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The Court Reporter Spring 2009
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For Professionals in Electronic / Digital Court Technology

Volume 14, Number 1 — Spring 2009 . . .






Digital court reporting in depositions

an emerging factor in Florida's important market

The gradual decline in stenographic court reporting school graduates nationwide has inevitably led to the closing of South Florida's last brick-and-mortar machine shorthand stenography school.  Aspiring steno reporters are now left with online education as their only option.  With few new court reporting graduates, the pool of shorthand reporters in South Florida is dwindling. Recognizing the forthcoming shortage, many companies and law firms in South Florida are switching to alternative court reporting options such as digital reporting.

In what may prove to be a benchmark decision, should other states follow in Florida's footsteps, the state has officially recognized digital court reporting by amending its Rules of Judicial Administration.  Rule 2.535(a) states:

AAERT member Jared Sandel contributes Expert Author articles to Ezine Articles. The remarks below are adapted from his "Digital Court Reporting For Depositions — An Emerging Market in South Florida,"
web-published at Ezine Articles

Channel separation allows the transcriber to separate voices during moments when people are talking over each other. The digital reporter also takes down time stamped notes throughout the deposition. These notes are linked to their corresponding segment of audio and allow a digital reporter to document speakers and note correct spellings of proper nouns.

Digital reporters provide the same services as stenographers, including but not limited to:  swearing in the witness; taking down the record; noting objections; playing back testimony; and, of course, transcription.

In fact, digital reporters are capable of producing what's known as a true verbatim transcript.  The verbatim transcription advantage that digital reporters enjoy can be attributed to their ability to listen to the actual testimony in digital quality sound in order to proofread the transcript text against the audio file. This crucial step enables the transcriber to verify the accuracy of the words themselves, not just grammatical accuracy.

"'Court reporting' means the act of making a verbatim record of the spoken word, whether by the use of written symbols, stenomask equipment, or electronic devices, in any proceedings pending in any of the courts of this state, including all discovery proceedings conducted in connection therewith, any proceedings reported for the court's own use, and all proceedings required by statute to be reported by an approved court reporter or civil court reporter.  It does not mean the act of taking witness statements not intended for use in court as substantive evidence."

Digital reporting is filling a very important need, particularly in South Florida.  (For non-Floridian readers, "South Florida" includes the three most populous counties in the state.)  Our area is a hotbed of litigation, and digital reporting is capable of handling all usual engagements at a fraction of the cost of stenographers.  A digital reporter can typically offer 30% savings over a stenographic reporter.

Digital reporters take down the record using microphones which rest unobtrusively on the table.  Our firm, Continental Reporting Service, uses unidirectional microphones exclusively in deposition digital reporting because they are capable of isolating each speaker's voice.  Each speaker's voice is then recorded on its own channel.
Jared Sandel, CER**D
Manager, Florida Operations
Continental Reporting Service, Inc.
Hollywood, Florida




AAERT's Certification Program

Origins and Development

In the 1960s and 1970s, courts began to look for alternative methods of traditional stenograph court reporting for budgetary reasons. Those courts began using analog tape recorders to supplement coverage of lower courts and depositions. Tape recording technology changed from reel-to-reel recording systems to cassette tape recording systems through the early 1980s, and then to the development of digital recording systems starting in the latter part of the 1990s. As courts grew, so did the use of electronic and digital court reporting technology to the point that the technology is used in virtually all types of courts and discovery work. As budgets became strained to the breaking point and technology advanced, the courts struggled to find new ways to cover more with less. Many court systems now employ a centralized system of digital court reporting which provides one digital court reporter with the ability to cover multiple venues. Courts today now use a blend of court reporting technologies, including electronic/digital, stenographic, real-time, and voice writing with voice recognition software to capture and reproduce the spoken record.

The National Shorthand Reporters Association (NSRA) was founded in 1899 as a national association for court reporters utilizing the stenographic method of court reporting. That Association changed its name in 1991 to the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA). The National Verbatim Reporters Association (NVRA) was founded in 1967 as a national organization for court reporters utilizing voice writing (formerly referred to as stenomask) technology. But until 1994, there was no national association for the group of people who have become widely referred to as electronic court reporters, and, therefore, no standardization and best practices developed and adopted for electronic court reporters on a national scale.

The American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT) was established in 1994. This provided a forum for electronic court reporters (ECRs) to network among one another on a national level and filled the void that existed for best practices and certification of electronic court reporters and transcribers who were using the electronic method of court reporting. The Association was co-founded by Connie Rill (California), Janet Harris (Wisconsin), and Steve Townsend (Arizona), soon joined by charter Board members Sunny Peer (Texas), Bill Wagner (Washington), Jim Bowen (New Jersey), Mary Ann Lutz (California), and Gloria Kron (Alaska). AAERT's first annual conference took place in April of 1994.

Because the Board of Directors realized the new Association would have no standing in the court reporting community without a viable certification process for ECRs, it established a certification program and appointed Jim Bowen as chair of its Certification Committee. Jim brought with him previous experience working on the certification board of the State of New Jersey and, therefore, had great insight into developing a certification program. The Committee also included Connie Rill, Bill Wagner, and Mary Ann Lutz. With assistance from Bill Moran of the Administrative Office of the United States Courts in Washington, D.C., guidelines were established for recording and transcribing electronic court recordings. The Board of Directors contracted with The Michael Consulting Group (an independent consulting firm in Sacramento, California) to help with recommendations for establishing certification testing procedures and guidelines.

Based on its review of similar certification examinations, The Michael Consulting Group made recommendations on the basic aspects of the certification process including, but not limited to, proctoring the examination, scoring (including pass/fail rates), and notification of results. The Michael Consulting Group also recommended two separate certification tests, one for Reporters and one for Transcribers. Based on these recommendations and guidelines, the certification examinations were formatted as they exist today.

Using resources from federal court reporting materials, specific state stenographic and transcriber certification materials, electronic court recording equipment manufacturers' specifications, legal dictionaries, and information from experienced Association members, the Committee prepared the first written tests to be used in the certification program. Much of the material used here was also available to Bill Wagner as he worked on the first official AAERT ECR best practices guide. This Certification Test Study Guide documents best practices in electronic court reporting and transcribing, as well as serves as an aid to AAERT members as they prepare to participate in the AAERT Certification Examination process. The Guide was written using federal guidelines for transcription as its standard because of the differences found among state-to-state guidelines.

Initial scripts used for Reporter Practical Examinations and for Transcriber Practical Examinations were written by Connie Rill, Bill Wagner, and Mary Ann Lutz. Video- and audiotape production was directed by Mary Ann Lutz.

The newly developed certification program was tested in 1995. As a result of that test, minor corrections and modifications were made to the test and the procedures. Certification Chair Jim Bowen reviewed the written questions, organized them according to the chapters of the Study Guide, and oversaw the preparation of additional questions based on the Guide to enlarge each section. He then reorganized the tests to separate Reporter written test questions from Transcriber written test questions. This established the test format currently in use today.

The first official certification examinations were given in 1996. AAERT established two testing certification test dates annually. The first certification test date and location is at our annual conference, and the second date is the last Saturday in October. The sites of the second test are selected regionally based on demand.

The format that was established called for three basic certification designations. The first designation is the Certified Electronic Reporter (CER); the second is the Certified Electronic Transcriber (CET); and the third is the Certified Electronic Reporter and Transcriber (CERT). A CERT certification is automatically awarded upon earning both the CER and CET certification.

Each certification package has two legs. The first leg is a written examination, and the second is practical examination. Performance on individual written test questions and practical examinations are constantly reviewed to ensure accuracy and fairness.

As digital court reporting grew into acceptance in the United States, it became clear that AAERT needed to adopt a certification program for Digital Court Reporters (DCRs) as well as ECRs. In 2003, AAERT updated the Study Guide and developed a digital certification program. In the Digital certification test program, written test questions not applicable to DCRs were removed and replaced with questions relating to digital court reporting and transcribing. Practical examinations using analog tape recordings were replaced with digital recordings. Those certifications earned are CER**D, CET**D and CERT*D, respectively.

Since 2003, the number of analog certification examinations has dramatically decreased and the number of digital certifications has dramatically increased, to the point that at the present time more than 90 percent of all AAERT certifications earned are digital.

Electronic Reporter (Analog or Digital) Certification

It is AAERT's position that an ECR is not adequately performing his/her duties as a court reporter without ensuring a proper recording is being made. Monitoring the proceeding and creating sufficient annotations on a log sheet aid the transcriptionist in the production of the transcript from the audio recording, as well as enabling quick location of specific passages in the recording for review and playback as may be necessary.

Accordingly, to obtain a CER certification, the reporter is required to pass a 100-question examination and produce a comprehensive set of log notes from a court proceeding. The written examination is in three sections:

  •   Section One concerns court reporting and technical questions;

  •   Section Two concerns general court procedures and practices; and

  •   Section Three concerns vocabulary.

A 70 percent passing score must be obtained in each category to be considered a passing score. A member taking the examination has 90 minutes to complete it.

The second leg of the certification examination is the practical examination. The practical examination involves creating a set of log notes or annotations while observing a mock court proceeding. The log notes are scored on content and accuracy, on a variety of annotation criteria. An 80 percent passing score must be obtained to be considered a passing score. A member taking the examination is given 25 minutes to prepare his/her log notes, 30 minutes to observe the mock trial and create the log notes/annotations, and then an additional 25 minutes to complete and make any necessary corrections or changes to the log notes/annotations. AAERT has four videotaped tests for the practical examination.

Once a member passes both legs of the certification examination, he/she is awarded the CER certificate. If a member passes one leg, but not the other, then the member must take only that one leg that he/she did not pass again in order to complete the CER certification.

As the analog version of the certification (CER) deals mainly with the use of analog tape systems, the digital version of the certification (CER**D) deals with digital recordings. The written test questions are in the same three sections, but concentrate on digital reporting. The practical test requires the member to prepare his/her log notes on a laptop using annotation software, as opposed to handwritten log notes. AAERT has three practical reporter examinations on DVD.

Electronic Transcriber (Analog or Digital) Certification

While the CER and CER**D certification program concerns electronic and digital court reporting, the CET and CET**D certification program concerns electronic and digital transcribing. The basic examination procedures are the same. There are two legs of the examination. The first leg is the written test, and the second is the practical test.

The written examination is a 100-question test in three sections:

  •   Section One concerns transcript format and proofreading;

  •   Section Two concerns general court procedures and practices; and

  •   Section Three concerns vocabulary.

A 70 percent passing score must be obtained in each category to be considered a passing score. A member taking the examination has 90 minutes to complete it.

The practical examination is a transcription examination. Members are given a mock court proceeding recorded on four-channel audiotape. He/she is required to complete ten full pages of transcript (plus the title page, index and certificate). A passing score is 98 percent accuracy. A member taking this examination has 120 minutes to complete it. AAERT has four practical examinations on analog tape.

As the analog version of the certification (CET) deals mainly with the use of analog tape systems, the digital version of the certification (CET**D) deals with digital recordings. The written test questions are in the same three sections, but concentrate on digital transcription. The practical test requires the member to prepare his/her transcript from a digital recording on a laptop using digital software, as opposed to using an analog tape transcriber. AAERT currently has three practical transcriber examinations on CD.

Electronic Reporter/Transcriber (Analog or Digital) Certification

The CERT certification is obtained by receiving both the CER and CET certification. Similarly, to obtain the CERT*D, the member must receive both the CER**D and CET**D certification.

The Present and the Future of AAERT Certification

Since its inception, AAERT has maintained and upgraded its certification program through the present day. Digital court reporting has become an ever-increasing methodology used by the courts, and AAERT saw the need to adopt a certification program for digital court reporting. Therefore, the Association began digital certification testing in 2003, based on its analog tape certification program. In 2008, the Association upgraded all of its practical examinations, retiring old certification tests and introducing new ones, thanks to the efforts of Board members Jan Harris and Bill Wagner.

Since 1994, hundreds of members in states all across the United States have obtained their electronic/digital certifications through AAERT. The Association is now recognized in many states as the association best suited to offer certification for electronic and digital court reporters. Not only ECRs and DCRs are participating in the AAERT Certification program, but stenograph reporters who transcribe both from stenographic notes and digital recordings are, as well. Just as first envisioned back in 1994, AAERT has become the authority in electronic and digital court reporting, both in establishing best practices and in certification.

While it is clear that NCRA is the association dedicated to best practices and certification of stenographic court reporting, it is also clear that NVRA is best suited to providing best practices and certification to voice writing, and AAERT is best suited to providing best practices and certification to electronic/digital court reporting. None of the three organizations is competent to dictate practices/procedures/certification for the others. Each organization is uniquely suited to represent its own court reporting methodology.

* * * * *
A special note of thanks is owed to Jim Bowen, the first AAERT Certification Chair, who provided much of the material used in the preparation of this overview. It should also be noted that without the special efforts of co-founders Connie Rill, Jan Harris, and Steve Townsend, as well as Bill Wagner and Mary Ann Lutz, the AAERT certification program would never have happened.

Steve Simon, CERT
Certification Committee Chair




AAERT's Advisory Board  —  member profiles

Steve Townsend

Steve Townsend is CEO of A/V Tronics, Inc. He has been an owner of the company since 1985 and managed the business from 1985 until 1995 when he joined FTR Limited. He left FTR in 2007 to return to A/V Tronics.

Mr. Townsend has extensive experience in the courtroom and hearing room reporting and transcription. Between 1985 and 1995, Townsend grew A/V Tronics from a small "secretarial service" to the largest court transcription company in the Southwest, with offices in Phoenix and Los Angeles. He was active in trade associations and legislative efforts to allow increased use of electronic recording methods in courts, hearing rooms and depositions.

In 1994, Townsend was a co-founder of the American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers (AAERT). The Association, now based in Wilmington, Delaware, remains very active in supporting the growing profession of audio and video recording and transcription in the court market. Townsend served as AAERT's vice-president during its first two years, and chaired the association's legislative committee.

In 1995, Mr. Townsend joined FTR Limited, and in 1997, was named its CEO. Between 1997 and 2007, FTR grew from a small software company based in Perth, Western Australia, to the world's leading provider of digital court recording solutions, with more than 16,000 systems installed in more than 40 countries around the world. He was the driving force behind the development of FTR's flagship product, FTR Gold, and FTR's video recording solutions, TheRecord Reporter and TheRecord Player.

Suzanne Stinson

Suzanne H. Stinson is Court Administrator for the 26th Judicial District Court of Bossier and Webster Parishes in Benton, Louisiana, where she has been employed since 1982. Suzanne graduated magna cum laude from Louisiana Tech University and has a Master of Business Administration degree and a Master of Arts degree in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Louisiana Tech University. She is a 2007 Graduate Fellow of the Institute for Court Management (ICM) of the National Center for State Courts. She served in the Louisiana Army National Guard from 1979 to 1982.

She serves as president-elect of the National Association for Court Management, serves on the Board of Directors for the National Center for State Courts (NCSC) and is past president of the Louisiana Court Administrators Association. She was appointed by Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal to serve on the Board of Examiners of Certified Shorthand Reporters. She is a member of the American Judicature Society, Forum for Advancement of Court Technology, NCSC Knowledge and Information Systems Advisory Committee and ICM Consortium Governing Committee.

Suzanne was appointed by the Louisiana Supreme Court to serve on the State Court Rules Committee, Advisory Committee to the Performance Audit on Jury Practices, Disaster Recovery Planning Committee and the Louisiana Integrated Juvenile Justice Information System Committee. She also currently serves on committees for the Bossier Parish Truancy Assessment Center and the Coalition for Juvenile Justice.

Paul Royer

Paul Royer has been involved in supply and deployment of digital recording and transcription systems for courts and hearing rooms over the last 14 years. Current position at FTR in the capacity of Regional Sales Manager involves working with courts and transcription organisations in Europe, The Middle East, African and Asia. Past experience includes working in the US for two years during the establishment of FTR in courts across the US.

Martin Gruen

Martin Gruen is the Deputy Director of CLCT and the Courtroom 21 Project. CLTC and Courtroom 21, housed in the McGlothlin Courtroom, the world's most technologically advanced courtroom, is a joint experimental project of the William and Mary School of Law and the National Center for State Courts. Since the Project's conception, Mr. Gruen has directed, installed and designed the technology systems within the courtroom.

He brings thirty years of experience providing court technology systems to the legal community. Initially concentrating in the areas of sound reinforcement and audio recording, Mr. Gruen has now emerged as a national expert in court related high technology legal uses. As founder and president of Applied Legal Technologies, Mr. Gruen designed many of the nation's state-of-the-art court technology installations and has served as a consultant to several major legal technology manufacturers.

Having helped give birth to CLCT and the Courtroom 21 Project, Mr. Gruen has been in charge of the courtroom's ongoing technological growth and development. According to Professor Fred Lederer, Chancellor Professor of Law and Director of CLCT, "Martin Gruen is a truly extraordinary courtroom designer and technologist. We would not have CLCT and the Courtroom 21 Project without him and his creative work.

Margaret Morgan

Margaret Morgan was elected President of AAERT in June 2008. She served on the AAERT Board of Directors since 2005. In 2005 Margaret received the AAERT Reporter of the Year award.

Margaret has worked in the legal field since 1982. In 1994 she was hired as an official electronic court reporter in the Third Judicial District, Rochester, Minnesota. She currently works for The Honorable Joseph F. Chase. Margaret represented electronic/digital court reporters in drafting and negotiating their employment contract with the State of Minnesota. In 1999 Margaret was involved in a group of Minnesota E-Reporters who successfully petitioned the State of Minnesota to equalize salary and benefits for all reporters, regardless of the reporting method.

Neil Griffin

Neil Griffin is the managing director of the Australian operation of Merrill Legal Solutions (MLS), a Merrill Corporation company. Neil has been in the court reporting industry for over 30 years and was the managing director of his own court reporting company Court Recording Services Pty Ltd (CRS). CRS was acquired by WordWave International in 2006, WordWave was then acquired by Merrill Corporation.

By way of background, Neil was involved in what we believe to be the world's first centralised digital recording and transcription facility which was installed into the Court of Final Appeal, Supreme Courts, District Courts and Magistrates Courts of Hong Kong in 1994/95. Subsequently, all courts covered in Australia by MLS — over 170 per day — are digitally recorded.

Neil is the founding and current President of the Australasian Court Reporting Industry Association (ACRIA) which represents the digital/analogue audio recording and transcription part of the Australian industry and Neil has been a member of AAERT for a number of years.




Great Lakes Regional Convention
        — "Making Connections"
Schaumburg, Illinois, the Hyatt Regency Woodfield, was the site for the Great Lakes Regional Convention held October 3 through 5, 2008 — "Making Connections"

This was the first joint convention ever held between the Illinois Court Reporters Association, the Indiana Court Reporters Association, the Michigan Association of Professional Court Reporters, and the Wisconsin Court Reporters Association.  Over 400 professionals attended the joint convention. This event was planned and designed to bring court reporters from four states together. As a professional association, AAERT, as well, is seriously concerned with making connections and interacting with other court reporting associations, whatever the method used. I attended as one of AAERT's Board members and as a member of the Indiana Shorthand Reporters Association.



All three days of the regional convention were packed with concurrent seminar sessions. The choice was difficult but decisions had to be made as to which sessions I would attend. Friday afternoon I walked into a large room where the famed Lillian Morson, author and teacher, presented her Punctuation Seminar. Ms. Morson used her "Morson's Punctuation Press" and other handouts to help us brainstorm punctuation and grammar rules. She provided worksheets with these amusing titles:

  • Is It Verbatim, Verbose, or Verboten?

  • Time Out for Nonwords

  • Midnight in the Garden of Hyphens and Evil

  • Unhappy in New York

  • Happy Trails to You

It was time for a break and then more deep thinking, debating, ruminating, and opinionating with Lillian about punctuation. I found her to be instructive but also tremendously funny and entertaining. Don't miss her yourself. She is on the program for AAERT's summer convention in Indianapolis this year. What a delight!


Saturday morning I chose to attend NCRA's marketing session presented by Past President Kathy DiLorenzo. For a long time I had been looking forward to attending NCRA's marketing seminar. Ms. DiLorenzo was an energetic speaker. Her session counseled students and veteran reporters alike on how to market their skills and manage their businesses including everything from advertising to reporting skills to appropriate dress. I found Ms. DiLorenzo to be very realistic as well in acknowledging the impact that digital reporting is making on the world in this century. The session was well worth attending.


This title caught my attention. It was a mouthful to pronounce but was probably the best session I attended from the whole conference. Heidi Thomas, who is a broadcast captioner among her other titles, calmly presented information on how to assess your level of self-care. Court reporters, transcribers, and captioners are constantly listening to disturbing information, accounts, and testimony. We bear witness to fellow humans' miseries, trauma, brutal experiences, accidents, and deaths.
As Court reporters, we often hear the testimony initially, then transcribe it, and then proofread the same information subjecting ourselves to disturbing information often three or more times just from one court case. How does one deal with that? Ms. Thomas described how to recognize the signs of vicarious traumatization — that is, daily listening to and watching people suffer, how it affects us, and what to do about it.

Subsequently, we were divided up into focus groups of about six. Some of us were reporters, transcribers, or captioners, consisting of stenos and digital reporters alike. We shared our most disturbing cases with each other. Some cried, some just listened, but all had ideas of how to cope with being constantly bombarded by accounts of traumatic events.

Melanie Sonntag, CSR, RDR, CRR, FAPR, was also in my focus group at this session, and I was honored to meet her. Ms. Sonntag is a NCRA speed contest medalist who I have read about for years. She received an award and medal at this very convention.


Lastly, Saturday I attended the NCRA Town Hall session, a question-and-answer meeting with NCRA representatives on hand. Issues discussed were gift giving by reporting firms to their clients, what is ethical and what is not. Other questions presented were:  What is the biggest challenge facing your state now? What is the trend nationally for membership? What is the practice for contracting in your state?

As one of the few digital reporters in attendance, I was happy to interact with stenos and voice writers alike. They were able to meet a real live digital reporter. Yet it was surprising to me to still hear such terms as "tape" and "tape recorder" used to describe how we make our record, since digital Court Reporters have been using digital audio recording since at least 1993. Those terms are basically sunset technology, just as analog television will soon be. One steno reporter even expressed the fact that digital reporters can record on separate channels and then listen to each voice on each channel and not miss a word, something we have been doing for some 40 years. Food for thought — as digital reporters, we still have a lot of educating to do and myths to dispel.


"Connection" means the act of bringing two things into contact. The Great Lakes Regional Convention brought me into contact with many steno reporters, captioners, NCRA officials and members. Whatever our method of reporting, our goal is to deliver an outstanding product, however we produce it. The better we understand each other, the easier it is to work together, falsehoods are corrected, and fears are laid to rest. We have the same goals: education, certification, excellence.

This summer AAERT will hold its summer convention in Indianapolis, Indiana, June 28 through 30, 2009. It is my genuine hope that our nationwide membership will make connections there as well with their colleagues and peers, and hopefully we will have some of Indiana's own digital and steno reporters attending on their hometown court. Remember — join, train, test, and excel. That's the key to your craft.

Gail Malm Armstrong,  CERT
(Logansport, Indiana)




National Center For State Courts:
E-Courts Conference, Las Vegas

Left, Margaret Morgan, right, Kim McCright
represented AAERT in Las Vegas.

In December 2008 Kim McCright and Margaret Morgan attended the National Center for State Courts E-Courts Conference in Las Vegas. If you ever have the opportunity to attend one of these conferences, we highly recommend it.

Many digital recording companies demonstrated their latest courtroom products. We were impressed with the enhancements made to already outstanding systems. They are very user friendly and, as E-Reporters and transcribers, we benefit from the improvements. Several of the vendors will exhibit at our conference in Indianapolis, so you will have the chance to see the latest products. Be sure to mark your calendars. We think you will be pleased.

A frequent question we received from court managers concerned what happens with the audio CDs when new software is implemented. Transcription software remains available on company websites to access the audio on "all of those CDs." Most often transcription software is available as a free download from the company websites. Furthermore, newer versions are often compatible with older versions. Much like the Sony BM-147 that sits idle next to my computer for the occasional analog recording, transcription software remains available.

The other frequent comment we received was "We have no money." Since Margaret lives and works in Minnesota, she is familiar with the budget issues facing Minnesota courts. While Margaret realizes that serious economic issues are widespread, she was surprised at the enormity of the situation.

As a result of budget issues, courts may install digital reporting systems to handle increasing demands. Central reporting will likely become more common. As E-Reporters, it is vital that we continue to increase our knowledge of the latest technology and remain proactive with our court managers and administrators to provide input when digital reporting systems are being considered. Who better than the court reporter, the guardian of the record, to contribute in areas concerning the record? By being proactive and working with court managers and administrators, the transition to digital reporting systems can be organized and trouble free.
While the best practice is a court reporter in every courtroom and hearing room, the reality is there are demands on the court system that may make that impossible. However, with appropriate staffing, training, and certification, there are other viable alternatives. It is our duty as E-Reporters and transcribers to be the experts in the operation of digital reporting systems. Kim and I took every opportunity to share AAERT's message and found our listeners to be very receptive.

This is a very important time for our industry and AAERT. As budget constraints continue to affect the courts, digital reporting systems will be looked to as a critical component for capturing and preserving an accurate and verifiable record. We are the perfect individuals to educate our courts on the benefits of digital reporting. If you have not made plans to attend AAERT 2009 in Indianapolis , please take a look at the agenda posted on the website and make your reservations.

Kim McCright, CET**D
Margaret Morgan, CERT




Florida Circuit Judges Conference


Patty Drummond, CERT, and Gillian Lawrence, CERT, represented AAERT at the Florida Circuit Judges Conference in December 2008 in Jacksonville. There were 450 circuit judges in attendance from across the state.

Discussions at our booth focused on educating judges and court staff on the importance of AAERT certification for all of Florida's digital court reporters.




President's Message
The AAERT Board of Directors held its January 2009 meeting in Indianapolis at the location of its annual conference. After reading Conference Chair Gail Armstrong's article about our 2009 Conference, I am very excited to visit her home State of Indiana this June. And I'm sure you will be as equally pleased to attend our Conference in the heart of this bustling metropolitan area.

Our membership continues to rise. More electronic/digital reporters and transcribers achieve AAERT certification every year. The use of digital reporting is increasing dramatically. AAERT is the only association with the knowledge and expertise to properly certify electronic/digital reporters and transcribers. NVRA is the only association with the knowledge and expertise to properly certify voice writers. NCRA is the only association with the knowledge and expertise to properly certify stenographic reporters. Our associations are comprised of members who are committed to the same goal — accurately capturing the spoken word and producing an accurate verbatim transcript. The method by which this is accomplished is different, but that's the only difference.

Board members in Indianapolis, left to right:  Karen Bergstrom, Gail Malm Armstrong, Sherry Simmons, Margaret Morgan.

Our January meeting was a productive one, and we covered a number of topics:

Advisory Board. The Advisory Board is established, and held its first meeting. It is an impressive group of industry professionals who have agreed to explore topics related to electronic/digital court reporting and provide information to AAERT. Some areas being considered include: strategic planning, work force development, and technology. We are extremely fortunate these knowledgeable professionals are willing to provide suggestions to AAERT. For more about the Advisory Board committee members, see the biographical information in this issue.

Committees. The Board formed new committees to review membership growth, marketing, awards, and board member nominations.

As you know, AAERT functions predominantly by volunteers. We have the good fortune of bright and innovative individuals committed to AAERT and electronic reporting and transcribing. We would not be here without them. If you wish to participate in committee work and have input in your Association, contact Executive Director Sherry Simmons at The majority of the committee work is conducted by email, conference calls, or a meeting scheduled around the annual conference.
Annual Conference. Gail Armstrong is busy planning our June convention. It is going to be another exciting meeting this year. Watch the website for further details.

After the Board meeting I returned to my room and reflected on our discussions of the day. At times I forget how E-Reporting has changed in the 15 years I have worked as a court reporter in the Minnesota court system.

After attending these meetings, AAERT conferences, or industry trade shows, I am reminded that E-Reporting is always changing. Technology advancements occur every day. Digital reporting systems improve every day. While it is easy to get comfortable with one program, it is our job as E-Reporters to be diligent in educating ourselves so that we continue to move forward with technology advancements and not get stuck in one system, one program, or one method. If I do nothing else during my term as president of AAERT, it is to express the importance of staying current on technology changes, move forward with those changes, explore alternatives, and remain open minded. Instead of fighting change, devote time and energy on preserving the court reporting profession, and capturing and preserving an accurate and verifiable record using the best means available be it on paper, on disk, on CD, or what is yet to come.

There are many ways to stay informed of developments:— participate in webinars offered by digital reporting companies; attend conferences and trade shows; visit industry related websites such as the National Center for State Courts; read industry publications like Courts Today; become more involved locally and through AAERT. In addition to the educational seminars, AAERT conferences connect reporters and transcribers from around the country and members get the chance to see the latest products firsthand from vendors. If you are not already certified, become AAERT certified.

When thinking of technology changes, I think about that new TV in my family room at home. The old TV is still good. It works great. However, it is now in the guest bedroom. The wide-screen, high-definition TV with all of the latest technology that makes watching TV so much more exciting is in the family room for us to enjoy the benefits of it every day.

Given the poor economic issues facing the courts (and our country), there will be increasing demands on digital reporters and transcribers. It is essential that we educate ourselves and be proactive with our employers and the legislature. When individuals who do not rely on the record are making decisions about the record, it can mean trouble. Be proactive when issues regarding the record are being discussed, offer your valuable input, and eliminate potential difficulties.

Attend the AAERT 2009 Conference in Indianapolis to start up your engines or "rev up" your education. I hope to see you there.

Margaret Ann Morgan, CERT
        AAERT President





  Certified Electronic Court Reporter

Certified Electronic Court Transcriber

Nomination period concludes March 6, 2009.
Award recipients will be notified prior to April 1, 2009, and each will receive:

•  A one-year general AAERT membership;

•  Hotel accommodation and registration during our 16th Annual Conference;

•  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 officer or member of AAERT's Board of Directors.

How to nominate:  Write or e-mail, 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;

•  A statement why you believe the nominee deserves the award, highlighting experience and professional achievements.

Send nomination to:

Gail Armstrong, Vice-President
AAERT Awards Committee Chair
2900 Fairhope Road
Wilmington, Delaware 19810-1624

If e-mailing:

Bill Wagner concludes final term as AAERT's Treasurer

William E. Wagner (just "Bill" to most of us) officially retired from AAERT as Executive Director in June of 2008.  He continued as Treasurer through December in order to make the transition of duties as seamless as possible.

Bill has truly been a stabilizing element in our leadership since the Association's inception.  His attention to detail and vast knowledge of everything important has kept AAERT on track for many years.  He is a true gentleman, and his input and hard work in every corner of this Association will produce fruit for many years.  Bill's words of wisdom will always benefit AAERT because, through quiet and consistent mentoring of today's leadership, he will affect generations of leadership yet to come.

On behalf of the Association, the Board of Directors would like to thank him for his immense contribution to our membership and our profession.

A prior article in The Court Reporter recapped Bill's long career, which you can review here.




Submit questions
/ problems to
Randel Raison, CET**D

ask the pros . . .

• Dear Pros,

In a murder case I'm reporting, after all the preliminary motions, in trial when the defendant takes the stand he says his name is Randy Lee Royal Swaney.  Everything in the file has his middle name as Leeroyal.  When his attorney specifically asked if the middle name was two words, he said, "Yes." So far, I've typed it as two words in the transcript because he said so.

Do you think that will become an issue with anyone, or would you type it as it appears in the file documents?  I just noticed that the court administrator didn't change it on MNCIS, our state reporting software, which is why I'm wondering.

The Pros reply,

We would type it in testimony / text as two words, for the same reason you have done so — he surely knows his own name.  However, on the title page, in the style of the case only, we would leave it the way MNCIS shows it, until it is changed in your system.  The title page is critical in filing and archiving, so it should conform to the court's documents.

• Dear Pros,

A witness says her baby daughter's name is Anika, which could also be Aneka.  She left before I could ask about that. Should I use (phonetic)?  I really hate to try getting in touch with her, and nobody else would know.

The Pros reply,

You're right to be leery about contacting a witness, and we would never recommend that — the party's attorney, perhaps. But in this simple case, we suggest Googling both Anika and Aneka to see if one form is vastly more common than the other.  Having done so, we found 2.3 million "hits" for Anika, but a whopping 8.5 million for Aneka.  So if you choose to use Aneka, at least you'll be on the majority side.  If adding (phonetic) increases your comfort level, do so.

— Randel Raison, CET**D
— Mary D. Henry, CET**D
— Laurel H. Stoddard, CET

NOTE:  This column is general and informational in nature,
and answers are not intended to constitute legal advice.
Always follow the rules of your own jurisdiction.




The Nature of Words
W hile proofreading a transcript in which one witness enjoyed using the word auspice repeatedly, I began to ponder the word's antecedents.

Although the primary definition of auspice is patronage, support, or sponsorship, its origins are the Latin auspicium, divination from a flight of birds.  I guess we could say, then, that an auspicious occasion is one in which we have our ducks all in a row.

Another bird-y word is canard, a false, fabricated, or absurd report, a story that is deliberately misleading.  The American Heritage Dictionary suggests that the usage comes from the French phrase vendre un canard moitié, to sell half a duck, or to swindle.

In the world of aircraft, a canard wing is a fixed-wing configuration in which the horizontal components of the tail precede the main wing on the fuselage rather than the typical tail assembly or empennage, from the French, literally feathering, from empenn(er), to feather an arrow, by way of the Latin penna, feather.

A columbarium, a vault with niches for urns which hold the ashes of the dead, is directly from the Latin columbarium, a sepulchre for urns, or a dovecote, from columba, dove.

Maybe I should have warned you that this column was for the birds!

Laurel H. Stoddard,  CET
On The Record Reporting & Transcription, Inc.  (Austin, Texas)







  16th Annual E-Reporting
and Transcribing Conference

  28 - 30 June 2009

Hyatt Regency Indianapolis
One South Capitol Avenue
Indianapolis, Indiana  46204

AAERT, as an association and by its Board of Directors, is elated to announce our 16th Annual Conference will be held June 28 through 30, 2009.
(See our Conference webpages.)

Overlooking the grand Indiana Statehouse, the Hyatt Regency Indianapolis on South Capitol Avenue will be the location of the conference. A beautiful structure to behold in its own right especially on a Hoosier summer evening, the Indiana Statehouse was completed in 1878 and built in Italian Renaissance style using Indiana oak and limestone throughout the building. The Statehouse is open during business hours on weekdays. Go to the tour desk for a guided tour. You may view the manuscript original of the State Constitution in the impressive rotunda.

Your AAERT Board of Directors met on a bitterly cold January weekend at the Hyatt Regency to make further arrangements for the annual conference and to inspect the hotel facilities. We cruised the halls and meeting rooms, slept in the beds, ate in the restaurants, and walked about the city. We believe the setting is most appropriate for a learning conference designed specifically for digital reporters and transcribers, a field that is exploding worldwide.



Certification exams for reporters and transcribers will be held on Sunday, June 28, at the conference site. If you have not done so yet, order your Study Guide from the Association's website, study rigorously, register for the examinations, and come prepared to pass the them!  Combining the test with the conference is prudent in these harsh economic times. It can mean one trip, one stay, and one incredible conference. Sunday night will feature our welcoming reception, a chance to mingle, meet your fellow members, and laugh.


Monday morning will include an introduction to the city of Indianapolis, what to see, how to get there. Opening as a class act, Senior Judge Bruce E. Embrey will serve as our keynote speaker. Judge Embrey will travel from Miami County, Indiana once known as the "Circus Capital of America." Judge Embrey still serves as a Ringmaster for the Peru, Indiana circus. Judge Embrey has been an innovator of courtroom reform throughout Indiana.

Exhibiters will be introduced during the morning session which will give attendees familiarity with who they are and what they bring to the industry. As a first this year, extra time will be allotted so that attendees can unhurriedly visit all our exhibiters both on Monday and Tuesday of the conference.

The show must go on, though. Two of Indiana's finest law enforcement officers will team up to guide us through the dangers and security risks we may or may not realize we face in our neighborhoods and on the job. Indiana State Police Detective Robert Burgess, who I consider "the meth man," will give a skillful presentation. So you thought you knew everything there was to know about illegal drugs? Maybe not. Following, veteran Detective Catherine L. Collins, Logansport Police Department's first female officer, will give insight as to how to protect your children and yourself from predators. You will not want to miss her session.

Monday afternoon it is with great anticipation that we have assigned author and teacher Lillian I. Morson a solid block of time. Come with rapt attention and your brain fully fueled to ponder complex issues of grammar and punctuation. Ms. Morson will entertain questions as well.

AAERT will then hold its business meeting for members only, along with receiving reports from the States and fielding questions. You do not want to miss this session as our newly formed Advisory Board will be introduced. This is the start of something big — no, not just big, but grand in scope and direction for AAERT in the future.


Due to the fact they were so popular and participants asked for more, Tuesday morning we have planned breakout sessions for Word and WordPerfect users. Bring your laptops please. Karon Etienne and our own Randel Raison will present these sessions respectively.

Please submit questions ahead of time — relating to Microsoft Word to Margaret Morgan, or relating to WordPerfect to Randel Raison.

David B. Tetrick, NICS Liaison Specialist intends to speak about "Firearms and Court Transcripts:  The Vital Link to Public Safety." His presentation will demonstrate how vital transcripts are to ensuring public safety at the local, state, and national levels. Come and see how critical all those pages you labor over day and night really are to public safety. Mr. Tetrick has been employed with the FBI since 1997 and worked with the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Section since 1998.

Recharge your mind with a short break and then be prepared to hear Santo J. Aurelio, Ed.D. Doctor Aurelio teaches medicolegal terminology and English grammar. He has authored Say it and Write It Correctly and will provide guidance for improving our language skills.

Finally, to our great delight, Petti Redding, OTR, will give us pain — that is, what could be causing your pain. Is it your office equipment or you? Now don't leave early before this afternoon session is finished or you will miss one of the liveliest presenters of the conference. Ms. Redding is energetic, humorous, and practical in her advice as to how to prevent repetitive stress and work-related injuries. Our session will end early enough in the afternoon to give you sufficient time to rest, shop, or do some touring of the city. You will earn CEUs for all these sessions.


Tuesday evening will bring our social hour and then the AAERT annual banquet. As a first, this year we will have live music before and during the dinner hour. Peter and Sara Walthery will perform a repertoire of traditional Gaelic and British-American folk music on the Celtic harp and dulcimer. I must admit, their music is heavenly and soothing, exactly what frazzled reporters and transcribers who experience a daily dose of stress need. Presentations will be made to the Reporter and Transcriber of the Year. We will enjoy a gourmet meal together as well as interact with our colleagues.


Indianapolis in the summer is balmy, beautiful, and blooming. The Hyatt is a few blocks from Monument Circle, the heart of downtown. During the summer the fountains at the neoclassical limestone and bronze Soliders' and Sailors' Monument will be flowing. You must walk there and see the spitting bison, the carved reliefs, and the aqua pools of water. Gaze up into the faces preserved in limestone for eternity, Hoosier men and women who struggled, lived, and died on this soil. The observation level is 330 steps up or take the elevator to step number 290. The monument is a significant landmark, meeting place, and lunch site for downtown workers especially when the weather is excellent.
The Indianapolis Zoo is located a few blocks away from the Hyatt Regency. Look to Indianapolis Zoo for more information.  If you would like to take a slow and novel tour of Indianapolis day or night, contact Yellow Rose Carriage Tours. Their devoted horses have been clip-clopping the streets of Indianapolis for many years, and their website will give you the details. Now what could be more unique than that?

There are a multitude of restaurants in the downtown area including Harry and Izzy's, St. Elmo's, Alcatraz Brewing Company, and if you really want an interesting experience, go to the top of the Hyatt Regency and have dinner at night in the Eagle's Nest. Take a relaxing glide in this revolving restaurant which has been voted "The Most Romantic Restaurant in Indianapolis." You will enjoy a spectacular view of the Statehouse as well as all the glittering panorama Indianapolis offers at night.

Circle Centre Mall is attached to the Hyatt by an indoor skywalk. If you get tired of shopping, stroll through the glass-enclosed Artsgarden over Washington and Illinois streets, where it is common to observe free musical performances. Walk around the outside of the mall and notice the historic facades that enclose so many downtown buildings of yesteryear.


With the economic environment we live in at the present, does it make sense to spend your hard-earned money to attend this year's AAERT conference? I say yes, for these reasons:  Indianapolis is a family-friendly city that is easy to access and navigate. Oh, and you must see the new airport! The new Indianapolis Airport features a variety of stunning artwork, ranging from shimmering glass walls, murals in glass and mosaic, to colorful designs created in terrazzo flooring. Artists selected to produce the artwork bring a wide variety of cultural backgrounds, artistic media, and international experience with public art to the project. On a pragmatic level though, Indianapolis is an international airport with flights available from many cities.

If you are looking to combine a family vacation with earning your CEUs, learning something new, sharpening your skills, and networking with other professionals, this conference as well as its location makes prudent economic sense. There are a multitude of delightfully unique attractions close at hand your family would enjoy that are free or available for a reasonable cost. Admission to the Indianapolis Museum of Art is without charge.


There is undeniable and palpable excitement as digital recording installations and applications expand on a global scale. The need for certified digital reporters and transcribers is phenomenal and increasing daily. In order to meet the challenge of the rapidly growing field of digital reporting and transcribing, you must take the initiative to educate, train, and certify yourself as well as recruit future reporters and transcribers to join us. AAERT alone offers the only nationally-recognized certification program and testing for digital reporters and transcribers and has done so since 1996.

Let me close with an appropriate Hoosier analogy. Indianapolis is also the location of the famed Indianapolis 500 often called "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing." The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was built in 1909 as a gravel and tar track much as AAERT began as a kitchen table concept. Race terminology reminds me of AAERT, our journey thus far, and where our course will take us in the future.

Pit crews are a critical part of the race. They service, make adjustments, and even effect major repairs to the cars in seconds. The routine stop for an IndyCar team lasts between ten and fourteen seconds. Crews must have a pit strategy including a crack team that anticipates and addresses any challenge that arises as the car races.

"Drafting" is when two or more cars run close behind each other, nearly touching. A car will use drafting to gain speed and then use the momentum to pass the car ahead of it. This is a major strategy in all races.

Steep banking of the track allows the cars to maintain speed throughout the turns, another challenge to the drivers. AAERT utilizes all these concepts. Remember who we are, what we do, and how we do it. I would ardently add this thought. Call us ER, electronic reporters, courtroom monitors, DR or digital reporters but with our technology and skills we offer our courts and clients no speed limit, no speech limit, and whatever speed they need.

Henry Ford, who was an early sponsor of the Indianapolis 500, once said, "Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success."

AAERT has come together. AAERT has envisioned the goals. AAERT has made unmistakable progress. AAERT will continue to accelerate in our advancement. All of you can share in our success. Come to Indy this summer. Meet me in victory lane!

Gail Malm Armstrong, CERT
Conference Chair

  Web Links

Register to Attend with us!

Indianapolis Hyatt Regency, AAERT page

Indianapolis Zoo

Yellow Rose Carriage Tours

White River Park

Indianapolis Artsgarden

Indianapolis Museum of Art

IMAX Theaters

Downtown Information

Dining Guides

Eiteljorg Museum

Indiana Statehouse

Monument Circle

Circle Centre Mall

Indianapolis Childrens Museum

Basey's Downtown, near the hotel





The current economic situation is disconcerting at best and frightening at worst. I'm sure many of you have been affected one way or another in your personal life and in your business or work life. In recent years many courts have looked to E-Reporting as a way to shave the cost of court reporting services. In your state maybe the current economic climate has accelerated a switch to providing court reporting coverage using digital court recording technology? Or perhaps there have been negative impacts on E-Reporting in your area because of budget cuts. I have had an opportunity to speak with a few of you regarding the courts you work with and your various states' policies and procedures as they relate to our systems. The AAERT Board has tasked the Government Relations Committee with providing a state-by-state report on the status of E-Reporting across the nation. Besides our dialogues with the Court Administration offices across the country, we want to be sure to take into account the opinions and experiences of those working in and for various courts across this country.

Please take a few moments to support this important research endeavor. Email me and let us know what your state is doing with E-Reporting. This is one way you can volunteer time to support your Association.

  • If you know there is a variety of court reporting and/or digital court recording services across your State, please be sure to let us know that. Please give us contact information for areas of your state where different solutions are provided than within your own jurisdiction.

  • Is E-Reporting operating solely in digital or has there been a slower transition?

  • Have any task forces been created in your district related to E-Reporting versus the stenographic means of capturing the record?

Please email me at with your state or jurisdiction's story. Your opinions and observations are integral to the success of this important research survey.

Wishing you all a prosperous 2009,

Kim McCright, CET**D
Government Relations Chair
(Tucson, Arizona)




  Volunteers Welcome / Open Board Positions

AAERT is a volunteer association with a volunteer Board. We need you! Please contact Executive Director Sherry Simmons to let us know how you would like to be involved. She will point you in the right direction. A couple of "man hours" a month from every member could be the greatest single asset the Association has!

  Three Board positions to be filled in June

At June's Annual Meeting of Members in Indianapolis three Board positions will be filled by election. If you are interested in submitting a nomination for a Board position, please send a letter of recommendation for your nominee to our Executive Director Sherry Simmons,

Please note, a nominee must be a member in good standing and be AAERT-certified.

Board members in Indianapolis, left to right:
Margaret Morgan, Gail Malm Armstrong, Gillian Lawrence,
Sherry Simmons, Karen Bergstrom, Randel Raison.

These Board positions will become open in June:

  • Sherry Simmons will have completed two years of her second three-year term. She will resign as a Board member, but will continue to serve AAERT in the capacity of Executive Director.

  • Gillian Lawrence will complete her second three-year term and will not be running for re-election.

  • Margaret Morgan was appointed to serve the third year of an open Board position and then was re-elected to serve a three-year term. That term concludes in June, and Margaret will run for re-election.




A warm welcome to our new members
since the last issue of The Court Reporter

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

Corporate Members

      Mary C. Zajaczkowski
Antonio's Word Processing  Services, Inc.
New Castle, Delaware
      Cynthia Ann Papia
Office To-Go
Auburn, Massachusetts
      Elizabeth Stillman
N-FT Scoping & Transcription, LLC
Phoenix, Arizona
      Karen Schmieder
Schmieder & Meister, Inc.
Poughkeepsie, New York
Members who do not wish to appear in on-line listings are shown with initials only:
C.B., Massachusetts

Paula M. Brokaw, Pennsylvania

L.C., Georgia

R.D., New York

Lucila Davis, Colorado

Carrie Sue Dunn, Michigan

Michelle M. Durity, Connecticut

John W. Frail, Pennsylvania

Stephen L. Grant, Delaware

K.H., Massachusetts

Peter Higgins, Massachusetts

Teri Hills, Tennessee

Sherri L. Jolley, Ohio

Esther Krutzel, New Jersey

L.L., Massachusetts

Linda Sue Lane, Michigan

Barbara A. LeCaptain, Wisconsin

Michele Lilley, Arizona

C.L.M., New Jersey

Kelly Ann Moore, Iowa

Cori M. Monson, Iowa

Sandra K. Murphy, Montana

Margaret P. Nelson, Maryland

Irene Powers, Pennsylvania

S.S., Massachusetts

Sharolyn Stark-Bornholdt, Kansas

C.W.T., Texas

Suzanne Williams, Utah

Kerry A. Xhaferi, Arizona


Contact the Editor

The Court Reporter is published by
The American Association of Electronic Reporters and Transcribers, Inc.
All rights are reserved, whether in electronic or print modalities.   © 2009.

Margaret Ann Morgan, CERT, President

AAERT   /   2900 Fairhope Road   /   Wilmington, Delaware  19810-1624.





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