Do you still have that pride? Or do you walk into the courtroom without knowing what cases will be heard that day? Do you give your judge realtime without the slightest bit of preparation such as entering speakers' and witnesses' names? Do you say to yourself, "Oh, they'll be able to read through the untranslates?" Do you edit transcripts but not proofread them? Do you refuse to invest in yourself and your career by not updating your writer, computer and software? Do you refuse to learn technology? Worst of all, do you refuse to provide the services that are absolutely essential in today's electronic communications environment? If you answered yes to any of these questions, now is the time to ask if you are still worthy of being a Federal Official Court Reporter.
We are in a dire battle to maintain our professional careers. Gone are the days when you could tell the administration how you were going to do your job. Gone are the days when you could look to your judge to protect you. Gone are the days when you could rely on the federal courts to guarantee you a position for as long as you wanted to work. To say things have changed is the epitome of an understatement.
The legal system itself has changed drastically. Court proceedings are no longer being heard on a daily basis. Instead arbitrations, mediations, and master-led mini trials have diverted cases away from the courts. Written motions practice has increased while oral argument has steadily diminished. While the number of Article III judges, senior judges, and magistrates has grown, the writing we do for any one individual has generally decreased. And what has happened to court reporting while this has occurred? It has moved right into the computer age and kept pace with technology bringing along with it the demands of education, expense, and skill building that have been placed upon us to ensure unparalleled service to the Bench, the Bar, and the general public.
Those who use our services and realize the value of a verbatim transcript and/or immediate translation of the spoken word are grateful and we, in turn, feel a deep sense of accomplishment and satisfaction in contributing to the fair and unbiased administration of justice. But there are many more people who never come into contact with the third branch of government and who have no appreciation of the role we play. Consequently, we become a target when there is a downturn in the economy and when the government's purse strings draw tighter.
Today we have survived the first round of budget cuts due to sequestration, but not wholly intact. Vacant positions are not being filled, our funding has been moved from a designation of essential to non-essential, and in some districts reporters are being directed to perform duties in the Clerk's Office as a cost-cutting measure. The AO's Policy and Strategic Initiatives Office has been charged with presenting to the Judicial Conference by the end of this year a formula to reduce the current one-to-one reporter-to-judge allocation to as low a figure as they believe is viable. And do you know the basis for this formula? Our AO forms, the forms that do not include the actual responsibilities we carry, the work we perform, and the hours we commit to fulfill our obligations.
USCRA is conducting a survey in order to obtain a true and honest picture of our contributions to the court. Please click on the link and participate. Your future depends on your participation. It is time for all of us to work together. If we do not, we will all fail in the end.
I urge you once more to recall why you became a Federal Official Court Reporter, to feel the pride, to support your organization, and to rekindle your desire to make this, our job, once more the pinnacle of court reporting success.
Shirley Hall, USCRA President