April 2017 –
A quote from Henry Ford reminded me of the work of USCRA. “Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress, and working together is success.” Success is what USCRA is working toward this year, particularly regarding the Work Measurement Study.
While visiting with some reporters recently, as well as reading emails and Facebook posts from others, it is apparent that some reporters believed once the year ended, the Administrative Office’s WMS would be over. It is important that all federal officials realize that while the study itself has been completed and we have completed a year of the more detailed tracking of our time as requested by the AO, that tracking method is to continue until further notice.
Many reporters view the additional logging as a tedious, unnecessary chore. I would suggest that it is an opportunity to verify and call attention to the many duties reporters are tasked with that frequently go unnoticed by our coworkers and administration.
In April 1944, the Judicial Conference of the United States Courts gathered to work out the details of the official court reporters’ jobs that had been established earlier that year by the Court Reporter Act. At that time, the number of reporters for each district court was determined, along with an annual salary of $3,000 to $5,000, depending on locale. The number of reporters was to be based upon the number of sessions the district court held, the number of days spent in trial during the year, the population of the district, thecost of living in the locality, the amount of time the reporter would be required to be in attendance, and other circumstances such as the cost of similar services in the locality. Despite the fact these discussions took place more than 70 years ago, it is easy to recognize the categories that today correlate to the AO 40A report.
The Judicial Resources Committee of the Judicial Conference in 2001 endorsed a work measurement update schedule to revise staffing formulas of all court employees. In 2011 the committee worked on a plan to keep staffing formulas current with studies to be completed in intervals no greater than five years. A decision will be made during the reporters’ WMS whether we will be added to that five-year plan.
I agree that reporters are being asked to track a multitude of duties and the time spent on each. I’m sure many of you would agree that very few court employees have any idea what is involved for a reporter to prep for a technical trial, such as a patent case. No other employee is preparing invoices, billing attorneys, or making deposits other than their paycheck. We need to make clear how different our work is from the other employees of the court. That is why it is imperative that we all are as accurate as possible in our time tracking, even now. We must educate the AO and the Judicial Conference members about our jobs so they can make the appropriate decisions in their work.
It is true that no other employee group had to track their hours for a full year. However, USCRA specifically asked for the longer study period, being fully cognizant of the erroneous conclusions that could be drawn from the data if a reporter were scheduled to be in a trial the whole week of a time study and then the trial settled. There possibly would be very little to track during such a week, and it would not truly reflect the work of that reporter throughout the year. A longer study was necessary to provide a true reflection of an official’s job, and continued reporting of specific times for what we do as FOCRs will make quite clear the diverse nature of our job.
A federal official court reporter position is one that many court reporters strive to attain. It is considered the apex of officialships. Defining the work we do, striving to be the best reporters we can and working together within this association will ensure that we successfully continue to be seen as the professionals we are.
USCRA President 2016-2017