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The Court Reporter New Year 2006
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For Professionals in Electronic / Digital Court Technology

Volume 11, Number 1, New Year 2006 . . .


    In this issue: Click here to view in your browser.

  • Features

      >     "And let there be sound" -- audio recording's distinguished history

      >     Court Reporting and Recording Board of Review --- Michigan

      >     Privacy Issues / Electronic Transcripts

  • Departments

      >     President's Message:   It's 2006 and . . .

      >     The Nature of Words

      >     Interactive Quick-Quiz --- digital / analog comparisons

  • Technical

      >     Make Some WAVs --- and transcribe practically anything!

      >     Product Previews:   Mercom's Veri-Scribe -- new in 2006

  • The Association

      >     2006 AAERT Awards

      >     AAERT's privacy policy

      >     Newly Certified Members, Fall 2005

      >     Welcome New Members

      >     2006 Renewals / On-Line Directories

Conference 2006
Las Vegas, June 4 - 6

Certification Testing June 7






  "And let there be sound"
--- audio recording's distinguished place in history
London, that Sunday evening, February 25, 1940, was foggy, cold, and damp.  Those lucky enough to be at home tuned their radios to the BBC for news of the war.  But precisely 6:00 p.m. the airwaves unexpectedly went silent for a moment or two, then suddenly resumed with the familiar strains of "God Save the King."  A very proper English voice announced the inauguration of the New British Broadcasting System.  There followed an evening of music, interrupted from time to time by news reports -- all recorded in advance on something only the Germans had possessed up to then:   magnetic audiotape.  By 1948, American radio was also on board.  And these re-produced sounds were so good that it was hard to tell them from live studio performances.

A far cry, indeed, from the 1877 wax cylinder upon which Thomas Edison first managed to capture his own quavering, scratchy voice reciting "Mary Had a Little Lamb."  Until then, everything ever heard by anyone, anywhere, was ephemeral, and every spoken word was lost forever.  Now, any sound could be summoned back at will and listened to again and yet again.

Always a visionary, within months Edison was busy advertising the miraculous possibilities for sound recording, as he outlined for the June 1878 issue of North American Review:
  • Dictation without a stenographer;
  • telephone connections to transmit permanent and invaluable records instead of momentary and fleeting communication;
  • books which speak to blind people;
  • clocks that announce the time for going home, having meals, etc.;
  • teaching languages by reproducing exactly how they are pronounced;
  • preserving lectures so pupils can refer to them at any moment;

--- not to mention music boxes and talking toys and --- well, Edison was both a visionary and a very good promoter.

His system was ingenious, yet simple:  it captured sounds in a large funnel, concentrating the vibrating air waves at a small membrane, which pulsed in sync with them and set in motion a tiny needle.  As the needle scratched its way around a revolving wax cylinder, it physically preserved an up-and-down record of those vibrations within the groove it etched upon the wax.  Later, another needle could slide along that groove, re-producing those undulations to re-create the original sounds.

By 1910, a dictation / transcription system existed for American business.  This meant people could at last record sounds for themselves conveniently and inexpensively.  Edison promoted this development in his ad / promo film The Stenographer's Friend, but it still was based on cylinders.

Edison in his lab

After World War I, cylinders were largely abandoned, and recordings appeared on disks.  Disk recordings scratched their grooves laterally, side to side, rather than up and down.  Eventually, both the up-and-down and side-to-side meanderings of the engraving needle were combined, and stereo "high fidelity" binaural sound reproduction was born -- two pickup heads, each reading a different set of information etched into the groove, sent different signals to "left" and "right" speakers.

Recording on spools of magnetized steel wire became feasible in the 1930s.  However, the advent of oxide-based magnetic tape strips, which led to multichannel recording and playback, put an end to the wire recording era.  This tape-based recording system, a German development designed for radio, had debuted in 1935 as the Magnetophone.

All those systems were "analog" -- that is, bottom line, sound reproduction depended on the mechanical, physical nature of the recording medium itself.  Cylinders could be squashed, disks scratched, wires bent, tape strips stretched, all affecting sound integrity.

And then came computers and our digital age.
Now, original sounds are represented as binary numbers (zeros and ones) hence, "digital."  Numbers never change: they do not bend, cannot be scratched or stretched --- they are what they are.  If 00110101. . . denotes a specific pure tone, that number will always produce that tone.  Of course, the full range of sounds is far more complex than pure tones.  That said, digital recording means copies of an original are like identical clones, not like Xeroxes of Xeroxes of Xeroxes, which quickly degrade by repetition.  Further, direct electronic sound transmission anywhere on the planet is possible, without shipping tapes or disks -- although those storage systems remain available, and are very alive and doing quite well.

So do not think "analog" is dead.
Even in digital systems, sound must still pass through analog devices (microphones, headphones or speakers) to get transmitted into the human ear --- all basically Edison's old vibrating membranes in modern dress.  These can be cheap, tinny, and sound awful, or highly sophisticated and well designed, reproducing sound truly faithful to the original live event.

Thank you, Thomas Alva!
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Sensitive Privacy Issues and Electronically Distributed Transcripts

The federal Aministrative Office of the Courts is now testing a policy which requires the redaction of portions of sensitive personal information from transcripts which parties will obtain electronically --- including home addresses, birth dates, minors' names, Social Security numbers, and financial accounts' numeric identifiers.

Click here to read the full text in PDF format.
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AAERT / MECRA Members on Michigan's
     Court Reporting and Recording Board of Review
                --- Diane Szostak and Kathleen Schmalz appointed to four-year terms
As in all jurisdictions, court reporters / recorders play a crucial role in Michigan's justice system. The state certifies on four professional levels: CSR (certified shorthand reporter), CER (certified electronic recorder), CSMR (certified stenomask reporter), and CEO (certified electronic operator). (All except CEOs may prepare transcripts.)

Michigan's Supreme Court has delegated oversight of these certified practitioners to the Court Reporting and Recording Board of Review, which supervises the certification process, sets examination policies, directs the State Court Administrative Office on test-related matters, decides examination appeals --- and can impose sanctions up to and including revoking certification. The Board regularly addresses such issues as grievances filed against reporters / recorders, violations of certifications, lack of certification, people's character and fitness to remain court reporters or recorders, cheating on exams, failure to follow the state-mandated transcript format, training workshops, and testing. Indeed, the Board's scope is very broad --- in a nutshell, anything and everything that involves court reporting / recording.

The Board of Review's nine members meet quarterly in the Hall of Justice at Lansing, Michigan's capital. The Board includes a Court of Appeals judge (who serves as its chair); a circuit or recorder's court judge; a probate judge; a district judge; two court employees (a stenographer and an electronic court recorder); two practitioners from the private sector (a stenographer and an electronic court recorder); plus an attorney.

Board members are appointed by the Supreme Court to four-year terms. Generally, when there is a reporter / recorder member vacancy, the Board asks the state associations (MAPCR, the Michigan Association of Professional Court Reporters, or MECRA, the Michigan Electronic Court Reporters Association) for the names of qualified individuals who would be willing to serve. Ultimately, however, the Supreme Court makes all appointments.

Currently, two AAERT members sit on Michigan's Board of Review: Diane Szostak in the court-employed recorder position, and Kathleen Schmalz in the private-sector recorder position.

An ad hoc committee of Board members is now reviewing and revising the Manual for Court Reporters and Recorders, affectionately known as "the Bible" among Michigan practitioners. It covers appellate procedures; transcript format, preparation and filing; audio recording procedures; relevant court rules; certification; and guidelines for professional conduct and ethics.
Diane Szostak, CER

Diane has served half of her current four-year term. She describes getting the news of her appointment this way: "The thrill that I felt opening a letter from the Supreme Court of Michigan addressed specifically to me, appointing me to this Board, was almost breathtaking."

Diane has worked in the judicial system on and off for more than twenty years, taking some time off in between to raise a family. She has held positions as a District Court Administrator / Magistrate and has freelanced both as a stenographic reporter as well as electronic court recorder. She is currently court coordinator and recorder with the 34th Circuit Court in West Branch, Michigan. She is Education Chair for the Michigan Electronic Court Reporters Association (MECRA), and thus is responsible for pre-certification training workshops. Diane has been an AAERT member since 2000. Her current Associate degree is in court reporting, and this May she will add an Associate degree in criminal justice and corrections administration. By May 2007 she will have obtained her Bachelor's degree in criminal justice administration.

Kathleen Schmalz, CER

Kathleen started her career as a legal secretary in 1978. In 1980 she qualified as a paralegal, and in 1991 became an official court recorder. She currently owns her own court recording firm, Schmalz Reporting Service, and lives in Grand Haven, Michigan, with her husband, John, and four delightful dogs. She is also the database manager for MECRA, and is editor of its newsletter, The Transcript.
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President's Message

It's 2006 and . . .

Even though we're now six years past Y2K, merely hearing the phrase "twenty-first century" still conjures up images of futuristic, science-fiction societies in my mind. Six years past the turn of the century, and AAERT continues to grow, as the digital recording industry has grown exponentially from the fond dreams of a few visionaries into practical realities.

But, six years past the turn of the century, I'm still reading many of the same negative stereotypes and misleading myths about E-Reporting that I heard when I first started in this business two decades ago, back in the last century. I would be preaching to the choir here if I spent any time at all defending E-Reporting, or the superior quality that our four-channel recording technology offers today, or the impressive professionalism of our members.

I am very proud to be a member of our profession. And we have much to be proud about in 2006. This newsletter, as an example, not only reaches our own membership, but is read on line by others, as well.

We are in the process of planning our Las Vegas conference in June, and are bringing in more leaders in digital audio and video. Join us to stay in touch and on top of the latest technology. Understanding the needs of our clients and helping them adjust to expanding, evolving technologies makes us invaluable within the legal community.

I personally, and also speaking on behalf of the Board, want to wish each of you a prosperous and productive year. So many good things lie ahead for us all!

Janet B. Harris,  CERT
AAERT President
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The Nature of Words

Cogitating upon a place to start following a thread and begin my meanderings through the dictionary, I unraveled "cogitate" and found the Latin cogitatus to be a union of co plus agitatus. Among the many definitions of the English "agitate" is to consider on all sides, to turn in the mind, derived from the Latin agitatus, the participle of agitare, to put in motion.

That thread led to other "thinking" words, ones related to cognition, from the Latin cognosci:   cognomen, surname, the name by which you are known; cognoscenti, those who know things.

At this juncture I wondered if gnomon, the vertical element of the sundial which casts the shadow, was any relation to these, but our usage is directly from the Greek gnomon -- which does mean interpreter or discerner, however.

Less recognizable (pun intended) as a relative of the cognoscenti is "quaint," clever in an amusing sort of way. It comes less directly from the Latin participle cognitus through the French cointe and Middle English queinte.

And as I wandered willy-nilly, I found that phrase to be related to the Latin nolens volens, "whether willing or unwilling," through the archaic "will he, nill he."

Speaking of meandering, the English "meander" comes from the ancient name for a river in Turkey, the Maeander, known for its winding course.

--- Laurel H. Stoddard, CET
On The Record Reporting & Transcription, Inc. (Texas)
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Interactive Quick-Quiz

Here is a ten-question quiz comparing digital and analog features.   Are you up to it?   Of course, you are!
And the good news is, it's self-scoring while you take it, yet its results are entirely private.  See how you fare by clicking here.
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Make some WAVs
--- and transcribe practically anything!
Andre Morris, IT Manager, A\V Tronics, Inc. ---

Transcription companies are often required to transcribe from a wide array of different media types, including analog tapes, personal voice recorders, VHS tapes, digital video, digital audio, and more.   Think of how nice it would be to simplify the transcription process down to a single foot pedal and transcription software package.   Once you know about the magic of the WAV format and how to manipulate media, you can minimize your equipmentsoftware expenditures.   WAV files are nothing more than files on your computer that contain audio data, and it is possible to convert virtually any type of media into WAV.

In the case of files that are already on your computer, several inexpensive tools exist.   One such tool that works very well to convert many different file types to WAV is dBpowerAMP ---   There is also GoldWave --- Both of these tools will take a long list of existing file types and will save them as standard WAV files.   Alternatively, some types of audio files contain a free player software that has a "Save As" or "Export" feature built in.   One great example of this is the Olympus player software that plays certain Personal Voice Recorder files --- handy when you have a file type that will not open in your transcription software or work with your existing foot pedal:   simply convert it to a WAV file instead, and open it that way.

When you have recordings on tape or on an external recording device like a cassette tape or VHS tape, most likely you will have no way to get the recordings directly onto your computer as a digital file.   Instead, you can record the audio as a computer file in real time via the line in feature of your sound card.   Your playback device should have some type of audio out connection, such as a line out or headphone jack.   A quick trip to a local Radio Shack will reveal the cables you need, such as the 18" stereo mini to mini cable ---, or RCA to mini cable ---

Plug one end of the cable into the audio out connectors of your playback device, and the other end of the cable into the line in mini jack of your PC audio card.   Using a free audio recording software tool --- (Audacity is my favorite --- --- simply hit the play button on your playback device and the record button on your audio recording software.   This will record the audio directly into your computer, and when you have finished recording, you will have a file that you can save as a standard WAV file to use in your transcription software.

The worst-case scenario is when you have a type of media that does not have any audio out connections, and the only way to listen to the audio is via a built-in speaker on the playback device. But even this type of restrictive media can be converted to WAV format for transcription. There are many high-quality computer microphones on the market today.   One such product is the Logitech desktop microphone ---   Simply attach the microphone to your USB port and set up the drivers.   When you are ready to record, place the microphone next to the speaker of the playback device.   Hit Play on your playback device and record on your audio software (Audacity).   The result is a digital file that has been recorded as WAV to your computer.

While some of these options include extra time and effort, such as recording in real time, there are many benefits.   You can transfer digital files over the internet to anyone.   And with a file in WAV format, nearly all of the transcription software tools and pedals on the market will be able to play it.   With WAV, you have a single, easy to manage file that will contain all of the contents of the entire hearing.   It is easier to back up WAV files and make copies of them from your computer than it is to copy or back up tapes.

There is a free player available that supports WAV files, called TheRecord Player from FTR --- This free FTR player works with a variety of cheap foot pedals on the market today.   With all of your audio content in WAV format, and with TheRecord Player, you will finally have a single software tool to transcribe all your various media formats.
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Product Previews:   Mercom's Veri-Scribe --- new offerings in 2006

About the developers:

Mercom is based in Lyndhurst, New Jersey, and has produced digital recording systems for more than a decade.  Its Audiolog products are installed in over 6,000 locations here and abroad, and serve the public safety (E-9-1-1) community and call / contact centers.
Veri-Scribe, introduced in 2004, builds upon Audiolog's technology, and is specifically designed for courts, hearing rooms, meeting or board rooms, and other venues which require the advantages of reliable digital recording.

Three Configurations:

During 2006 Mercom will dramatically expand its Veri-Scribe offerings to serve the full breadth of the market, from stand-alone court and board / meeting applications to large courthouses with dozens of courtrooms.  Veri-Scribe will be extended to encompass three "editions" of the program that are scaled to meet specific end-user needs.

Standard Edition (SE)

The present bundled Veri-Scribe product will become the Standard Edition.  It features a complete package --- a two- or four-channel digital recorder, player, annotator, and backup capability.  Installed on a Windows 2000 Professional or Windows XP laptop or desktop PC, Veri-Scribe SE operates in a stand-alone mode.

When combined with microphones and a sound card / mixer or audio interface, each PC becomes a self-contained digital recorder (Figure 1A).

The Standard Edition may also be connected to a network, with backup directed to a network server (Figure 1B).

Figure 1A.  Stand-Alone Mode Figure 1B.  Networked Backup Mode

The Standard Edition is designed for single-room courthouses, mobile hearings, depositions, traveling court reporters, law enforcement, business meetings or board meeting venues. Video recording capacities will be added in Q3 2006.


Network Edition (NE)

The Network Edition has been in trial for much of 2005 and will be released in Q1 2006.  It features a distributed package --- a digital recorder with backup capability installed as a service on a Win2K or WinXP PC recording server, along with one or more Client programs with player which run on the recording server or on any network-connected Windows PC.

The Veri-Scribe NE Client provides for administrative setup and control of one or more recording servers, as well as monitoring and playback of any recording server attached to the network.  Backup from any recording server on the network may be directed to a Central Archiving Server (CAS).  The CAS features its own SQL-2000 database for ease of retrieval and playback with NE Clients (Figure 2).

Figure 2.  Distributed Mode

Veri-Scribe NE is designed for medium-sized courthouses or any building with a central network and multiple recording locations.  The CAS will be released in Q2, and video recording capabilities in Q3, 2006.


Enterprise Edition (EE)

Veri-Scribe EE adds a centralized recording mode to its architecture.  EE will feature standard rack-mount Audiolog recording servers installed in a central computer room, and managed across the Enterprise network by one or more Veri-Scribe Clients with player.  In this configuration (Figure 3), a single 200-channel Audiolog server can handle a 50-room courthouse.  A second server may be added to provide for fault resilience.  Veri-Scribe EE will be releasted in Q3 2006, along with video recording capabilities.

Figure 3.  Centralized Mode

Note that with Veri-Scribe EE, any operating mode --- stand-alone, networked backup, distributed, or centralized --- may be mixed and matched in custom configurations to meet user needs.

The next issue will provide further information.
Contact Bill Taylor, (443) 270-9439, for details.

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Certified Electronic Court Reporter
Certified Electronic Court Transcriber

Nomination period concludes March 10, 2006
Award recipients will be notified prior to April 1, 2006, and each will receive:

A one-year general AAERT membership,
Hotel accommodation and registration during our 13th Annual Conference
in Las Vegas, June 4 - 6, 2006,
Award presentation at Conference Banquet,
and special recognition in The Court Reporter and on our website.
An award recipient must attend in person to accept the presentation.

A nominee must be a member in good standing,
hold a current AAERT certification in the field of nomination,
and cannot be a current member of AAERT's Board of Directors.

How to nominate:   Write a letter submitting the following information:
  • Name, address, phone, and e-mail address for both yourself and the nominee;
  • Indicate whether the nominee is an electronic reporter or transcriber;
  • Nominee's certification number, years of experience in the industry, and primary work location;
  • A statement why the nominee deserves the award, highlighting professional achievements.

Send nomination to:

AAERT Awards
c/o Mary Ann Lutz
100 West Lemon, Suite 103
Monrovia, California   91016

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What are AAERT's privacy policies, both on and off line?

Click here to read how we handle membership and transactional information.

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Newly certified Members, fall 2005

The fall cycle of AAERT's ongoing certification tests took place October 29, 2005 in Concord, New Hampshire; Mercerville, New Jersey; Phoenix, Arizona; Gainesville, Florida; Orlando, Florida; and on November 18 in West Palm Beach, Florida.   An independent proctor at each site administered the tests.

AAERT conducts certification examinations twice annually.   The first date is during the Annual Conference in June, and the second cycle is in the fall, usually late October.   Test sites in the fall are determined by applicant interest.   A successful candidate earns one of the following certifications:   Certified Electronic Court Reporter (CER), Certified Electronic Court Transcriber (CET), or Certified Electronic Court Reporter and Transcriber (CERT).   A candidate can also choose to be certified with a digital (D) endorsement.

Congratulations to the following candidates who earned initial or upgraded certifications last fall:
Tracy Gribben Cali, CERT --- New Jersey
Kae Charman, CERT*D --- Florida
DeAndre Fields, CER**D --- Florida
Priscilla Holloway, CERT*D --- Florida
Vesta Knight, CER**D --- Arizona
Laurie Landry, CET --- New Hampshire
Lisa Luciano, CET**D --- New Jersey
Sandra Lukacs, CERT*D --- Florida
  Katherine McNally, CET**D --- Arizona
Amanda Morales, CER**D --- Florida
Cornelia Mueller, CERT*D --- Florida
Andrea Paige, CERT*D --- Pennsylvania
Kathleen Price, CET**D --- New Jersey
Shannon Romero, CET**D --- Arizona
Mary Seymour, CERT*D --- New Hampshire
Joanne Wiren, CET --- New Hampshire
Certification testing will next take place at AAERT's 13th Annual Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada on Wednesday, June 7, 2006.

--- Steve Simon,
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A warm welcome to our new members
since the November 2005 issue of The Court Reporter

AAERT members can go to our on-line Directories by clicking here.


Wendy LeBlanc
LeBlanc Court Reporting Services
Gainesville, Florida

John G. Tomasi
Record Transcripts, Inc.
Tampa, Florida


Harris Bak
      -- New Rochelle, New York
Beth V. Betker
      -- Seattle, Washington
Jacqueline C. DeShay
      -- Franklin Park, New Jersey
Meredith L. Downing
      -- Anchorage, Alaska

Neil C. Griffin
      -- Melbourne, Australia
Cedric Holtz
      -- Bangalore, India
Pietrina N. Hyatt
      -- Palm Coast, Florida
Manisha Maniyar
      -- Falls Church, Virginia
LaKeisha Martin
      -- West Palm Beach, Florida
Peggy N. Pierce
      -- Troutdale, Virginia
Deborah H. Powers
      -- Edgewater, Maryland
Beatriz Salazar
      -- West Palm Beach, Florida
Sheryl J. Smith
      -- Naples, Florida
Cindy Swords
      -- Millington, Tennessee
Georgeann Woelper
      -- West Palm Beach, Florida

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2006 Renewals / On-Line Directories

A very appreciative THANK YOU to all on the calendar-year membership system who renewed for 2006 so promptly.  It really does help in the Association's future planning, and ensures our activities will continue uninterrupted.

Any who have yet to renew, consider doing so on line at  As you may know, our system is a secure one.  (And this issue contains an overview of our privacy policy).  However, renewing by mail is always an option.

Speaking of mail, remember The Court Reporter can come to you via e-mail --- easy to file in your e-mail program for further reference, and always available.  Just drop me a quick note.

A current set of Membership Directories is on line in the members area of our website.  If you have not yet selected an access password, please do so --- or I can assign you one, if you prefer.

Best wishes for a calm and pleasant 2006.     --- Bill Wagner, CET, Treasurer,
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              The Court Reporter is published by
The American Association of Electronic Reporters and 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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