President’s Message


March 2018 –

I can’t believe I’m a quarter of the way through my term as USCRA President.
Where does the time go? Among the many benefits of being a part of the
Executive Committee is the advice and knowledge that each ExCom member
shares. Their willingness to work together on a moment’s notice is unbelievable,
and as president, I appreciate all of their support. I’m looking forward to our
midyear convention in Chicago, as our convention chairs are busy planning a great
weekend filled with excitng seminars.

Some of you may not know this, but just days before Christmas the Administrative
Office sent out proposed changes to The Guide to Judiciary Policy, Volume 6:
Court Reporting. The AO requested comments on the proposed changes by
January 22, 2018. The AO also said not to spend a great deal of time on our
review because, in their opinion, there were only corrections to grammar and
citations. However, the members of the AO Committee spent a good part of
January reviewing the manual. After our review, we believed there were
substantive changes in the manual far beyond correcting grammar and citations.
USCRA submitted a detailed memo to the Administrative Office of the Courts
reviewing every proposed change along with our recommendations regarding
those changes. I want to thank everyone who contributed to this detailed and
time-consuming project.

In the previous issue of The Circuit Rider, I suggested many ways people could
volunteer to support USCRA. I urge you again to consider volunteering to promote
our profession. I recently ran across a quote from Elizabeth Andrews, the first
woman organizer of the Labour Party in Wales who said, “Volunteers do not
necessarily have the time; they just have the heart.”

I recently had an opportunity to volunteer in a new way. I was contacted by a
freelance reporter in Salt Lake City and asked if I would mentor Angela Viray, who is finishing her court reporting studies at The College of Court Reporting. Angela
needed 43 hours of supervised in-court writing to complete her graduation
requirements. State and local courts in Utah do not employ court reporters, so
U.S. District court is the only gig in town.

All of the Utah officials jumped on board to work with Angela. She sat in with
every federal reporter in various hearings, ranging from a pro se criminal trial to
changes of pleas, sentencings, and lengthy (aka boring) motion hearings. We let
her experience the real world of reporting and had her running from one judge to
another so she could get as much time writing as possible. She asked if that
happens often, and we told her more often than people realize. Angela's
enthusiasm was energizing. She was so excited to see things that we see every
day. She picked up on the terminology quickly and asked many questions about
new words she heard and what they meant.

As I answered her questions, I realized that when I first started my career as a
reporter, it was my typist who taught me how to prepare my first transcript. And,
yes, I said typist. When I first started, I dictated my notes and had them typed.
When I finished school, I had never prepared a transcript of a hearing or
deposition. Angela was required to submit a 50-page transcript of a hearing she
attended.

As I have been meeting with Angela and telling her about my life as a court
reporter, I realized just how much I enjoy my career. I have been lucky to work
with the same court reporters for my entire career, first as employees of a firm,
then as firm owners, and now as federal official reporters. As a group, we were
able to reminisce with Angela about our most memorable cases, our hardest jobs,
and, of course, the many lessons we have learned as reporters. One thing is
certain; there is never a dull day as a reporter, unless it is a full day of the above-
mentioned motion hearings.

I realize now that working with an intern is more than just sitting in court writing
hearings; it is teaching her what to expect on her first job. She will be the guardian of the record, and she cannot be afraid to slow down attorneys or
witnesses. I taught her the difference between a civil case and a criminal case and
how to create title pages, appearance sheets, and certification pages.

After working with Angela for six weeks, I realized the importance of mentoring
new reporters. Mentoring new reporters ensure the continuation of a vital
component of the justice system. We are the recordkeepers of the courts; and
without new reporters entering the workforce, reporters may be replaced with
electronic recordings which, from experience, are not as reliable. The student
reporters who we work with today help guarantee the next generation of
competent reporters. By instilling our knowledge in them, they learn firsthand
what it takes to be a reporter. The most rewarding part of mentoring a student
reporter is the realization that we are helping him or her embark on a career in
this wonderful profession and helping to reveal all the possibilities that lie ahead.
I would encourage all of you to mentor future court reporters. The last six weeks
were filled with many memories of completing court reporting school and how
exciting it was to get out into the reporting world. It made me remember how I
felt my first year as a reporter and all of the wonderful experiences that I have
had. I think I finally understand what Winston Churchill meant when he said, “We
make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give.”

Every day is a new challenge as the president. While editing this article, I’m
making a new vegetable dish to take to my judge’s annual dinner. I am learning to
live dangerously. I look forward to seeing many of you in Chicago in April, and I
can’t wait to see what’s in store for me the next quarter.

Laura Robinson
USCRA President 2017-2018