December 2020 –
When I look back at what has transpired since the last issue of the TCR, it’s hard to
know where to begin. For those of you who have been personally touched by the
coronavirus through your own illness or the illness or death of a loved one, my
heart goes out to you. After months of hearing the cold statistics, we can’t forget
the real personal consequences to the numbers that have become too large to track.
While every court has been dealing with the pandemic, some of our courthouses
have also been dealing with new security issues caused by protests calling for
social justice. Since we work in the judicial system, we can all acknowledge the
need for change. At the same time, it is heartbreaking to see the buildings and
communities we care about torn apart.
Every U.S. District Court, while part of the same federal judiciary, operates
differently. We have known for years the practices vary by district, but the
pandemic has made those differences even more obvious. Some of our members
are still waiting for their courthouses to reopen while others work in courthouses
that never closed. We have forwarded relevant guidance from the AO to our
members so you are aware of those recommendations, understanding that each
district interprets that guidance in their own way. Hopefully having the information
has been helpful as you adjust to changes in your own court.
One thing that is consistent across the federal judiciary is that court reporters have
been stepping up and doing what is necessary to ensure the record is protected. The
USCRA Facebook page has been flooded with members sharing their tips on how
to make a better record in remote hearings. Thanks to everyone who has taken time
to share your experiences so others can benefit from them.
Earlier in the year we sent a survey to our federal official members about their
thoughts on recruitment and retention of reporters. A majority of the respondents
suggested an increase in salary and/or transcript rates. In the face of the many
challenges presented this year, most of us have had to take on extra duties in order
to allow the courts to function. One of USCRA’s long-term projects is gathering
information to support a request for a salary increase in the future. Together with a
review of historical documents, the response of federal reporters during COVID-19
will bolster our request for an increase in compensation when the time comes to
make that argument.
Obviously, USCRA has had to adapt to ensure our members get the benefits that
come with belonging to our association. Due to the work of the Reporter Testing
Committee, we are able to offer on-site testing for the FCRR Examination. The
Convention Committee has made it possible to offer online seminars at a
reasonable price. Thanks to our member volunteers for making this possible. I
hope many of you take advantage of these benefits.
As the USCRA year comes to a close, we will have changes to the 2020-2021
Board. Cheryl Dahlstrom retired in June and stepped down as First Circuit
Representative. Also stepping down from their Circuit Representative positions
will be Shirley Hall from the Third Circuit and Kim Greiner from the Tenth
Circuit. All three have served their constituents and all USCRA members well in
what was a very challenging year for the association. I thank each of them for their
contributions and look forward to working with the new Circuit Representatives.
One of the casualties of the pandemic was our chance to gather to celebrate
USCRA’s 75th anniversary. As we begin a new year for our association, we can all
be proud of the work federal official court reporters are doing and the fact that we
have a strong association ready to keep advocating for us. My hope is that we can
gather together in person, rather than via Zoom, in 2021 to celebrate how we
survived this most unusual year.