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AAERT AAERT AAERT AAERT AAERT AAERT
For Professionals in Electronic /
Digital Court Technology
Volume 13, Number 1 — Spring 2008
. . .
- Your Association
Networking has its rewards — and its
AAERT AAERT AAERT AAERT AAERT AAERT
nly one kind of witness can give extensive hearsay
testimony in court, provide elaborate opinions, and proffer long narrative
answers to such simple-sounding questions as "So, what does that
mean?" Who are these people who fall into this specially privileged
group of witnesses? Experts.
That's because judges, when faced with complex scientific or technical
questions which lie far outside the realm of commonsense knowledge, are
just as incapable of coming to reliable conclusions as any lay observers
are — jurors, for instance. That's the whole point of expert
testimony: to assist judges and jurors reach decisions based on
solid evidence rather than falling back on prejudice, passion, or mere
whim. (Or equally unacceptable, by flipping a mental coin when matters
have become simply incomprehensible.)
Of course, judges are the gatekeepers of all evidence introduced at
trial. Traditionally, an attorney who wanted to present expert
testimony had to convince a judge:
- that the issue involved information beyond
the ken of ordinary lay observers;
- that the witness had the education, training, or
experience to discuss it;
- and that these views had been published in
authoritative journals and reviewed by others in the field, or
were generally accepted as reliable.
But a new wrinkle was introduced when Jason
Daubert's parents went to court. Jason was born with serious
developmental defects. The suit hinged on whether his mother's use
of a prescription drug during her pregnancy had caused these problems.
And when the case finally ascended the appellate ladder to the Supreme Court,
the justices used it to craft guidelines for when expert evidence should
be admitted in a case, and when it should be kept
out. See Note below.
The trial judge had accepted a single expert's affidavit, in which
he said there was no evidence in the medical literature that the drug was
harming unborn children, and he had rejected the views of eight
other experts who testified the drug could reasonably be blamed for
How could one expert outweigh eight — assuming all held equivalent
credentials? [They did.] Because the eight opinions were
based on recent re-interpretations of prior data, on animal and test-tube
studies, and on the drug's chemical similarities to known teratogens
(agents known to cause birth defects).
The judge found that those eight opinions, derived from such recent
investigations, were not yet "generally accepted as reliable" —
that is, they had not been published and peer-reviewed well in advance of the
Dauberts' lawsuit. This made them "iffy," because if they
were specifically prepared with this particular case in mind, they were
probably little more than litigation science, possibly even junk
science. So the Dauberts lost.
Judges are in a tight spot here:
They can open the floodgates and fill the record with any and all
expert opinions the lawyers wish to float into the room — and risk a
reversal on appeal for being too lax. Or they can reject all
"recent evidence" as clearly obtained only with litigation in view —
(thus, by definition, self-serving and unreliable) — yet still
risk reversal for being too restrictive.
"Courts shouldn't set rules, a priori,
Timing is everything:
to say which studies are good or bad."
— David Michaels, George Washington University.
Many developments in our complex world are radically new
— so novel, in fact, that they become "cases of first impression"
to our courts. Simply put, not enough time has elapsed for lengthy
periods of in-depth scientific inquiry, publication, critique, and
re-publication on these mind-numbingly abstruse and vexing issues.
- Scientists want a long time
to ponder, debate, and only then announce preliminary
results . . .
- Litigants want their
decisions right away . . .
- Judges want finality,
so cases can become res judicata, "decided things."
And there's the conflict:— how to bring the gavel down so litigants
receive speedy justice, so decisions are based on evidence sufficiently
solid that society is not misled, and so the law books are not overburdened
with half-baked conjectures, personal speculations, and untested theories.
Perhaps we expect too much:
"People assume science will give
now what does it take to get expert scientific / technical opinions before
a jury? The required elements are codified in Federal Rule of
Evidence 702, which the justices specifically validated and
elaborated upon in Daubert.
black-and-white answers when [most] of the time
the best it can give us is a 'maybe.'"
— William Freudenburg, U.C. Santa Barbara.
Find Rule 702 here (in the entire set
of evidence rules), courtesy Cornell University Law School.
Note. Click here to read
the Daubert v. Merrill Dow Pharmaceuticals opinion,
509 U.S. 579 (1993),
plus the views of the
two dissenting justices, Rehnquist and Stevens, courtesy Cornell University Law School.
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Do you hear what I hear?
solemnamente, o afirma, que el testimonio que va a dar
ser la verdad, toda la verdad, y nada menos que la verdad, ante
Have you ever heard those words at the start of a deposition or in the
courtroom? Do you know their significance? Do you hear what I hear?
It is common these days in either the deposition setting or in the
courtroom to hear this oath administered in Spanish. Throughout
America there is a significant need for competent and certified
judicial interpreters in Spanish and dozens of other languages.
Are you aware that as a court reporter in a deposition setting
you may be required to administer an oath to the
before you swear in the deponent? The Indiana state
rule illustrates this point very well. Its Code 34-45-1-5 states:
Every interpreter for another person who is either a party or a witness
in a court proceeding described in this chapter shall take the following
Do you solemnly swear (or affirm) that you will justly, truly, and
impartially interpret to
about to be administered to him [her], and the questions which may be asked
him [her], and the answers that he [she] shall give to such questions,
relative to the cause now under consideration before this court so help you
God (or under the pains and penalties of perjury)?
Photo, left to right:
Gail Malm Armstrong, CERT, and
Kimberly Hayes Perez, newly certified court interpreter.
Gail is a practicing E-Reporter in Logansport, Indiana.
She prepared this article for the Indiana Shorthand Reporters Association,
and with her permission we have extracted and amplified remarks which have
A judicial interpreter plays a vital role in enabling
non-English-speaking litigants to communicate
effectively and to understand the proceedings. Availability of competent
interpreters is a fundamental factor in providing access to justice for
all. In Indiana, and now more and more across the country, a
Court Interpreter Program provides seminars for
bilingual applicants, includes a code of ethics for interpreters, and sets
specific certification standards for them.
Certification examinations then test bilingual fluency, consecutive and
simultaneous translating skills, translation of documents, and ethics.
On December 5, 2007, in the Indiana Supreme Courtroom, Indianapolis, I was
privileged to attend a ceremony to swear in 28 certified judicial court
interpreters. At that time my colleague, Kimberly
Hayes Perez of Logansport, was sworn in as a State-Certified Judicial
Interpreter for the Spanish language. She is the first
certified Spanish judicial interpreter for our county and for Indiana's
District 5. The ceremony was introduced by Justice Theodore R.
But is being bilingual sufficient to become a certified judicial
interpreter? No. Professional interpreting requires more than being
bilingual. Court or deposition interpreting, like court reporting, is a
highly skilled profession that requires training, education, experience,
and knowledge of legal terminology and proceedings — only in two
languages! Currently, interpreter certification is not required in
many jurisdictions. But as with court reporters, certification
assures a level of competence, training, and skill. Thus, since
2000, the State of Indiana has had a Court Interpreter
steps are generally required?
Attend a seminar on interpreter ethics, court protocols, criminal procedure,
and the three modes of interpretation:
(1) on-sight document translation,
(2) consecutive interpretation, and
(3) simultaneous interpretation;
Pass a written exam covering vocabulary, criminal
procedure, and ethics with a score of 80% or better;
Pass an oral exam with a
score of 70% or better in each of the three sections:— on-sight
document translation, plus consecutive and simultaneous interpretation;
Submit to a criminal background check and swear to comply with court
rules and procedures.
If you are fluent in more than one language, you definitely have a skill
that can be used to assist others and to earn an excellent wage. While a
court reporter may not serve as both reporter and interpreter in the same
proceeding, being bilingual can provide a definite advantage. Is there
anyone that you know that is bilingual? Are your children commencing
language studies in school? Encourage them to learn another
language. Being bilingual will give them insight and understanding of fellow
humans and could also provide them with an occupation where the need is
tremendous and the opportunities are without limit.
then, do you hear what I hear?
Gail Malm Armstrong, CERT —
For Indiana, click here to view the state's Court Interpreter
Certification Program webpage..
Certified Indiana court interpreters can be located here,
by county or district, at the Interpreter Registry.
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— with people, that is!
Does this guy sound familiar?
He knows 400 people. So he's really networked, right?
Well, six months later he still knows 400 people — but not the same
400! So, yes, he's networked indeed, for superficial social
purposes, but surely not for serious business.
Like most overused words — (cool and awesome come to
mind) — networking has lost much of its meaning, although it
remains a popular buzzword, even so. Plus, it sounds so easy
to do. But how easy is it?
Successful, long-term business networking implies a good deal more than merely
meeting lots of people,
trying to remember their names,
and gathering their business cards.
It's also more than contacting lots of people,
hoping they'll remember your name,
and handing out your business cards.
Indeed, our industry is largely based on long-distance interactions,
so direct personal contact may be limited.
Getting started— consider these principles:
First impressions DO count, even if face-to-face
contact isn't in the cards for a while. Whether by
e-mail or letter, remember that this will BE the all-important first
impression you will ever get to make with this person. So prepare your
message carefully — plan it, rather than just dashing off a
quick, chatty note you hope will somehow get read.
Read it aloud — (a venerable technique of authors) —
listening to how it sounds to the ear, not merely how it looks on
the page. Even send it as a test e-mail to yourself, just to see how
Proofread what you write. Court reporting and transcription
are word-intensive professions, so parse your sentences with care.
Grammatical or spelling errors will seriously undercut any statements you
make about your expertise.
DO pare down your résumé, IF you decide to
include one. Only the first page will probably be looked at, anyway.
And time your e-mail so it does not arrive lost in the early-morning
crush of accumulated incoming items, particularly on a "blue Monday"
morning . . . much more effective to have yours
arrive splendidly alone a bit later in the day!
Find out something about the people you're contacting — what
their areas of specialization are, if any. This may not always be
possible, so . . .
State what you're looking for — don't make them
guess. If they can't tell what your area of interest is by
reading the first paragraph, the contact will likely prove unfruitful.
Have a clear understanding of what you do and why, and what makes
your doing it special. This is simply a matter of directing
your presentation so they can see you as a potential asset.
In a telephone conversation, answer questions succinctly —
rambling on about yourself can turn people off.
And in this setting,
if you're not getting the information you need, ask open-ended
questions rather than ones that get answered Yes / No.
Be genuine and authentic — people quickly pick up on
"puffery" and know when they encounter it. If you comfortably
produce 12 pages of proofed, formatted transcript per hour, don't say
Be appreciative. Yes, you've spent time preparing this
contact, but you've also taken up their time, as well.
Persevere, but be considerate. A second contact
is almost always appropriate, perhaps a third — a fourth or fifth
may be viewed as pestering.
If all goes well and a work referral ensues, follow through quickly and
professionally. This, too, is a form of first impression —
the first impression of your work product.
that's all very well and good for contacting specific individuals
or firms I've taken the time to identify. But is there a way to
make myself generally known "out there"? Yes.
Volunteer for positions or projects available in
organizations like AAERT. People in the field will come to recognize
Post a note about your availability on our Bulletin
Board — but remember, this is tantamount to a "first impression"
encounter, so take the same care with this posting as though you were
directing it to someone specific.
Make yourself known as a resource. Post on our
Bulletin Board that you can assist with technical questions, if that's an
area you're comfortable with. If you're a whiz on law Latin, announce
that people can call you with "Have you ever heard this phrase before?"
Follow through on your commitments, and
word of mouth will serve you well.
This is a process which takes time. Developing any business
relationship involves a personal investment.
True, some interconnections are fragile, no matter how long they've been
"on the books," while others are robust from the get-go. This owes
much to personalities and "chemistry." That said,
all successful networks need regular care and feeding
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Greetings, my friends,
Six weeks ago AAERT's Board met in San Antonio, Texas, for our
mid-year meeting. All Board members were present, one by way of video
and Skype! Your Board is excited about this profession and about the
Association which brings us all together. We are committed to the
growth of AAERT. Board members are not reimbursed for the cost of
attending these meetings, and consider this one of their ways to show
support for the Association.
Speaking of that, if YOU are interested in serving your Association, there
are two Board positions up for election at the June 2008 Member's
Meeting. Sorry, no big bucks or fancy perks, but I can promise you a
rewarding adventure and the opportunity to see
"iron sharpening iron" in action.
Some Board members stayed an extra day to meet with the Conference
Committee. Texas members of the Committee drove in for the meeting,
and we had an exciting day ironing out the details of Conference
2008. Not to mention sampling some of the local fare to make sure
it will meet your standards! You will not be disappointed! This
will be AAERT's first conference in Texas — and, by the sounds of
the "big Texas howdy" they're going to give us, definitely not our last!
Judge John Delaney, of Bryan, Texas, is a senior
district court judge who used electronic recording for over ten years
in his courtroom. He has been an honorary member of AAERT since
1996. We are privileged to have him as our keynote and banquet speaker
During recent weeks I've seen the standard harvest of emails which extol
the benefits of real-time reporting. The emails have been peppered with the usual
knee-jerk disdain for electronic recording and the fact that "someone still
has to make a transcript from the recording." Let me see, I'm sure
I could find a few good men and women to do that!
I have friends who are full-time E-Reporters, full-time transcribers,
full-time Machine Reporters, and full-time Voice-Writers. They're all
very busy. They don't voice concerns of being out of work. They
are busy pushing for tighter certification requirements, producing
transcripts of unequaled accuracy, and projecting a positive image to the
community at large. Which brings us to the questions which everyone must come
back to: Do we do what's right to get what we want? Or do we
do what's right because it's right? I suggest the latter.
But as many of you have learned along with me, when you do what's right
just because it's right, it almost always gives us what we
want, as well.
Work hard. Support your fellow court reporters, whatever their
method. Get your transcripts out on schedule, because that's your part
in ensuring justice is provided to your fellow citizens. Do what's
right because it's right, and things will all work out just fine. And
besides, you're too busy working to spend time doing anything else!
I think AAERT and Texas share a common spirit. Texas Senator Lyndon B.
Johnson (1949-1961) put it nicely: "We have
a tradition of looking forward, and not looking back to see where we have
been or who is following us."
Come join us in San Antonio!
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Budget constraints continue to constrict
— penny-wise, pound-foolish at the statehouse?
The states face budget meltdowns during this period of
economic malaise. As is their wont, elected officials much prefer
to slash funds where affected constituences and special interests
will be the least vocal ( = hire fewer
lobbyists). For constitutional reasons, the judiciary has
historically been reluctant to plunge too deeply into these
political frays, but events may be forcing them to speak a bit louder than
Minnesota's judicial branch is actively pointing out
the flaws in legislators' thinking that cutting back on court-related
costs and services is a neat, tidy, and painless way to free up piles of
Click here to view a brief outline [PDF] of some surprising
unintended consequences which flow from the misguided notion
that starving the courts can feed the budget.
We might add, of course, that cost economies are predictable when
E-Reporters are on the job.
Membership dues not inflating
Just so we all know, the Board wishes to maintain stability in our
membership structures, so no dues increases are planned for 2008 / 2009.
June 22 test cycle marks 11 years for CER/T examinations!
— fees set to increase after San Antonio Conference
For the entire 11-year span since testing began in 1996, E-Reporter and
E-Transcriber certification exam fees have remained
static. The June 22 test cycle in San
Antonio will be the FINAL ONE administered at the old $50 rate,
and thereafter the registration fees will
be $100 for either reporter or
transcriber testing. This adjustment results from the pressures of
rising administrative costs, largely related to testing sites, which have
escalated dramatically. But we expect the new rate to remain
in place for a while, too!
New practical examination A/Vs for certification testing
The Certification Committee has completed the recording of new sets
of DVDs for our E-Reporter practical tests, and additional digital
audio script versions for our E-Transcriber practicals.
We expect both practicals to début at the April 5th test sites in
Connecticut and Florida.
Go to AAERT's test page for specific
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The Nature of Words
Making flat bread with my Sunday school kids set me to thinking
about words regarding relationships of lines —
they were busily cutting the bread into little rectangles, more or less,
with a pizza cutter.
I say more or less, because a rectangle's four parallel sides
result from its having four right angles, from the
Latin rect-, right, plus
angulum, angle. So I
commented that they were aiming to make the vertical lines
perpendicular to the horizontal ones, and explained that this means
the lines should meet at 90-degree angles:— right angles.
Wandering through the dictionary, I learned that the Latin
perpendiculum is a plumb line,
which in its purest form is a string with a conical lead weight tied to its
end, called a plumb bob. The Latin for lead is
plumbum, and that's why lead, at
atomic number 82 the weightiest of the common metals — (heavier
even than gold!) — is abbreviated Pb in
our periodic table of the elements.
And reading above and below the entry for plumb, I discovered
that an early definition of plumber was someone who works
with lead or similar metals — not surprisingly, as lead, being so
easily malleable, was used in early piping systems. Rome's famous
waterworks were often plumbed with lead, leading some historians to
cite chronic, low-grade lead poisoning as at least partly to blame for the
empire's slow decline.
Then I found that Plumbaginaceae, the leadwort family of
plants, was once believed to cure lead poisoning —
apparently not too successfully for the Romans. And something
that is plumbaginous is made of graphite or "black lead."
Further investigation reveals that the Latin
plumbago translates the Greek molybdaina, lead ore —
a derivative of molybdos, Greek for
lead. Small wonder, then, that in 1778, when a brand-new metal
was discovered, one that formerly had been confused with lead, we named
it molybdenum, or lead-like.
A line that is plumb is absolutely vertical, and informally the word
is used to mean completely or absolutely.
And now I'm plumb
tuckered out, as my grandmother would say.
Laurel H. Stoddard, CET
On The Record Reporting & Transcription, Inc.
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that in the past decade American English has coined more words and phrases
than the rest of the world's languages combined — novel constructs
now commonplace from Andorra to Zambia, even among non-English speakers.
One such creation is webinars — a useful combo of
but what are they,
and what are they good for?
Unlike broadcasts, which are one-way dead ends —
(We show and tell, you watch and listen),
webinars are two-way streets — (Hey, we all
take part) — and FTR's webinars are free.
instructional webinars to introduce / explain FTR products
and solutions to E-Reporting issues. . .
click logo for topics / schedules.
can I expect to happen?
You will be able to hear and watch the FTR presentation on your own
monitor. You can also ask questions you'd like to have answers
to — just use the Chat feature to type and send them in during
the session. (The webinar platform is Webex — easy,
peasy — and unlike old-fashioned conference calls, a
webinar doesn't tie up your phone line, should you be expecting an
do I participate?
www.fortherecord.com/webinar.asp to ID
the session you are
interested in. Then follow the directions there to register for
it. After you get your confirmation e-mail, follow the e-mailed
instructions when the session's date / time arrives.
If you have questions about signing up for these web demonstrations,
call Ron DaLessio at
877.650.0958, extension 224.
The webinar-ers look
forward to meeting with (and hearing from!) you.
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A continuing reminder: Pengad offers a significant
AAERT members receive Pengad's
lowest catalog pricing on most
court reporting supplies, regardless of quantity.
This means we do not have to buy in bulk to save.
Just identify yourself as an AAERT member when ordering, and you
automatically receive this consideration on your purchases of
- Transcript covers
- Laser supplies
- Data accessories
- Stock forms
- Mailing supplies
- Index tabs, and much more.
800 631-6989 — fax
800 631-2329 —
Note: Promotional items, billheads /
invoices, business cards, flat or raised print stationery,
and printed mailing envelopes are not included in this benefit.
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Exhibitor Information on...
A new exhibitor at this year's conference in San Antonio is
ErgoGenesis, manufacturer of BodyBilt seating.
BodyBilt chairs are renowned for their comfort, styling, and ergonomic
Please click on the icon below for a downloadable brochure detailing the
use of BodyBilt chairs in the courtroom.
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The Alamo, San Antonio, Texas
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Renee O. Bass, Maryland
Julie Ann Burress, California
Debra Jean Carter, Wisconsin
Maribel Chinea, Puerto Rico
Christopher Coleman, Delaware
Jan Correggio, Florida
Karmen Dickerson, Georgia
Laura Egan, Florida
Charmaine D. Ellington, New Jersey
Anne Marie Flynn, New Jersey
Jocelyn D. Foster, Delaware
Keith Hartsfield, Florida
Nancy Lee Horst, North Dakota
Dorene Humphries, Ohio
Alicia Faye Jarrett, Tennessee
Debra G. Jones, Florida
Lisa M. Kane, New Jersey
Matthew David Kuiper, Nevada
Loretta Lee, Florida
Gary E. Lesch, New York
Josie MacLaine, Delaware
Mary E. Mielke, New Hampshire
Cindy L. Miller, New Mexico
Melissa Miller, Virginia
Dana L. Moore, Delaware
Alenette Opena, Florida
Diana D. Ortiz, Florida
Nylka Enid Rivera Lopez, Puerto Rico
Lori L. Schlieve, North Dakota
Cassandra Lorraine Sines, Kansas
Jason W. Smith, New Jersey
Linda Wachlarz, Michigan
Jennifer G. Wilson, Florida
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Contact the Editor
The Court Reporter is published by
The American Association of Electronic Reporters & Transcribers, Inc.
All rights reserved, whether by electronic or print modalities. © 2008.
Gillian Lawrence, FPR, CERT, President
AAERT / 23812 Rock Circle / Bothell, WA 98021-8573.
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