NCRF is seeking nominations for its Board of Trustees. Eligibility is open to all NCRA members in addition to members of the public. NCRF Trustees not only establish policy in pursuit of the foundation’s mission, but they also must be willing to personally donate financially and to help with the fundraising programs. This is a distinguished group of people working toward a great goal and having fun at the same time! NCRF’s Chair Merilyn Sanchez invites you to “Lead with us, and help NCRF make a difference.” The nomination form can be found online, or call NCRF at 800-272-NCRA(6272). Deadline is January 17, 2014.
NCRA congratulates Dave Wenhold, CAE, PLC, on recently receiving the first annual Professional of the Year Award from the Association of Government Relations Professionals. Wenhold has worked with NCRA for more than 10 years and currently serves as the Association’s outside counsel for government relations.
The photo to the right shows Wenhold (left) and Monte Ward, President of the Association of Government Relations Professionals.
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.”
Rosalie Kramm, RPR, CRR, more than fulfilled her childhood dream, reports the San Diego Source. According to the paper, Kramm wanted to run her own business since she was a teenager and now she is the proud owner of three, including a soccer training facility. In addition to Kramm Court Reporting, the court reporting firm she founded as a 25-year-old, Kramm owns Discovery Conference Centre, which provides meeting and interview space for any industry, and The Futbol Factory, a soccer training facility for youths and adults.
“I know how to work hard,” Kramm told the paper. “I learned that from refereeing since I was 13. I’m dedicated to my clients and to these (soccer) students.”
I have been a victim of cheap electronics sales; I have been enticed by a mind-boggling low price and purchased a cheap tablet. That tablet is in the pile of worthless electronic garbage that consumes considerable real estate in my office. The tablet was unable to hold a charge and won’t stay on for more than 2 minutes. I take personal notice and hope to keep my wits about me.
According to many news stories, predictions are for a slow holiday season in the retail market, and campaigns have started early to get you to spend your holiday dollars with them. For instance, consider the ABC News article which recommends against buying any of the tablets in the $50 range, as they are unlikely to work well. Also, The Wall Street Journal’s Marketwatch blog recommends against buying tablet computers on Black Friday. Do your research, shop around, and buy wisely.
A press release from Stenograph on Nov. 18 announced that Dave Wynne, senior vice president of education, will be retiring after 27 years with the company. Wynne joined Stenograph as vice president of sales in 1986 and has been instrumental to the organization’s sales strategy and marketing over the years. In addition, Wynne has played a role in Stenograph’s expansion into the education arena, establishing Stenograph University and, most recently, playing an integral role in providing quality court reporters to the industry through Prince Institute.
Wynne served on various NCRA task forces and committees and offered a number of presentations at NCRA’s annual conventions. Wynne also volunteered on the National Court Reporters Foundation’s Angels Committee and participated in many of its phone-a-thons.
The November/December issue of DAV Magazine, the official publication of the nonprofit organization Disable American Veterans, features an article by NCRA member Tracey Rae Dunlap, RMR, CRR, about the Library of Congress Veterans History Project and the support it receives from volunteer court reporters and captioners and from the National Court Reporters Foundation. Dunlap, an official court reporter for the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, also includes comments from former U.S. Marine and disabled veteran Stephen Cochran, who shared his story during a VHP Day held last August that was sponsored by the NCRF. Cochran served as one of the first special troops deployed at the start of the conflict in Iraq
Dunlap, a life member of the VFW Ladies Auxiliary, Post 5578, in Madison, W.Va., is also the proud daughter of a Vietnam veteran and is passionate about volunteering her time and skills to ensure American veterans’ voices are seen as well as heard.
The National Court Reporters Foundation promotes and supports the interests of the court reporting profession. NCRF accomplishes its mission through the philanthropic programs it administers for the benefit of students, “new” court reporters, and all members of the National Court Reporters Association, as well as by providing the Legal Ed seminars that many NCRA members have presented to lawyers and law students, by preserving the oral histories of America’s veterans, and by supporting the international community of record keepers.
These are ambitious and worthy goals. NCRF does all this through the generosity and service of NCRA members, the NCRF Angel donors, its phone-a-thon and auction programs, the work done by the NCRF Board of Trustees, and the support of the professional staff of NCRF: Oral Histories Program Coordinator Beth Kilker, NCRF Deputy Executive Director B.J. Shorak, and NCRA Executive Director Jim Cudahy.
Nominations are now open to serve as a Trustee on the Foundation board, a three-year position elected by NCRA’s Board of Directors. Now is the time to step forward for the betterment of your profession. Nominations will be accepted through January 17, 2014. (See the ad on page 34 for more information.)
The word philanthropy means loving humankind; being a humanitarian; and doing good deeds. All of us want to leave the world a better place. Here’s your opportunity to contribute for the good of our profession.
Attaining proficiency as a court reporter requires great focus, flexibility, dedication, concentration, and persistence, and these are the same characteristics of a natural leader. What we do as court reporters, realtime writers, and captioners is truly an amazing skill set. You already possess most of the necessary qualifications trustees are asked to provide: solid thinking, diverse perspective, vision, commitment, and maybe even fundraising.
I am an eight-year NCRF Angel, a long-time Angel Committee member, and one of the newest members of the Foundation’s Board of Trustees. I’ve found that “giving” makes my heart soar! There’s just no limit to the good feeling of simply doing good deeds. When I was approached to be an Angel, then to be an Angel Committee member, and then to be a Foundation Trustee, part of me wondered, “What can I contribute? How will I find the time? Who, little ol’ me?”
I remember how I felt before passing that last 225 test required to become a graduate of the College of Legal Arts in Portland, Ore. How daunting and seemingly insurmountable that last barrier appeared to me. But then I stretched and bounded over that last mountain.
Please consider the challenges you’ve triumphed over and the opportunities you’ve received in your career as you contemplate becoming involved in the philanthropic programs of NCRF. The Foundation needs leaders who will provide vision and direction. How about you?
Debra (Debi) K. Cheyne, M.A. NCRF Trustee Angels Committee Member
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.”
Because such a high percentage of court reporters are self-employed or run small businesses, it is not surprising that in any member needs assessment we conduct, we hear from a fair number of folks who are seeking low-cost health insurance. Having run a small business myself for a few years, I had to purchase health coverage for my family during that time, so I know first-hand that the costs to do so as an individual or as a family can be exorbitant.
It is beyond unfortunate that the political debate surrounding the launch of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as “Obamacare,” has served to confuse — rather than to explain — the impact of the new laws on individuals. Indeed, that political landscape made me think twice about whether I should focus a column on this important issue at all. That approach, however, would be a disservice to you, the membership.
Politics aside, let me suggest to those members who have been looking for affordable healthcare coverage for yourself and/or your family, Obamacare, which takes effect January 1, 2014, provides you with the answer. In January, in each state and the District of Columbia, exchanges will go into effect that will allow you to purchase individual and/or family healthcare coverage at rates that individuals likely could not get on their own. This coverage will be provided by health insurance companies that choose to offer programs to those individuals who join the exchange. You likely have heard that a number of state governments, 35 actually, have decided not to operate such exchanges. In those cases, the U.S. government will operate the exchanges, but the net effect for the individual is the same. There will be an exchange in your state that you can join and from which you can get health insurance at a lower rate than you could get on your own.
Keep in mind that you still will have many options at your disposal that will affect rates. Bronze programs with higher deductibles and fewer bells and whistles will cost less; silver, gold, and platinum programs with lower deductibles and more bells and whistles will cost proportionally more.
Some people will be justifiably skeptical and will ask how all this is possible. In the past, insurance companies have generally assumed that if you are seeking healthcare coverage as an individual or as a family, you are doing so to address a pressing health concern, meaning there would be significant financial risk to offer coverage to that person or family. So they jacked their rates for that individual or family even if there was no evidence of pre-existing conditions. If there was a documented pre-existing condition involved, the rates would be even more expensive. It now will be illegal for health insurance companies to discriminate against the individual/family in terms of rates, even in the case of there being pre-existing conditions. Effectively, the exchanges—with many thousands of individuals and families enrolled—allow for the insurance companies to distribute their financial risk across a large pool. The thinking here is that with substantially more younger individuals paying for coverage, those premiums will offset the costs of those who are older or who have pre-existing conditions, with the younger crowd costing substantially less for the insurance companies to cover.
All that said, there is no requirement for you to participate in an exchange. If you already have healthcare coverage with which you’re satisfied, say through an employer, you can keep it. Or, if you simply don’t wish to purchase health coverage at all, you can do so; however, you will be assessed a new penalty, which you will pay through your annual tax return. This penalty will be calculated based on a number of factors, but mainly on individual/family income.
Even in trying to offer a simplistic explanation of what will transpire with regard to implementation of the Affordable Care Act, things get complicated. I strongly encourage you to develop an understanding of how things will work in your own state based on your personal circumstances. There are any number of places you can go to develop such understanding, but please be careful that you are dealing with a trusted source of information such as www.healthcare.gov. By the way, the deadline for enrollment to have new coverage begin on Jan. 1 is Dec. 17.