After more than 30 years, Carvel Reinsch, a court reporter for the Saline County District Court in Kansas, is retiring. Reinsch told the Salina Journal that she enjoyed the job and expects to still be busy for the next year completing transcripts of court proceedings she has already attended. Talking about some of her memories of the job, she said she once read back for “four or five hours.”
Ask any seasoned official court reporter about their career experience and more than likely they’ll share at least one, if not more, stories about high-profile, unusual, intriguing, or captivating trials they’ve reported. And seasoned official court reporter Anthony “Tony” Rolland, RMR, CRR, from Oviedo, Fla., is no exception.
A court reporter since 1982, Rolland already holds a treasure trove of experience rich in notoriety. He reported the federal habeas corpus trial of infamous killer Ted Bundy, who was tried and convicted for the murders of numerous young women and girls during the mid- and late-1970s and then executed by the state of Florida in 1989. He also reported Lou Pearlman, producer of the successful 1990s boy bands the Backstreet Boys and ‘N Sync, who plead guilty on charges of money laundering and more after being discovered as perpetrator of one of the largest and longest-running Ponzi schemes in American history. Other notable cases in Rolland’s trove of experience include the trial of David Siegel, president of Westgate Resorts and other real estate-related entities, who was found liable in 2008 in a sexual-harassment suit brought against him by a former employee, and the sentencing hearing of Thomas Drake, the former senior executive at the National Security Agency who was charged and eventually pled to one misdemeanor count for exceeding authorized use of a computer in an investigation of leaks of classified information to a newspaper.
Earlier this year, Rolland added to his trove of treasures when he accepted an assignment from the Freedom of Press Foundation to report on the trial of U.S. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst who was detained in Iraq in 2010 on suspicion of passing classified U.S. government documents to WikiLeaks, an international, online, non-profit group that publishes secret information, news links to the media, and classified materials from anonymous sources. Manning, who was convicted by a military court in August, had committed the largest security breach in U.S. history by disclosing more than 700,000 records to the online organization.
From the very start, the case itself would take on aspects that ranged from its being a vast history-making event to the numerous efforts taken that led to Rolland being hired for the assignment. Because of the nature of the case, the military judicial system determined that no record of the trial would be made by a court reporter stationed within the courtroom, but rather the procedures would be electronically recorded and not released to the public until multiple reviews and redactions were made by the government over a course of several months.
The decision by the court led to the nonprofit Freedom of the Press Foundation, an organization that supports free speech and freedom of the press and is supported by mainstream and alternative journalists, as well as activists and celebrities, to launch a public fundraising campaign to fund hiring a stenographic reporter to cover the proceedings and ensure public access to information about the case. The foundation also requested that the court provide permanent accommodations to a live court reporter to cover the trial proceedings.
“Knowing the background of the case, I was very interested in following it, and working on it and preparing a transcript for it was the best way to follow it. I appreciate challenging work and knew this assignment would fulfill my expectations,” Rolland said. “I had never reported a court-martial before and was very interested in learning about that judicial process. This was the most challenging assignment I’ve ever sat through.”
HEADED TO COURT
Though Rolland was granted permanent accommodations to cover the proceedings, the military had not provided him with any written documentation regarding accommodation. On the first day of the trial, Rolland attended the proceedings on a borrowed press pass. That same day, the foundation sent a letter to the Military District of Washington media desk that was signed by an array of media outlets. The letter successfully argued that barring a live stenographic reporter from covering the proceedings stymied Manning’s Sixth Amendment right to a public trail and the public’s First Amendment right to a public trial, and that two press credentials should be issued to Rolland.
According to the military media desk, it received more than 350 requests for press credentials but only issued 80. Rolland was given two.
“The first day of the trial was a bit iffy because I didn’t have anything in writing saying I could be there. Each morning and afternoon a military attorney would come into the media center and brief us about what was going to occur that day at trial. The first day, I showed the attorney my machine just to make sure that the verbal permission I had to be there was valid until I received written permission,” Rolland said. “I explained that the machine was just like having a pen and paper only I could write faster.”
Landing the assignment to cover the Manning trial also gave Rolland the opportunity to team up with Gore Brothers Reporting & Video, a court reporting firm in the Baltimore/Washington, D.C. area, to help ensure transcripts were delivered in a timely manner to the foundation. Owned and operated by Rolland’s long-time friend, mentor, and colleague Joe Grabowski, RMR, the firm provided him with the necessary support staff to work on producing the transcripts and uploading them by 7 p.m. each evening and 9 a.m. each morning. Grabowski’s firm also provided the support of four court reporters who rotated with Rolland throughout each court session and the entire month of July.
“Teaming up with Joe’s firm was very assuring to me. I knew I would need assistance to meet the delivery request time, and that various hiccups would occur along the way, and I knew that Joe’s long-time experience in this profession and his vast knowledge, supportive staff, and the infrastructure his company had in place would make handling a job of this magnitude possible,” Rolland said.
According to Grabowski, a court reporter since 1976 and owner of the Gore Brothers firm since 1996, signing on with Rolland to support coverage of the case was not that easy of a task to make happen, especially in light of the many nontraditional rules and procedures followed by the military’s judicial system. In addition, there was the matter of ensuring enough protection for not only Rolland, but for his own staff as well, given the international newsworthiness of the case.
“We were negotiating through an unfamiliar process with taking on this case. Everyone had heard about this trial. I would go online and read articles that said there were going to be protests outside of the base. I was nervous about having my company and its reporters identified on the foundation’s website in the event that some radical individual or group tried to make a statement,” said Grabowski, who has worked in the discovery and arbitration arenas, as well as abroad in Spain, Greece, and Poland.
“This was a great opportunity, though, to be a part of history in the making. The case was so vast that we might not even find out the full impact of Manning’s actions for another 10 to 20 years. It was all very interesting,” Grabowski said.
INSIDE THE PRESS GALLERY
“Each morning we would arrive in the parking lot and have our vehicles inspected by the military K-9s before we could even enter the base,” said Rolland. “Then there would be a procession of vehicles to the media operations center where we would trade our identification for a media credential.”
Inside the small, cinema-type viewing room, members of the press and the stenographers were able to watch video of the proceedings that was often poor and accompanied by sometimes less than acceptable audio. Additionally, the fact that members of the press were not permitted to bring in recording devices or cell phones to aid in capturing what the courtroom’s voice-activated cameras and microphones were sending back to the screen only added to some of the frustration of covering the proceedings. According to Rolland, some of the members of the media complained that the quickness of the audio, for example, was almost comical and often made it impossible to catch the stipulations made between the defense and prosecution.
“We were all doing the best we could and some of us were able to get enough of the content that it could be edited down to be readable,” Rolland said.
“But there were also various connection problems that would often occur, with the most frequent being what I called hiccups in the streaming — with no time lag in the audio, a piece of the proceeding would just disappear, typically about half a sentence,” he said.
“No audio assistance was allowed and once we were on base, we weren’t allowed to leave until lunchtime or the end of the day, so if there were problems with my system, I had no way to access any additional equipment I might have had in my car.”
Although not a member of the news media, Rolland said that he and his machine were warmly welcomed by the journalists he worked side by side with during the trial, and that it wasn’t uncommon for one of them to turn to him if they had missed something that was said during the proceedings.
“Many of the reporters with me would ask for quotes especially if they wanted to get an article out to their outlets right away. Many of them also said they wished they had the skills to use a steno machine because it would make their lives much easier. I would show them my machine and their typical reaction would be one of amazement that I could capture the spoken word that fast.”
TRUTH OR DARE
Q. You can do that at trial. This is a deposition. I just want the facts. I want to understand this. That’s all I’m trying to do here.
A. I wish you were under oath, that you were just asking for the facts, because your nose would be growing.
Q. Like Pinocchio?
Q. Well, a good thing I’m not under oath, then.Therese Casterline, RMR, CRR The Colony, Texas
THAT EXPLAINS IT
Q. Let me just ask you this, ma’am. Had your husband been drinking or doing any drugs or anything like that before the accident?
A. No. We are Christians. He doesn’t drink, he doesn’t smoke. We don’t do anything.Alan Turboff, RPR Houston, Texas
Q. Do you know what the standard of care is in Missouri?
A. I have no definition of the standard of care in Missouri.
MR. JONES: I object to the form of the question. It’s argumentative. There is no standard in Missouri.Barbara Prindle, RPR Brunswick, Ga.
A. He told me that the defendant showed up at his apartment a week ago with an unknown man.
Q. Did you ask him the identity of the unknown male?
Q. He did not know who the male was?
Q. So that means he did not know?
A. That’s correct. Unknown male.
Q. I just had to clarify that.Linda Breech, RPR Santa Clarita, Calif.
It would all be determined at the time and what the circumstances were, what the weather was, you know, what the conditions were. I mean, it wouldn’t seem too logical to me to go take somebody back outside after they just fell down to the area where they just fell down to see where they just fell down to see because they just might fall down again.Denise Thomas, RPR, CRR Salt Lake City, Utah
WHAT I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN
THE COURT: All right. What month — since my last name starts with A I know I always have to get my plates in January, but what month is L? When do you?
THE DEFENDANT: June.
THE COURT: June? What’s the law? Do you have until the end of June?
MR. PARK: Pardon me?
THE COURT: Do you have until the end of June?
MR. PARK: Yeah, I believe so.
THE COURT: This was a June 4 ticket?
THE DEFENDANT: July 4.
THE COURT: He says on or before — on or about 6/4.
THE DEFENDANT: Oh. Well then not guilty.
THE COURT: Well, let me look at this police report (indicating). His police report says July 4, but he wrote his ticket for June 4, so.
THE DEFENDANT: So?
THE COURT: It’s, you know, the State can move to amend the ticket to reflect the appropriate date.
THE DEFENDANT: Yeah, I’m not denying it.
THE COURT: Yeah.
THE DEFENDANT: That was just a joke.
THE COURT: All right.Melissa Odens, RPR Armour, S.D.
TEETH OR NO TEETH?
MR. JONES: Your Honor, I’m sorry. I can’t hear a word here. It’s just mumbling.
THE WITNESS: Can you hear me now?
MR. JONES: Your volume is fine. It’s just your words are running together. Maybe it’s just me.
THE WITNESS: Do you need me to take my teeth out?
MR. THOMAS: I don’t know if that would help.
THE WITNESS: It would.
MR. PETRANO: I don’t – I’m not going to ask that, Your Honor.Karen Ambroziak, RPR Blythewood, S.C.
WATCH WHO YOU’RE CALLING BABE
Q. Well, my wife is a lot smarter than I am. She’s got a Ph.D. in math, Ph.D. in statistics. If I have a statistics question, I lean over and say, “Hey, Babe, you know, can you help me out?” I’m slow; I’m just a lawyer. She tells me that when you’re doing an analysis to try and determine something’s been impacted, in order for to it to be statistically relevant, you have to compare it to some sort of baseline. Is she leading me astray, my wife?
MR. SMITH: Objection, form.
A. I’m quite confident your wife would never lead you astray. I’m sitting here wondering how she reacts when you say, “Hey, babe.”
Q. She reacts positive.
A. When you say, “Hey, babe”?
Q. When I say, “Hey, babe” to somebody else, that may be another story. I’m very careful about that.Therese Casterline, RMR, CRR The Colony, Texas
Q. From the time that you felt the bump until the time that you looked, did that happen almost instantaneously?
Q. And this bump you described is something that alerted your attention to you looking 360 degrees to try to see where the bump came from?
Q. All right. But we know you did not see a car after you felt the bump; correct?
Q. All right. So you make a right-hand turn onto Main Street and pull over?
Q. Can you describe the damage for me, please?
A. The front fender was damaged, cracked. The headlight assembly was shoved in or pulled in. The front passenger’s side bumper was shoved in between the tire and the frame.
Q. Okay. Anything else that you remember?
A. And there was a bumper in between the fender and the tire.
Q. A bumper that was not yours?
A. Yes.Leanne Fitzgerald St. Augustine, Fla.
More than 30 court reporters and their supporters protested in front of Orange County Superior Court, according to an article posted on the Voice of OC, based in Orange County, Calif, on Nov. 16. According to the article, their hours were reduced from full-time (40 hours) to 35 hours, effectively making them part-time workers who were eligible for lower health benefits.
According to the article, the court reporters said they had suggested other ways to save money, but those ideas were rejected by the court’s leaders.
A Nov. 16 article on Pittsburgh’s TribLive.com reported that the court administrators in Western Pennsylvania are having difficulty filling positions for court reporters, saying that positions have been unfilled for months. According to the article, the shortage could be attributed to the decreased availability of training which requires mastering an unusual skill, the increased need for trained stenographers to provide closed captioning or other services for people with hearing impairments, or simply that the starting salary hasn’t proved to be enough of a lure to potential candidates. The article goes on to mention that the Washington County courts have purchased a digital recording system to prevent delays in getting a record of the proceedings. The article further states that NCRA representatives said that the move is not without controversy and that recording systems have been known to cause costly delays.
In late October, the North Carolina Association of Official Court Reporters attended the North Carolina Superior Court Judges Fall Conference, educating the judges on the benefits of using live court reporters versus other methods of capturing the record. AOCR actively promoted live court reporters providing realtime and the technological advances that the profession has seen over the past generation. During the conference, official court reporters were recognized by the judges who passed a resolution in favor of keeping live official court reporters in superior courts over any alternative methods of making the record.
“The unanimous support we have received in the past and continue to enjoy from our North Carolina superior court judges is awesome and overwhelming, and this support is recently memorialized in a resolution reflecting their unwavering support for the preservation of official court reporters in North Carolina’s Superior Courts to the exclusion of all other means of keeping the record. Our judges recognize the training and skill set required to professionally produce an accurate record, which reaffirms that the live reporter in the courtroom is an essential cog in the wheels of justice,” said Pamela T. Rayburn, RPR, AOCR’s legislative committee chair.
For information on why courts should utilize live court reporters, visit NCRA’s Steno Reporter Advantage homepage.
An article in the Nov. 5 National Law Journal reported that the U.S. Congress is reviewing proposed changed to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure as proposed by the federal judiciary. The proposed changes would further limit the scope of discovery and are intended to go into effect near the end of 2015.
According to the article, some members of the Senate and litigation experts are voicing concerns about the changes. “Less access to information could mean that responsible parties will remain unaccountable — not because the plaintiff’s allegations are untrue, but because the plaintiff lacks the evidence to prove them,” said U.S. Sen. Christopher Coons, who chairs the Subcommittee on Bankruptcy and the Courts.
“NCRA will be responding that the changes limiting discovery are detrimental to the administration of justice in America,” says Adam Finkel, NCRA’s assistant director of government relations. According to Finkel, NCRA will also work with other court reporting associations in submitting comments on the changes. The comment period closes February 15, 2014.
NCRA member Joyce Beauchamp, RPR, from Greenville, Wis., and her skills as an official court reporter for Kenosha County were showcased earlier this week in the Snapshot feature of the Kenosha News. The weekly Q & A feature asked Beauchamp what attracted her to the court reporting profession, the skills needed to be successful, and what the most difficult and most satisfying aspects of her job are. Read more.
We court reporters all understand the traditional Labels of reporting (freelance, official, captioning, CART). As I enter my 30th year in the court reporting business this October, my résumé reflects the good fortune of holding various titles: freelance reporter, official reporter, CART provider, transcriber, stenographer, mentor, teacher, and trainer. I continue my love affair with this strange little machine, which captured my attention and my heart three decades ago.
In 2005, I was wooed by the opportunity to hold yet another moniker: sports reporter. I am still technically a court reporter, but I am speaking of a totally different type of court — a court with a net, a racquet, a fuzzy yellow ball, two players competing against each other, and a mysterious method of score-keeping.
Over half of my year is now spent traveling the world with professional tennis players. Instead of sitting in a courtroom or deposition conference room, writing hundreds of pages of testimony (what I call the marathon type of reporting), I sit in interview rooms around the world at tennis tournaments writing sprint testimony. Questions and answers in my reporting world are between the international journalists — think of them as the attorneys — and the top tennis players in the world — the witnesses.
The expert testimony I hear, write, and transcribe these days involves jargon related to a tiebreak in the third set; a serve up the T; playing surfaces, such as Rebound Ace, clay, grass, indoor hard, Har-Tru, and “la terre battue”; or string tightness of kevlar, polyester, or synthetic gut.
In a profession that has been threatened from its inception by electronic recording, video, and, most recently, speech-recognition software, I’ve always giggled over the improbability of a computer understanding a Vietnamese or East Indian neurologist describing medical procedures at 200 wpm. My same (sometimes smug) philosophy for defending job security holds true as a sports reporter. I wonder how translation software would handle spitting out English words while a Spaniard from the island of Mallorca is talking about winning La Coupe des Mousquetaires at the French Open, reciting, at break-neck pace, his set-by-set scores, and admitting at one point he had his “doobits” [doubts], even though he was playing on his favorite “soyr-fraz” [surface].
Tennis players often want to acknowledge coaches and trainers, naming the villages they are from in Serbia or somewhere in the Pyrenees. (Oh, and was that player’s French tennis club membership in Colomiers or Coulommiers?) “Hey, Mr. Computer Software, let’s see how the journalists enjoy your accuracy on that spelling dilemma.”
Here’s how my court reporting works. After a player completes his or her match, the press corps almost always want to speak with him or her. Questions range from game-plan tactics, rankings, recent injuries, and, of course, some gossip.
I write the interview wirelessly to either my or a colleague’s computer. At the Slams and various other Masters 1000 and Premier tournaments, we work in pairs or trios. With other, smaller tournaments, I work solo.
Following the press conference, a nifty little transcript is produced, and by the time the journalists return to their tiny cubicles in the press room — Voila! — there is the expected transcript in their inbox. From there, the journalist can write a piece for his or her newspaper or magazine or perhaps use the transcript in his or her role as a commentator for tomorrow’s next-round match. Journalists are assured, because of our presence in the press conference, that the player quotes will be written verbatim. It also reassures the journalists that they do not have to tape record the interview or hunt and peck around their own laptops and produce, in quadruple the time, some written product to meet their newspaper’s or agency’s deadline.
Do I love my job? Absolutely. My motto: “Do what you love and love what you do.” As I write this, I am sitting at Roland Garros — my sixth French Open and my 11th trip to Paris. How could I not love my job?
From this tournament, I take the Eurostar through the Channel Tunnel to London for the Queen’s Tournament, continuing on to Eastbourne in the south of England for another grass-court tournament, and finishing up my European tour at Wimbledon — or as we court reporters call it, Wim or Wimby. This is an annual adventure for me — seven weeks in Europe as a court reporter.
As silly as it sounds, I would perhaps like to add yet another title to my résumé: court reporting cheerleader. We all know how bemused juries and witnesses become during trials while watching our hands fly around a perplexing-looking machine with a few keys. Imagine how people from around the world react when they observe our process. Whether court reporter or “court” reporter, we remain a profession surrounded by mystique and intrigue.
My love affair with this funny little machine remains as fresh as it was 30 years ago.