalent to what
we now think of as "verbatim court reporting," but it was
certainly reporting. And it was a start.
Of course, in these early years not all local officials were
fully literate. Thus, a trusted clerk or someone else of good
reputation in the community (not to mention superior
literacy!) might attend court sessions and jot down the
essential elements of the cases heard and the decisions
These quasi-official writers who did the note-taking
became, in time, the court's reporters. True,
they may have been called secretaries, notaries, scriveners,
scribes, or clerks in other settings, but year after year, as
the system evolved, those who wrote the reports to the
king's officials became generically known as reporters.
Subsequent monarchs continued the reporting
requirements. Thus, the notion that a central authority
should keep tabs on what judges in various lower courts
were up to became deeply engrained in English legal
theory and practice. And benefits accrued from this
system. For one, the king's chief justice became a powerful
figure: he knew what was going on, and could intervene to
prevent gross miscarriages of what was then viewed as "the
king's justice" or "the king's peace." For another,
aggrieved litigants had at least some basis for appeal if
they believed a case had been wrongly decided.
Having a central repository or library of written reports
also meant that prior decisions could be read and
discussed. They could then serve as precedents, cited as
authority for current rulings, or could be tweaked to fit
novel elements in an unusual case. Thus, legal principles
developed and enlarged over time as judges made new law
and the king collected it in one place.
The many tomes containing the published opinions of
our courts are still referred to as "reports." Indeed, the
Supreme Court's website
cautions that "Only the
printed bound volumes of the United States Reports
contain the final, official opinions of the Supreme Court of
the United States."
Today, "court reporting" means so much more than just
publishing volumes of final court decisions. That said, the
fact that we use reporting and reporter
to describe our profession, and not something else, testifies to the
ancient heritage of our law, now a thousand years in the making.
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— a recording / management system
for meetings, hearings, conferences
Well, a major public hearing has popped up on your calendar, but
at a hall you've never reported in before, and it's not clear how many will
attend, and nobody can tell you anything about the PA system — or if
there even is one — and they want the transcript ASAP, so
you'll probably engage two, maybe three transcriptionists, which means
you'll need to divide things up and then reassemble them
quickly . . . and probably won't sleep well the night before. Been
there? Done that?
As a comprehensive solution, FTR presents a versatile recording / reporting
management package, FTR Hearings — release date during April 2006.
It's designed to look, work, and act like a standard tape
recorder, yet solve the dilemmas so often faced by reporters at public
meetings and hearings.
Its 2-channel recording software can record directly from microphones
to a PC or laptop. It can also capture audio by interfacing with portable
digital recording equipment. (Note: currently, FTR Hearings is only
compatible with certain Marantz devices, such as the Marantz® PMD671
portable digital recorder pictured to the left, below. However, other
digital audio recorders are now being tested, so further equipment compatibilities
are expected soon.) Digital notes are synchronized with
direct OR interfaced audio for instant playback or retrieval.
A portable digital recorder or microphones can be part of the FTR Hearings
The FTR Hearings package includes a number of FTR software products, all of
which run on Microsoft's primary operating systems: Windows 2000
(at the Service Pack 4 level), or Windows XP Home /
Professional (SP1 or SP2). These programs include:
and ProducerTM — as well as
WordLink® (an add-in to
Microsoft Word), the iMicTM audio
adapter, audio connector cable, and an FTR headset.
This package configuration is now priced at $995.
The above package, plus a Marantz®
PMD671 portable digital recorder,
is currently available for $1,995.
Get more from your recordings with FTR Hearings: edit, share, manage, copy,
and annotate your work product, so accessing and managing it becomes easier
and more efficient than ever. Knowing your reporting system is ready
for whatever a meeting venue will demand of it can also let you sleep a lot
better the night before.
Call (877) 650-0958 or visit
www.fortherecord.com for more
information on any FTR product, or for an Authorized Reseller in your
area. FTR's United States offices are located in Phoenix, Arizona.
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Notice of 2006 Annual Business Meeting
As our bylaws require, notice is hereby given to all AAERT general,
corporate, and apprentice / intern members that the Association's annual
business meeting will be held at
10:45 a.m. Monday, June 5, 2006, at The Westin Casuarina Hotel,
Las Vegas, Nevada.
here for a downloadable proxy form.
Send your proxy to:
23812 Rock Circle
Bothell, Washington 98021-8573
by Friday, May 26, 2006.
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AAERT Certification Testing
— Wednesday, June 7, 2006, Las Vegas
Examinations are scheduled in conjunction with our Conference at
The Westin Casuarina Hotel.
Click here to see the day's testing schedule
or for an
A pre-test packet will be mailed prior to the Conference. The packet will
explain what materials you should bring with you.
Note that an overview meeting is set for the day before the test,
Tuesday, June 6th, at 4:00 p.m., at the Conference.
Anyone who would like to attend may sit in.
— Steve Simon, CERT —
firstname.lastname@example.org — (407) 836-2104
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A warm welcome to our new members
since the January 2006 issue of
The Court Reporter
AAERT members can go to our on-line Directories by clicking
Auscript Australasia Pty Ltd
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia
National Court Reporters
— Detroit, Michigan
— Canton, Connecticut
— Dallas, Texas
— Edmonds, Washington
— Georgetown, Delaware
— Nutley, New Jersey
— Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
— Fort Worth, Texas
Gayle Martin Lutz
— Nampa, Idaho
— Rockford, Michigan
Kathy Ann McCaulou
— Sunnyvale, California
— Frenchburg, Kentucky
— Lakeland, Florida
— Coppell, Texas
— Chandler, Arizona
— Bethlehem, Connecticut
— Delaware, Ohio
— Flagstaff, Arizona
— Chicago, Illinois
— Southampton, Bermuda
— Jefferson City, Missouri
— Eustis, Florida
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Tracy Gribben-Cali, CERT, of New Jersey
—— Reporter of the Year
I became a partner in Terry Gribben's Transcription Service in
1995. However, long before that I was working for my mother, Theresa
Gribben, who started our electronic transcription business back in
1973. As I child, I used to pull apart the carbon copies as well as
collate transcripts for her. Then, in high school, I started doing
retypes. (Mom kept a copy of every transcript she produced, so when
there was a re-request, I would retype it — yes, I was a human
I attended college at Seton Hall University, where I received my B.A. in
political science in 1985. After graduation, I worked for United
Airlines in their computer division, while still working for mom on nights
and weekends. In October of 1994, due to a heavy work load, she
called me at my office in New York City and said, "It's time," so I handed
in my notice and came on board in our family business full time.
During the third of a century since mom hung out our shingle in the early
'70s, there have been many changes in the industry: from typewriters
to computers, the introduction of digital recording and now video,
enhanced software capabilities to allow transcript compression
and word indexing, the advent of e-filing. Looking back, it's been a
non-stop learning curve: absorbing, adjusting, tweaking favorite old programs
like WordStar — to mention just some of the intangibles which make
ours a rewarding profession.
Over the years our firm has handled all types of cases: criminal,
family, medical malpractice, discrimination cases, DUI, et cetera. I
believe this is the most interesting job anyone can have. And I
wouldn't be surprised if the whole idea of "reality TV" got its start from
the real-life dramas played out daily in courtrooms throughout the country
(— remember Divorce Court).
Tracy and her husband, Joseph, live in Atlantic Highlands, New
Jersey. The Gribben firm's office is also in New Jersey,
at Monmouth Beach.
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Elizabeth "Betty" Eastman, CERT, of Maryland
—— Transcriber of the Year
When I was in my early teens, a friend of my mother's became a
court reporter, and I became fascinated with the profession.
Consequently, while I was in high school, I went to Stenotype
school at night and graduated in the late '50s. However, I got
sidetracked and took a different career path in government.
Meanwhile, for extra income, I transcribed part-time until I retired from
Capitol Hill in the mid-'80s. At that time I became a full-time, independent court reporter for a new
company called Deposition Services, Inc., being established by a dear friend, Doris Goldstein.
I chucked stenography in favor of electronic reporting. It was a move I never regretted.
Somewhere along the line, my security clearance was updated from my old days on the Hill, and that
began my subspecialty of working on government national security and sensitive cases. I've worked
for several independent counsel, the first one on the Iran Contra scandal, and the last one as Ken
Starr's court reporter for everything outside of the courthouse. I've been to the White House a dozen
times taking the testimony of the president or first lady. I've worked on several spy cases, the most
notable one being the Robert Hanssen affair.
Recently, a lot of my work has centered around 9/11
and its aftermath, including the 9/11 Commission and subsequent terrorism investigations.
Unfortunately, many of the cases are still classified, and even the subject matter hasn't been made
But it's been quite an experience administering an oath to, or being in the presence of
presidents, vice-presidents, cabinet officers, White House staffers, and such infamous individuals as
Monica Lewinsky, Linda Tripp, and even the Shoebomber.
This sounds like boasting, but it truly isn't. It's simply longevity in the business and having the good
fortune of being in the right place at the right time. But most importantly, it is as a result of
adhering to the time-honored tradition of all professional court reporters and transcribers: provide
accurate, quality, timely transcripts, and keep your mouth shut.
Editor's note: When not busy on court reporting or transcribing assignments, Betty supervises the training of all
new court reporters and transcribers for her employer, Deposition Services, Inc. The AAERT
member who nominated her for this award wrote, "Betty will retire soon, so I feel now is the time for
her to be recognized for all her past and current work in the court reporting industry." Well said.
Betty, we wish you all the best in your future retirement!
Contact the Editor
The Court Reporter is published by
The American Association of Electronic Reporters & Transcribers, Inc.
All rights reserved, whether electronically or in print. © 2006.
Gillian Lawrence, CERT, Chair, Publications Committee,
AAERT / 23812 Rock Circle / Bothell, WA 98021-8573.
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