Monday, September 10, 2007

For the record: Court reporters are in short supply

Transcribing trials is a must, but these days, fewer people are entering the profession

Sunday, September 09, 2007

STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- They've been around since before the days of Perry Mason, tapping out trial testimony to create a permanent record. But these days, the ranks of court reporters are dwindling, making them almost as valuable to court proceedings as the more vocal players -- the witnesses, lawyers and judges.

Courts on Staten Island and elsewhere are scrambling to find good ones and the shortage looks like it will continue. In a city that is home to 8 million people, there are just 405 Supreme Court reporters -- just 25 on Staten Island. There are 10 court reporters deployed in family, civil and criminal court.

According to Reesa Parker, president of the National Court Reporters Association, the number of schools taking part in NCRA's certification programs and their graduates have steadily declined over the decade. Almost 1,000 students graduated from more than 100 NCRA-certified schools in 1996. This year, 62 certified programs across the U.S. will graduate fewer than 350 court reporters.

Student enrollment is down at area schools that offer specialized courses in court reporting, such as Manhattan's New York Career Institute, SUNY Alfred State University and Stenotech in New Jersey.

Many prospective students are scared away from the career path at the get-go, fearing they'll eventually be replaced by a tape recorder.

"They don't want to start a career that may be phased out eventually," says Supreme Court reporter Robin Lueddeke in St. George.

The shortage of court reporters started a number of years ago in state, largely due to a state pilot program that used electronic recording.

"They had made it public knowledge by putting it out in newspapers, that the court systems [were] going to be installing electonic recorders," says Brian DiGiovanna, president of the Association of Surragate's and Supreme Court Reporters, the city's court reporters' union. "It scared people. It scared parents and it scared people who were thinking of going into the field."

When less people showed up to apply for entrance level testing, "they realized that it was a big mistake, and they tried to correct that mistake," DiGiovanna says.

State court officials tried to right the ship by expanding college training programs that had dwindled down to two schools in the New York City area.

Find a court reporter nationwide today

Transcript Treachery

Dobbs: ...White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said we're waiting for full transcripts...
Toobin: This is bizarre. Perhaps not a phrase we want to use today, but it is not rocket science to produce transcripts. Every trial has a court reporter.
Dobbs: Right.
Toobin: You can't have an appeal before you have the full transcript. I mean, it's simply inexcusable not to have transcripts this late after a trial....
Toobin: Well, and -- you know, the justice system stops in its tracks, because an appeals court can't evaluate a trial until they can read what happened. So it is totally unexpected. I've never seen this long for a transcript.

Second Hand Smoke on Trial

This clip from the new unreleased feature film "The Pack" directed by Alyssa Rallo Bennett, where addiction, love and murder are burning issues.

"The Pack" is the riveting tale of how second-hand smoke destroys a family and divides a nation. "The Pack" has its finger on the pulse of the America and where people stand regarding this major social issue plaguing our country.

Times change and any of us can get caught in the cultural shift of our nation. "The Pack" asks the searing question: "What if your behavior was legally accepted for dozens of years and all of a sudden it came into question?"

Written by Alyssa & Gary O. Bennett of Electric Movies & Jamaad Productions the film stars
Lucie Arnaz
Molly Culver
Tibor Feldman
Adam Ferrara
Dan Frazier
Zach Galligan
Ryan Homchick
David Laundra
Carlos Leon
Angie Martinez
Elisabeth Moss
Roger Robinson

"The Pack" is a powerful dramatic story about second-hand smoke and personal responsibility inspired by real life stories and documented cases where secondhand smoke is believed to be the cause of a loved ones death.

In "The Pack", an ambitious Assistant District Attorney (Carlos Leon) prosecutes a wife and mother (Lucie Arnaz) on three counts of murder after her forty-seven year old husband (Scott Bryce) dies of lung cancer from breathing her second-hand smoke for thirty years. In a wrenching twist, it turns out that the Assistant DA is acting at the request of the couple's twenty-year-old son (Ryan Homchick) who is mourning the loss of his father. At first, the jury (played by an amazing and notable ensemble cast: Fiona Choi, Jim Coope, Molly Culver, Adam Ferrara, Dan Frazer, Suzanne Froix, Zach Galligan, Brooks Hornsby, Angie Martinez, Jennifer McCabe, Charlie Moss & Roger Robinson) struggles with what appears to be a ridiculous case, but as one juror delves deeper into the facts, the jury finds itself drawn into an intriguing, emotional and complicated choice regarding addiction, awareness and individual responsibility. Tibor Feldman, Peter Francis James, David Laundra, Carlos Leon, William C. Mitchell, Elisabeth Moss, Angela Pietropinto and Rick Washburn round out the ensemble cast.

"The Pack" brings to the forefront the complexities and anguish surrounding this vital social issue. Grounded in legal reality, the films deals with the heart wrenching issues surrounding love, loyalty, and personal accountability.

"The Pack" evolved over several years with the film's writers honing the screenplay with the input of many prominent actors including Paul Sorvino (a script consultant), Lucy Arnaz, Joe Jackson and James Earl Jones.

Alyssa Rallo Bennett (Sonnets in the City, The Weather Report, Dance for Me Velma, Jack & Jill, and Juden Rift -- 2004 Fade In Screen Play Award) creates The Pack's cinematically beautiful texture by weaving flash backs, home style movies and courtroom sequences together using both 35 mm and digital cinematography.

"The Pack", co-produced by Ms. Bennett and Josselyne Herman-Saccio (Anne B. Real, Tollbooth, A&E's Biography, They're Just My Friends, Madness Is Catching), is now about to enter the festival circuit.

A two-minute trailer, additional clips from the movie, cast info, and production stills can be seen by visiting

Govt. Witnesses Vandalize to get Evidence

During a break, in another malicious prosecution, by the Govt of Ontario's loved and respected lead Crown Attorneys , Adam Zegouras and his boss Lee Burgess, their star witness having been caught in many lies does his best to manufacture evidence for the Govt Of Ontario during a break. This is totally legal, we must conclude, because while here is clear proof of vandalism and harassment, a violation for a court order to have no contact with myself (you can't see me but I'm working on the side of my former home) crown witness Mr. Tim Young was not held accountable. He did not even have to stand trial. The biggest thing this video shows, is perjury by Mr. Young's wife, she lied in court claiming she new nothing about the months of criminal harassment, vandalism, assaults and Moore. The Learned Judge Stephen, said he found Mrs. Young to be creditable. Mrs. Young was in the family van once, when Mr. Young ran into a fence post, she was laughing. However I can't prove that at this time, but it did happen. You can see much more about how our courts work over here

Do Fisa wiretaps prevent terrorist attacks?

Has the government's violation of the 4th amendment (unreasonable searches and seizures) made us safer?

Kate Martin, Director of the Center For National Security Studies, and veteran Supreme Court reporter Lyle Denniston join Professor Connie Rudnick on this episode of The Massachusetts School of Law Educational Forum, Spying on Americans.

The full episode of Massachusetts School of Law Educational Forum is available at The Massachusetts School of Law also presents information on important current affairs to the general public in television and radio broadcasts, an intellectual journal, conferences, author appearances, blogs and books. For more information visit MSLAW podcasts are available from and on iTunes

Media Law court Reporting and Contempt of Court

Monday, September 3, 2007

Court reporters use skills to document veterans' memories

written by: Adam Schrager , Political Reporter

DENVER - As a court reporter, Kirstin O'Malley has seen conflict up close and personally. But what she's doing on her vacation time is introducing her to a different type of conflict, one she feels is absolutely critical to record.

"I think these are incredible men and women who have served our country and they've had amazing experiences," said O'Malley, who is one of a number of Denver Academy of Court Reporting graduates who are using their professional skills to take down the personal stories of America's wartime veterans. "You have to appreciate what they go through in even telling the story, letting us into their private experiences."

The court reporters are participating in the Veterans History Project through the Library of Congress in Washington. The program was established on October 27, 2000 to collect oral histories, letters, diaries and photographs from veterans of World War I, World War II, the Korean, Vietnam and Persian Gulf wars.

On a recent Saturday, O'Malley was recording a different type of deposition. This one was from Vietnam Veteran Charles Cusack.

"My most emotional situation was when a good friend of mine was killed," Cusack said with his wife Virginia and his daughter Ami watching and listening.

As Cusak shared stories of bombing runs under intense fire, the women in his life listened with their mouths open.

"As I started to roll in, they started to shoot at me and the sky was full of anti aircraft fire," he said of one run into North Vietnam. "Black puffs, white puffs, green tracers, pink tracers, red tracers, they were coming all around me.

"Once I released, I started pulling and the napalm smacked the target . . . I lit the afterburners and I didn't stop until I got through the cloud layer at 22,000 feet. I went right straight through that cloud and the forward air controller just kept screaming, 'You got it, you got it, you got it.'"

Over in a nearby room at the academy, Harold Dawe was describing how he earned the bronze star during his time in Korea.

"There were 50 of us who went up (a) hill and defended it against hundreds of Chinese for 12 hours," Dawe told the court reporter assigned to hear his stories from Platoon 635. "They figured that was worthy of some recognition."

For the court reporters, the opportunity to participate was welcomed. Used to being the keeper of legal records, Kirstin O'Malley says the chance to be the keeper of the historical record is a logical extension.

"One of my passions is to take memoirs," said O'Malley, whose husband did three tours of duty in Vietnam. "I feel very honored to take (their stories).

"I've come away with more compassion and understanding for veterans."
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