President’s Message


January 2022 –

Mark Twain said, “Find a job you enjoy doing, and you will never have to work a
day in your life.” That has been my attitude since my high school civics class went
on a field trip to the state courthouse downtown to see our judicial system in
action. We witnessed the sentencing of a man convicted of rape. In federal court,
when we have students come visit our courtrooms, they all file into the gallery and
sit in the back. Back in the good old days, our class got to sit in the jury box, and
some of us sat on the floor next to the jury box, close to the bench. I got to sit on
the floor right behind this lady tap-tap-tapping on this little machine with no letters
on the keys. I was fascinated. I researched what she did and how to become a court
reporter because right then and there I thought, “That’s what I want to do!”

I am so grateful that I haven’t had to work a day in my life when I am actually
doing the job of court reporter. Whether I was freelancing, running an agency, or
getting my dream job in federal court, I’ve loved every minute of it and still do.
When I must fill in reports, attend clerk’s office meetings, file notes and
transcripts, and all the ancillary chores that go along with court reporting in federal
court, that is work, but not terribly taxing work.

Let’s look at some of the things about our job that we have to be grateful for. We
get to work closely with, and even become friendly with, district court judges,
magistrate judges, even court of appeals judges. Where I work, we have 20 district
court judges, 11 senior judges, and 13 magistrate judges and not a clinker among
them. I have been blessed by working for 25 years with my first judge, who I
greatly admire, until his retirement and then with my second judge, who is the
sweetest, kindest person you’d ever want to meet. I am also blessed to work with
great reporter colleagues who just make work fun.

The pandemic has been hard on all of us, but there are blessings there, too. We
have truly shown how valuable we are to the judiciary when we’ve geared up and
started reporting hearings, motions, and some bench trials remotely. I used to hate
telephone conferences pre-pandemic. Now I’m so used to them, they don’t bother
me at all. Do I miss in-person hearings? Sure, but those will be coming back.
Even so, I truly believe remote hearings and/or testimony are not going away.
We’ve learned how to report remotely while the litigants and judges have had to
learn how important it is to talk one at a time, loudly and clearly.

How much fun do we have when we have a really great case and come up with
fabulous brief forms on our own, not from our Brief It pane, and share them with
our fellow reporters? I know I’m not the only one who gets a kick out of that part
of our job.

We are the only employees who have a two-tier pay schedule. We are paid a salary
plus benefits for being in court or available to be in court every day. Then if
someone wants a transcript of what went on in court, we get to charge for those
transcripts. How great is that!

Please don’t forget about the responsibilities that we have for the great jobs we
hold. One thing we all need to strive to do is to read and become very familiar with
the Guide to Judiciary Policy, Volume 6: Court Reporting. Download it from the
J-Net and put it on your desktop. Print it out if you need to. Look there first to see
if you can find answers to your questions.

We have choices to make every day on how we approach our profession, and if we
do our jobs with a positive attitude, looking for the good in our everyday situations
and not giving voice to negativity, we can have that positivity radiate like waves to
everyone around us. We truly can experience not working a day in our lives.

A little humor helps, too. When we’re in Denver, perhaps over cocktails, ask me
to finish the story of my high school civics class in the courtroom and how you
don’t really want to whisper funny things to your classmate in court. It’s like
whispering in church.

Kathy Fennell, RMR, FCRR
USCRA President