Is court reporting the career for you?

Ms. Career Girl posted an article on Sept. 27 about the benefits of choosing court reporting as a career. The article mentions NCRA and the growing need for people to enter the court reporting and captioning professions.

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Mike Mobley Reporting opens downtown Columbus location

In a press release issued Sept. 20, Mike Mobley Reporting, with offices in Cincinnati and Dayton, Ohio, announced the opening of a new location in Columbus.

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NCRA member shares how teenage intern inspires court employees while chasing her dream

Television station KRQE, Albuquerque, N.M., aired a story on Sept. 17 that features NCRA member Diona Gibson, RPR, an official court reporter for the Bernalillo County District Court, sharing her experience with a summer intern who was born blind and plans to become a court reporter.

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Newspaper offers tips on surviving a deposition

An article posted Sept. 15 by the Baltimore Post-Examiner explains what a deposition is, its purpose, and whether or not you can refuse to give one.

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Court reporting can be a good career choice for ISTJ Myers-Briggs personality types

Court reporting was listed as a good career choice for personality types identified as ISTJ by the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, especially those who have an interest in the legal field, according to an article posted Sept. 11 by The Journal Gazette, Fort Wayne, Ind.

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New Professional Reporter Grant awarded

Sidnee Baum

NCRF presented the 2018 New Professional Reporter Grant to Sindee Baum, from North Massapequa, N.Y.  Baum said that receiving the New Professional Grant means a lot to her and that she plans to use the funds toward paying off her school loan and to cover the expense of starting out with a professional machine and software.

NCRF awards the annual New Professional Reporter Grant to a reporter who is in his or her first year of work, has graduated within a year from an NCRA-approved court reporting program, and meets specific criteria, including a grade point average of 3.5 or above, a letter of recommendation, and current work in any of the career paths of judicial (official/freelance), CART, or captioning. The grant is in the amount of $2,000.

“For 21 years, I was a federal probation officer. I wrote the pre-sentence reports and sentencing recommendations for the judges and had to be present at sentencings. I was always fascinated by the court reporters and always made sure I stood near them to watch them work their magic on their machines,” Baum said.

“When I was getting close to thinking of retiring and what I wanted to do as a second career, the thought of becoming a court reporter popped in my mind one morning. I spoke to NCRA member Anthony Frisolone, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, CRI, one of the court reporters in my courthouse and a court reporter instructor, who thought the idea was an awesome fit for me. He even offered to be my mentor and helped me through the emotional roller coaster that court reporting school entailed. Well, I’m happy to share that I retired from my career as a federal probation officer as of September 1, 2017, and passed my last mentored exit speed tests that same week and graduated from school,” she added.

Baum, a graduate of the online program at College of Court Reporting (CCR) in Valparaiso, Ind., is the 14th recipient of NCRF’s New Professional Reporter Grant. She was recommended by Jessica Vivas, client services manager and reporter liaison for Magna Legal Services based in New York.

“If Magna could only choose one goal, it would be to support and serve our clients to the best of our ability. Sindee Baum embodies this philosophy and is respected by our clients. We consider Sindee to be an asset to our court reporting team, and we look forward to working with her well into the future,” Vivas said.

For court reporting students getting ready to finish their programs and start their professional careers, Baum offers the following advice: “Practice like your life depended on it. Getting those last speed tests passed takes the most work and dedication out of all the tests you will take in school. Also, while completing your internship hours, make sure you are asking lots of questions and gaining as much experience as you can in various settings so that you will be able to hit the ground running at graduation and become a working reporter.”

To learn more about NCRF’s scholarships and grants, visit NCRA.org/NCRF/Scholarships.

Madison College court reporting teacher reported 9/11 transcripts at Guantanamo Bay

The Wisconsin State Journal published an article on Sept. 9 about the court reporting background of Pamela Perry, RPR, CRI, an instructor at Madison College, to coincide with 9/11. Perry was a court reporter for two years in the 9/11 trials held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

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O’Brien & Levine earns top ratings for second consecutive year

O’Brien & Levine was voted the #1 best court reporting and video deposition company for the second consecutive year by readers of the Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly.

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Gubernatorial candidate visits DMACC court reporting program   

The Newton Daily News reported on Aug. 27 that gubernatorial candidate Fred Hubbell toured the court reporting program at the Des Moines Area Community College during his “Investing in Iowa’s Education Tour.”

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California ruling on independent contractor v. employee status has implications for court reporters and firms

By Matthew Barusch

Recently, the California Supreme Court handed down a decision in the case Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court that will make it more difficult for employers to classify workers as independent contractors. This case established an “ABC test” for employers, creating a new standard in California that must be successfully applied for a worker to be classified as an independent contractor. Under the test, a worker is only properly considered an independent contractor if:

(A) They are “free from the control and direction” of the company that hired them when they perform their work.

(B) The work they perform falls “outside the usual course” of the hiring company’s business.

(C) They have their own independent business or trade beyond the job for which they were hired.

This ruling was opposed by the California business community, which is now lobbying the California Legislature to suspend the court ruling and address this issue. Organized labor claims this as a win for workers in an economic environment not friendly to labor. Regardless of the arguments of proponent and opponents of this ruling, it has established completely new legal precedent in California and could take years of litigation to sort through all the implications for many California workers, including professional court reporters and the firms that work with them.

A NATIONAL ISSUE

While this decision sent shock waves throughout California, the ABC test is not a new phenomenon in the states. New Jersey is another state that has instituted an ABC test to determine employment status. In 2010, New Jersey passed a law that exempted court reporters from being classified as employees. But in the wake of the debate around misclassification, this law is being challenged. As a result, freelance firms in the state of New Jersey are being targeted with audits in order to change employment status of court reporters. In May 2018, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed an executive order to create a task force to investigate employers who used independent contractors on the grounds that misclassification allows employers to avoid paying for employees’ taxes and benefits.

This issue is clearly picking up steam in the states. The ruling in the Dynamex case further establishes a precedent in the form of the ABC test that could conceivably be adopted by states examining misclassification.

IMPLICATIONS FOR REPORTERS AND FIRMS

So what would happen if you, as an independent contractor, were eventually to be reclassified as an employee of your firm? How would your compensation change? And why would anyone try to do that?

As the Dynamex case is the most recent example of this issue being addressed in the states, let’s use this as an example. Freelance reporters and court reporting firms in California must now examine their business relationships with each other and assess whether or not they meet the criteria set out by the ABC test. Court reporting firms and freelancers may find themselves having less flexibility in deciding who, when, and even where they want to work. This ruling may even create implications for reporters who contract with the California courts, as some of them have moved to changed their status to work on an as-necessary basis.

Another important issue that arises out of this debate is how or whether court reporters will be compensated for their transcripts. Transcripts take time to produce and can be a significant portion of a freelancer’s income. This has been seen as one of the motivating factors of opposition behind reclassification. Transcript income can be dubbed as ‘outside income’ by court administration; and because of their classification as independent contractors, court reporters are exempt from policies that prevent employees from doing work for ‘outside income’ during office hours. By being reclassified as an employee, freelancers may be prevented from working on transcripts during office hours, which, of course, is a labor-intensive and time-consuming process.

While no federal policy currently addresses this issue for freelancers, federal legislation addresses this issue for official court reporters as employees of the federal government. In 1995, Congress passed exemptions to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) called the Court Reporter Fair Labor Amendments Act that created an exemption from FLSA requirements for official court reporters for time spent on transcript preparation. This law was meant to allow officials to keep their transcript income by giving up overtime if those extra hours were used on transcript preparation. Unfortunately, this law does not govern the freelance sector. The language was very specific and pertained only to official court reporters. However, some states continue to argue that misclassification indeed violates federal law. In May 2018, the same month New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy created his task force, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal joined 11 other state Attorneys General in a legal brief urging the National Labor Relations Board to rule that misclassification violates federal labor laws.

For now, it is unclear how this will play out in the federal or state governments. Misclassification can change the way that reporters are compensated for their work, which can threaten a reporter’s livelihood. At the end of the day, it should be up to you, the court reporter, and the firms you do business with as to which situation best suits your need. The National Court Reporters Association is committed to supporting our members’ freedom to decide what business relationship they wish to pursue, based on their own assessment of what is most suitable for their situation. Efforts to address misclassification may be well-intentioned but may have unintended consequences for the court reporting profession that could see court reporters working less and being paid less for their work.

Matthew Barusch is NCRA’s Manager of State Government Relations. He can be reached at  mbarusch@ncra.org.

This material is intended  for general information purposes only and should not be considered as if it were legal advice.