THE LAST PAGE: Momentary lapse of humor

Preparation
Q. Okay. Is there anything else that you did to prepare for today that we haven’t talked about?
A. I got up and got dressed.

Elsa Jorgensen
Birmingham, Mich.
Undercover attorney
MR. SMITH: I’ll represent to you that they’re all Smith & Smith attorneys present.
MR. JONES: Okay.
THE WITNESS: What about the lady?
MR. SMITH: She’s an attorney.
THE WITNESS: Okay.
MR. JONES: Sometimes we travel in plain clothes. You can’t always tell.

Laurie Collins, RPR
Brooklyn, N.Y.

Just checking
Q. Was the accident all your fault?
A. No.
Q. Trying to give you an out.

Denyce Sanders, RDR, CRR
Houston, Texas
Never mind!

Q. Still love him as much today as you did the day before this accident?
A. Absolutely.
Q. It hasn’t impacted your intimate life or your —
A. We’re in our 60s and 70s.
Q. An honest answer finally in all the years I’ve been doing this. You’d be surprised at the number of people that claim to have extremely — and hopefully for them they’re telling the truth, if they do —
A. With his medical history, his heart, can’t do it anymore, let’s put it that way.
Q. I think I’m embarrassing myself more than anyone else in the room.

Debra M. Arter, RDR, CRR
Rockledge, Fla.
What’s in a name?
Q. What’s your brother’s name, though?
A. Ed Michael.
Q. Blessed with two first names just to make things confusing.

Carrie Arnold, RPR, CRR
Arvada, Colo.

How times have changed
Q. Do you know how you would have been contacted?
A. Not positive but generally the builders send a request to bid.
Q. How do they send that?
A. Either a phone call and/or something in the mail at that time.
Q. So no e-mails or faxes or —
A. Not back then, I don’t think.
Q. You talk like it was the Stone Age.
MR. SMITH: Pigeons.
THE WITNESS: Not that long ago.
MR. SMITH: Pigeons.
THE WITNESS: Possibly a fax.

Renee Bencich, RPR
Galt, Calif.
I guess you can be treated after death

Q. Have you had any conversations with any of the doctors that were treating your husband following his death?
A. Just his primary doctor.

Sharon M. Champa, RMR
Lathrup Village, Mich.

It’s all a matter of perspective

Q: You said he was a small man. How tall is Coach Jones?
A: I’m not sure. He’s under six feet.
Q: Coach Jones said in his statement that he’s six feet.
A: It doesn’t surprise me that he would say that. Most men do want to be six feet.

Elizabeth A. Tubbert, RPR
Highland, Mich.
Dancing on thin ice
A. He saw that I was falling, and he knew I was going to fall, so he was able to somehow brace himself from following through with his almost fall. I saw him start to do the Lord of the Dance thing, but he didn’t fall, luckily.

Virginia Dodge, RDR, CRR
Boston, Mass.

Yes or no
Q. But they didn’t give you anything like OxyContin or —
A. No.
Q. — Vicodin?
A. No, no, no, no.
MR. SMITH: You only need to say it once.
THE WITNESS: I just want to make sure that he heard me.
BY MR. JONES: Q. So that was a “yes”?
A. No.
MR. SMITH: We’re a friendly bunch today.

Dominique Isabeau
Daly City, Calif.
Just get this visual

Q. Okay. Did the — the fundal — the McRoberts maneuver is pushing the mom’s legs all the way back?
A. It is flexing her thighs against her abdomen.
Q. Okay. Pushing her legs all the way back up, her leg like this?
A. Yes.
Q. Okay. Pushing both legs up like this as far as you can, bending the knees all the way up?

Christine Phipps, RPR
North Palm Beach, Fla.

 

The end
Q. And — I just lost my train of thought. Give me a second here.
MR. DOE: You were about to say, “I have no further questions.”

Elsa Jorgensen
Birmingham, Mich.

MEMBER PROFILE: Jennifer (Jenny) Vail-Kirkbride, RMR, CRR

 

Currently resides in: Wellsburg, W.Va.

Member since: 1981

Graduated from: National Legal Secretarial School, Hagerstown, Md.

Theory: Don’t remember, it’s been so long ago! But it was not computer-compatible, although we did learn to write a long A (I guess the rest of the vowels didn’t matter).

A tip: When a long number keeps coming up again and again and it’s a pain to write, try making a brief by writing out the first number in words and then the next number with the number key, and that is all you will probably need for the brief. E.g.: 1099 to TEPB/9. You can do the same with phone numbers, Social Security numbers, patent numbers, etc.

Why did you decide to become a court reporter? How did you learn about the career?

I really liked Gregg shorthand in high school. One Sunday in our regional newspaper, there was a two-page spread about the official court reporters. It really piqued my interest, so I went to our guidance counselor about finding a school, and she had just gotten some literature from the school that I wound up attending, which had a copy of the NSRA publication. I checked out the salaries and how much court reporters were paid and decided to give it a try.

When I started at National Legal Secretarial School, I was lived in Dagmar Hall, an old hotel that they tried to turn into a dorm. My mom and dad couldn’t believe that they were leaving me there! We had our own dorm song that went like this: “Oh, I’m a Dagmar girl, so pity me. There are no guys in this vicinity. Every night at 11:00 they lock the door. I don’t know what the hell I ever came here for. And when I’m on that bus and homeward bound, I’m going to burn that damn dorm to the ground. I’m gonna smoke, drink, pet, so what the heck, I’m a wreck, I’m a Dagmar girl! Hey!” And we also had a “third floor” song that I better not give you the whole thing that starts out, “We are the girls of the third floor [bleep-rhyming word] corp…” and that’s all I’m going to reveal!

What has been your best work experience so far in your career?

In my 32 years as an official in state and then federal court, I have been blessed more than you can imagine by working with wonderful judges and staff. They made coming to work every day a joy. I called them my court family. When I moved to a different judge, even though I was in a different court or different city, my friends have continued with me throughout my life’s journey. I will love them and never forget them.

What are you most proud of in your career?

I am most proud of the respect and support that I have been shown by my judges and colleagues. In the 1990s when realtime had not become an everyday occurrence in court and I provided my judge with realtime, he realized when attending judges’ conferences around the country that I was going out of my way for him and truly appreciated it. When I reported a daily-copy/realtime pharmaceutical patent infringement trial that involved line-and-a-half chemical formulas and was asked to read back the question, which I had gotten perfectly, but the terms were tongue twisters and I stumbled on the pronunciation of a word, the attorney said, “For the record, I want to apologize to the court reporter for the terms in this case,” which made me chuckle and think to myself, Thank you, ain’t that the truth. When I was selected as one of three federal official court reporters by the Administrative Office of U.S. Courts to participate in the study in the 1990s, where our jobs were truly at risk and official court reporters won and no changes were made. And when the West Virginia Court Reporters Association gave me a surprise retirement gift when I retired as an official, that truly touched my heart.

What is your favorite book?

My favorite book is the Bible. I have tried to live out my faith by my actions and words and the love that God puts inside each one of us. We all know this can be quite challenging at times, but with God’s help every day, I try to do just that, maybe with a smile or a kind word, a random act of kindness, or praying for someone and giving thanks for all that God has given me.

TECHNOLOGY: The benefits of early adoption

person hold laptop with digital planet; light emits from video cameraBy David Ward

Because concentration is paramount for their job, court reporters don’t like disruptions — and that often extends to the equipment and other technology they use during work. Once reporters are comfortable with their writers and other gear, many are loathe not only to try to try new hardware, but often even to update some of the software that supports their equipment. This reliance on the tried and true can help a reporter stay in their comfort zone, but it also comes with a cost.

Foregoing the opportunity to be an early technology adopter means that at least some reporters may end up missing out on trends that can help them do their job better and also grow their business.

“There are so many great new tools now with reporting,” says Robin Nodland, RDR, CRR, a principal with LNS Court Reporting based in Portland, Ore. “From where it was when I started in 1980, it almost feels like we’re cheating now thanks to software that can, for example, remember complex medical terms, so if you write it two or three times, it will start to suggest it.” Though it does require both a financial investment and a willingness to learn the ins and outs of the latest hardware and technology, Nodland says being an early tech adopter has more than paid off by helping her firm generate new business.

“Being tech-savvy really resonates with our client base,” she explains. “Every single time we’ve given a five-minute tour of our technology to a client, they are beside themselves. It’s usually the assistants — the attorneys don’t want to deal with it — who are just delighted because it makes their job easier. If they go home and are not sure if they have scheduled a videographer for the next day, they can log in and double check.”

One of the main reasons LNS embraces new technology is because it now does a lot more than reporting and videography. “We are tech heavy because we have both court reporting and captioning and video conferencing over IP, so we need a real robust infrastructure,” Nodland says.

LNS has an IT person on monthly retainer to oversee and maintain the company’s servers and website. “We use ReporterBase for the calendaring, invoicing, and the repository with 24/7 access to transcripts — and it’s our IT person’s job is to makes sure it’s all running properly. He also makes sure there are backups to all our reporters’ notes and files, even though that’s really the reporters’ responsibility.”

The cost-effective early tech adopter

Not every firm or individual reporter will have the resources to invest in an array of on-site servers, let alone hire a tech guy to manage it all.

But Sue Terry, RPR, CRR, an NCRA director and freelance reporter based in Dayton, Ohio, notes there are still cost-effective ways to be an early tech adopting reporter. Terry notes that even little things like upgrading laptops and home PCs to the new Microsoft Windows 10 operating system can make a huge difference.

“I know many reporters are afraid to make that switch for fear of messing up their laptop,” she explains. “But most of the upgrades are taking place on the software side, and many reporters don’t realize how powerful they can be and how effective they can be when streaming a deposition. Once you have your router in place, no matter what CAT system you’re on, it’s easier to get the hookup when all your software is up to date.”

Being an early tech adopter also requires reporters to understand what type of new tech can truly make a difference in their business.

Dianne Cromwell, RPR, is an official reporter in Boise, Idaho, as well as the owner of the Boise reporting firm Tucker & Associates. Cromwell says that virtually every reporter can help their business with relatively low-cost investments such iPads. “Compared with the old days when you had to deal with all different kinds of laptops and other repeaters, the iPad is much easier,” she says. “The freelancers that work for our company all have their own iPads, which they provide clients.”

Asking the right tech questions

Many small business owners — and not just those in the court reporting field — may understand the importance of staying on top of technology but often don’t know how to start that process.

Terry notes that people don’t have to be all that tech conversant to be early adopters; they just have to know the right people and ask the right questions.

“Many reporters buy a new laptop or other equipment, and the settings are not optimized for their job, which is the recording of proceedings,” Terry explains. “So they think they have a crappy laptop and they go out and buy another one.”

Asking other court reporters for advice is one way to get up to speed on new technology, but Terry says reporters also can’t be shy about asking the very people they’re buying the equipment from for their input. “These are professionals, and to me what they’re also selling me is support,” she says. “It really doesn’t do you any good to get a microphone that picks up the sound in a room great if you don’t know how to set the settings to make that happen.”

Most tech and software vendors say they want those questions from court reporters. Jason Yee, marketing director with OMTI, makers of the ReporterBase line of software, notes his company routinely handles queries from their hundreds of firm clients.

“We find their interest in new technology ranges from very conservative to eager early adopters,” he explains. “We view it as our job, as software developers, to be up on what is happening technology-wise and use our experience from 30 years of developing for this industry — plus insights from our clients — to decide which technologies to incorporate into ReporterBase. Then we teach our clients why they have these new abilities and what they can do with them.”

Yee says OMTI upgrades its two main court reporting products, RB8 office management software and RB Web online office, twice annually, keeping firm owners abreast of any new features through online content as well as its annual conference.

“We have found that often clients who describe themselves as not technically savvy will embrace these foreign new concepts and abilities when they understand the benefits and learn how to use the new features properly,” he adds.

Reporting technology for a rich future

The right technology can not only assist individual reporters and court reporting firms with their current work, it can also ready them for what could massive new opportunities over the next decade.

Jason Primuth, executive vice president for NextGen Reporting, points out that remote reporting — where the reporter is far from the witness being deposed — has not really taken off in many parts of the country.

“However, we’ve seen a strong growth in the demand for remote depositions where the parties are in multiple locations, and the court reporter is generally with the deponent,” he adds. “Forward-thinking corporations and insurance companies have found significant savings in time and money by conducting remote depositions.”

Primuth has also seen a surge in the use of video technology in legal proceedings, noting, “Some of our cases require the high-quality video that only traditional videographers and a professional camera can provide. But there’s a massively underserved market for video in smaller cases with smaller budgets. Other options, such as remote streaming, make video affordable to a much broader range of cases.”

Rhonda Jensen, RDR, CRR, CMRS, president of Jensen Litigation Solutions, based in Chicago, Ill., says her firm is rapidly adding new video equipment, including HD cameras, to take advantage of the growing popularity of video.

“We’ve expanded dramatically,” she explains. “We now do promotional videos for attorneys to post on their websites, and we’re very active in the local bar associations here in Illinois where we’ve done things like ‘Women in the Legal World’ videos for them.”

Jensen adds video is already influencing many parts of civil litigation. For example, her company now works with law firms to put together day-in-the-life videos used in personal injury suits.

“If someone is injured, the attorneys often want the jury to know what it’s like to be in their shoes by showing their daily life,” she explains. “We’ve also just invested in our first GoPro camera, which can be put on the injured person to show directly what life is like from their side.”

As much as video is affecting litigation, the huge growth in video outside of the legal arena has been a real technological trigger for the court reporting industry along with the need to caption much of that content.

A report last year from Cisco’s Visual Networking Index predicted that 80 percent of all Internet traffic will be video by 2019.

Carol Studenmund, RDR, CRC, and co-founder (along with Nodland) of LNS Reporting in Portland, Ore., agrees that the surge in video, both online and off, could have a profound effect on the captioning community – but only for reporters willing to step outside their comfort zone.

Studenmund explains that over the past five years, captioning prices in the network television affiliate world have dropped, adding, “But I still see reporters who only want to do network affiliate news, and they’re willing to take less money to just do that. In the meantime, there’s all this new work.”

One area where Studenmund is seeing growth is areas affected by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

“The world of people with hearing disabilities are finally beginning to ask for what they’re allowed to have through ADA,” she says. “And it’s booming. One example is stadiums. How many stadiums now have to provide captions? Another is in the workplace as people are realizing that in order to participate in a workplace webinar, they need captions.”

If that’s not opportunity enough, consider the vast amounts of old videotape that could soon be converted to digital and posted online.

“There’s so much content, not just current videos being produced, but archived content from years back when they still had VHS,” Terry says. “These are sitting at colleges and universities, and they’re dying to make that content digital and searchable.”

In addition to possessing their traditional captioning skills, Terry says court reporters should start thinking and talking like early tech adopters when it comes to video.

“You have to explain to people looking to post videos to YouTube that most search engines can’t index that content unless it’s captioned and there are keywords to pull up,” she says. “We have so much video history right now that if I was just entering the business, I would be marketing video captioning as strongly as I would depositions and hearings. If you can learn to caption videos, you really have an unlimited market.”

The good news for court reporters looking to be on the cutting edge of video is that it doesn’t require that much new tech.

Studenmund, who does captioning at stadiums, including high-profile events like the Super Bowl, remotely from her home office, says other than a great high-speed Internet connection, all you really need are great earpieces.

“I indulge in nice headphones,” she adds. “When working remotely, it all comes down to hearing clearly.”

Like most early tech adopters, Studenmund says the real key is to embrace any new technology as an opportunity rather than distraction, adding, “Everything changes all the time, so you just need to be ready for that.”

David Ward is a journalist in Carrboro, N.C. Comments on this article can be sent to jcrfeedback@ncra.org.

This article was suggested by NCRA’s Technology Committee.

 

Announcing the winners of the JCR Awards

The JCR Awards were created as a way to highlight the innovative and forward-thinking practices of NCRA members and to recognize how court reporters, captioners, and legal videographers are leading the profession.

These individuals and organizations are being recognized as being the best-in-class for the noted categories.

Wendy Evangelista, Claudia Booton, Judy Stevens, Rachel Fox and Chandra Monis.

From left to right: Wendy Evangelista, Claudia Booton (sitting), Judy Stevens, Rachel Fox, and Chandra Monis.

Leadership and team-building

Judy Stevens, RPR, CMRS, CPE

Lakewood, Colo.

Judy Stevens, who owns Stevens-Koenig Reporting, was nominated by several reporters and staff members, who shared stories of her leadership and drive. “I’m one of four reporters who are tag-teaming an unusual trial case. Judy’s help in guiding me through what is outside of my comfort zone is quite reassuring,” wrote Becky Collings, RPR. “I recently passed the Colorado Realtime Certification test, and Judy is getting me ready to start that next journey of my career.” Several of the nominations also spoke about the meetings, often held at her home, where reporters can get together to socialize and ex- change steno briefs. Stevens has also brought in realtime trainers or motivational speakers for her staff and reporters for these gatherings, which have built a strong support network for everyone.

Debbie Weaver receiving the 2015 Spirit of Justice Award

Debbie Weaver receiving the 2015 Spirit of Justice Award

Community outreach

Midwest Litigation Services

St. Louis, Mo.

Debbie Weaver of Midwest Litigation Services has been actively involved in supporting equal access to justice through a number of pro bono organizations in St. Louis. One of the organizations the company supports is Let’s Start, a program dedicated to assisting women and their children in the transition from prison life to society. The company supports this group by volunteering at annual fundraisers and supplying packed lunches for a bus ride to take the children to the local prison to visit their mothers. In addition, the company has participated with the Bar Association of Metropolitan St. Louis in Read Across America, a literacy program; Motion for Kids, a party thrown for children who have parents affected by the criminal justice system; and other events.

White Coat Captioning screen from !!Con  2015.

White Coat Captioning screen from !!Con 2015.

Service in a nonlegal setting

White Coat Captioning

Saint Albans, Vt.

White Coat Captioning has been expanding its business to captioning several technical conferences, including a last-minute conference where the company replaced a group that was providing “nonsensical captions.” “People were very unhappy with the captions,” wrote Mirabai

Knight, RDR, CRR, CRC, who nominated the company (for which she works). Knight said that the company was able to completely turn around the comments. “As soon as we came on board, the entire social media reception to the captioning had completely changed. People started talking about how helpful the captions were and how impressed they were with the quality and accuracy of the captions, even saying that they wanted captioning at all their conferences in the future! It was a total reversal of the previous reception.”

Knight went on to explain that the company has been focused on the conference captioning work because it hopes to change the status quo, where the only way to get captioning was for a person who was deaf or hard of hearing to invoke their ADA rights. “One in seven people has hearing loss,” notes Knight, “so in an audience of 100 people, at least 14 will benefit from captioning.” White Coat Captioning seeks to make captioned conferences the new standard for conferences.

Christine Phipps caught in a relaxed moment during the workday.

Christine Phipps caught in a relaxed moment during the workday.

Individual member

Christine Phipps, RDR

North Palm Beach, Fla.

Categories recognized: Leadership and team-building, marketing and customer service, use of technology, community outreach

Dedicated. Hard-working. Determined. Tech- savvy. These are the words used to describe Christine Phipps by those who nominated her. “Christine Phipps is the type of person who will go out of her way,” wrote Jacqueline Andujar in her nomination. It was what inspired Andujar to go into business with Phipps, back when the company was run out of a bedroom in Phipps’ house. “Christine’s main goal is always to make her clients happy. She takes the time to listen and care.”

“Her passion is so contagious!” wrote Sherry Laurino in her nomination of Phipps. Laurino went on to say that it was Phipps who inspired her own entrepreneurial skills. “No one has more passion and love for court reporting and is committed to the growth and longevity of this industry,” Laurino said.

When she is preparing to meet a new client and show what her company has to offer, Phipps will go above and beyond to make sure the client understands and is satisfied. Even with other reporters, Phipps takes the time to update them with anything new and explains it. In addition, she has taken the time to write several articles on technology for the profession to make sure that everyone is aware of the latest trends and news.

“She is dedicated to teaching while not forgetting where she came from,” wrote Laurino. One of Phipps’ passions has been to help students of the profession and new profession. She led a charge to provide a number of students with memberships to NCRA in 2015 with posts about “Paying it forward” to the next generation, as well as donating several of the memberships herself.

“As her employee now, I have nothing but admiration and respect for her. She has been nothing but supportive, respectful, loyal, open-minded, and just an amazing person to work for,” said Andujar.

Honorable mentions

The Varallo Group

Worcester, Mass.

Categories recognized: Leadership and team-building

During 2015, the Varallo Group offered its employees a fitness program, which gave them the opportunity to establish health goals and meet and work with a personal trainer. The program was a huge success and produced immediate results that were clearly measurable, including weight loss and decreased absenteeism. An added benefit was that the employees grew closer through their shared experiences; for example, several employees ran together in their first-ever 5k race.

Cuyahoga Community College

Cuyahoga, Ohio

Categories recognized: Use of technology

The nomination for Cuyahoga Community College noted its use of technology to enhance students’ academic success, realtime writing achievement, and program satisfaction. From attending an introductory webinar before deciding to sign up for the program to its Blackboard Learning Management System, from using computer-compatible steno machines from the first day of class to accessing drills through Realtime Coach, the court reporting and captioning program uses technology to increase student satisfaction and eventual success.

Paradigm Reporting & Captioning

Minneapolis, Minn.

Categories recognized: Community outreach

Paradigm Reporting & Captioning donates to many local organizations, particularly legal associations and nonprofits that support the deaf and hard-of-hearing community. The Paradigm CART Captioning division provides many hours of pro bono services, including, in September, the captioning for the local Walk4Hearing that benefited the Hearing Loss Association of America. In addition, the company assembled 22 walkers to participate as “Team Paradigm.”

Caption First

Monument, Colo.

Categories recognized: Service in a nonlegal setting

Caption First, a company that offers remote and on-site captioning in a secure environment, established a call center that would offer stenographic relay services to people with hearing loss. The company used this as both a way to hire new stenographic professionals to hone their skills and a way to demonstrate stenographic skills to a broad audience. “It was a ‘court reporting continuum’ as it allowed new folks to work and provided relief to those who are winding down and don’t want to produce transcripts,” wrote Lesia Mervin, RMR, CRR, in her nomination. “And it, of course, highlighted realtime skills — always realtime skills.”

Cuyahoga Community College in Parma, Ohio

Cuyahoga Community College in Parma, Ohio

Schools: Leadership and team-building

Kelly Moranz, CRI

Cleveland, Ohio

At the Cuyahoga Community College in Parma, Ohio, Kelly Moranz spearheaded a mentoring program among all of the students, as well as with professionals. In addition, Moranz has supported the students in creating a new Captioning & Court Reporting Club. The club organized a Write-A-Thon (where all students had sponsors donate money as they wrote for five hours) and a bake sale. As Kristina Carmody wrote in her nomination, Moranz “generously donated and contributed time, money, and service to our fundraiser and even stayed the entire time and helped sell the baked goods while we wrote.”

Moranz is also in charge of recruiting new students for the program. Among the places that the school presents is a program called Women in Transition, which addresses women changing occupations or getting second careers later in life.

Dr. Mary Entz, Provost, DMACC-Newton holds a press conference to announce new court reporting program

Dr. Mary Entz, Provost, DMACC-Newton holds a press conference to announce new court reporting program

Special collaboration

DMACC and the Iowa Court Reporters Association

When Iowa court reporters received the news that AIB College of Business, which had been in place since the 1930s, would phase out the court reporting and captioning programs, the Iowa Court Reporters Association (ICRA) immediately went to work. The ICRA Board of Directors engaged Cathy Penniston, RPR, CRI, to investigate the matter, compile a report on successful court reporting schools throughout the country, and suggest a school in Iowa that could teach court reporting.

Penniston recommended contacting Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC), a well-established Iowa community college, to determine if it could create a court reporting program. When Stephanie Early, RDR, ICRA’s president at the time, and Bill Wimmer, its legislative representative, approached the school’s officials, they assured the school that ICRA was fully committed to assisting with the implementation of a court reporting program at DMACC.

DMACC's 2015 incoming theory students

DMACC’s 2015 incoming theory students

The DMACC school was interested in the concept and contacted other community colleges that offered court reporting programs. They also gathered more information about the curriculum and endorsements that would be needed to put such a program in place. In February 2014, the DMACC Board of Directors and the Iowa Department of Education approved the court reporting program. Then, in March, the DMACC Newton campus hosted a press conference to make the announcement about the new program: “DMACC has been working with the Iowa Court Reporters Association for more than a year to develop the curriculum, hire the faculty, and work out other details related to starting a new program.”

In 2014, Dr. Patricia Ziegler, CRI, CPE, was hired as a professor and program chair for DMACC’s new court reporting program, and in September of that year, eight students began classes at the Newton campus.

Through 2014-15, Iowa court reporters and AIB’s former vice president of admissions actively promoted the new program. More than 300 visits were made to Iowa high schools, career fairs, libraries, mock trials, and the Iowa State Fair. Through the Adopt-a- County project, Iowa court reporters marketed the profession and this new program in 26 of 99 Iowa counties. In addition, ICRA sponsored a student scholarship, and individual ICRA members mentored individual students. And in September 2015, a new class of 27 students enrolled.

The program is a success story stemming from the commitment and dedication of many, from the Iowa Court Reporters Association to the new DMACC court reporting program staff. As Penniston wrote in her nomination, “Because of the efforts of the Iowa Court Reporters Association and the hard work of everyone involved, court reporting education is alive and well in Iowa!”

Next JCR Awards

PERSPECTIVES: The Very Honourable Judge Murchie

By Diana L. Netherton

­I would be remiss in the recollection of my overseas work experience if I failed to mention one extraordinary man, a Crown Court Judge who presided at Reading Crown Court in Reading, U.K., nestled in the County of Berkshire, home of Her Majesty’s Windsor Castle.

It was at this location I met the Honourable Judge John Murchie for the first time. He was, at first glance, absolutely terrifying. Towering more than six feet tall, Judge Murchie ran his courtroom with an iron fist. We started on time. If anyone had the audacity to be late, he would angrily stomp into court from his chambers, stand at the bench, and glare at the offending party or parties until apologies were offered.

The first day I sat with him, he was not pleased. Apparently, a defendant showed up for trial with quite a bit of cannabis strategically located somewhere unmentionable on his person. The trial was for, yes, cannabis charges. Judge Murchie immediately postponed the trial and, despite pleas from the man’s barrister for mercy, immediately made the offender a guest of Her Majesty, to be taken forthwith to Reading Prison while the judge decided what to do with him.

The courtroom quickly cleared out leaving me, the judge, and June, an usher, who was busily removing the water pitchers. She had ignored me all morning. Judge Murchie stood up, leaned over the bench, and peered down at me curiously over his spectacles. I stared back, not sure what to say or if I should even be staring back at him.

“What’s your name, young lady?” he finally asked.

“Diana,” I stammered. “As in Princess.”

He let out a little chuckle. “Oh, one of our American cousins, I see, is what we have here. Come back for some tea, Princess.” He quickly got up and exited the back door.

I looked at June, uncertain of what to do or even where to go. “Well, don’t just sit there,” June snapped at me. “Don’t keep him waiting.” I suspected she didn’t like me at all and wasn’t going to offer me any assistance, so I exited the rear door, which led me into a long, narrow corridor. I started slowly down the corridor, peering into every open door until I found Judge Murchie’s chambers.

“Come in,” he gestured. He was seated behind a massive oak desk. His office was lined with books. There was a picture of Queen Elizabeth proudly displayed on the wall behind him.

A pot of steaming tea, cream, sugar, and biscuits (cookies) was brought in by a scowling June. He gestured me towards the teapot, as if to say, help yourself, so I went to pour my tea.

“I’ll take cream and two sugars,” he said. I managed to pour the tea without spilling any of it, quickly figuring out that my role from now on was to be the tea server. He motioned for me to sit down opposite.

I sat with Judge Murchie for a great deal of my time working in the U.K. We formed a friendship that would seem rather unusual at first glance. We shared the same birthdate; in fact, he was exactly 40 years older than me. We settled into the tea routine, me pouring and serving while engaging in witty banter and anecdotes about America, a country he regarded fondly. I learned that he attended Gordonstoun, a prestigious school in Moray, Scotland, which was, in many ways, the fictional Hogwarts School from the Harry Potter series. He was always proud to announce that he was specially chosen to be a greeter for the queen. He was one of a few judges commissioned to officially greet Her Majesty at formal public appearances. He proudly showed me several photos of him and the queen at various receptions throughout the course of several years.

Judge Murchie was swift and fair. One time a criminal case was brought against a couple who, apparently, held too may car boot sales in a year, in violation of a local ordinance. (Car boots sales are known here as garage sales.) When he heard about the allegations of this particular case, he banged his large fists on the bench, exclaiming, “This is the most absurd case I’ve ever had. Dismissed.”

 

Judge Murchie didn’t talk so much to you, but more at you. This wasn’t meant to be rude or insulting; I came to the conclusion that this is just how he operated. One time I mentioned that I was going to Spain with my husband for a week. He immediately got up and reached for an enormous book on the subject of the Spanish Revolution and General Franco. It was implied, not that I might read it, but that I would read it. Not so keen on the thought at first, and really looking forward to drinking sangria on the beach, I eventually picked the book up and started to read it, and I immediately found it fascinating. In fact, I couldn’t put it down for most of the holiday. When I returned from Spain, he quizzed me meticulously on just about every aspect of that book. I was relieved that I read it but also grateful for the opportunity to learn something new on a topic that I probably never would have imagined discovering on my own.

Judge Murchie also made sure that I was safe on the road. One day, he pulled out a disposable camera. “Put this is your glove box,” he advised me. “If you’re in an accident, you will need it to take pictures for evidence.” This was, of course, before mobile phones. I obliged him, not really thinking I would ever need to use it. However, a few weeks after he gave me the camera, I was rear-ended by an Asian cab driver who claimed he couldn’t speak English when I asked him for his insurance details. I remembered the camera, retrieved it from my glove compartment, and started snapping pictures of the cars and of the driver’s license plate. I turned the photos over to the police, and within a few days, I had the cabbie’s insurance details and the funds to repair the damage to my car.

Judge Murchie was also terribly hard of hearing and stubbornly refused to wear hearing aids. He would cup his hands behind his ears during most proceedings in an attempt to hear what was going on. In almost every trial we had together, he would lean over the bench and whisper, “Diana, can you get me that part where the witness says….?”

We also had a few unprecedented landmark cases together. One case, in particular, was the first prosecution in the U.K. of a driver who was using his mobile phone while driving and caused the death of an oncoming driver. After that trial and the conviction of the motorist, laws were quickly enforced banning the use of handheld devices while operating a vehicle.

The final time I saw Judge Murchie was in the year 2000. I was getting a divorce and had decided to relocate back to America a few months prior and was preparing for the move. He found out about my decision when he had returned from an extended holiday in India. The morning he returned to court, he called me back to his chambers. It was our birthdays, June 1. I had just turned 30, and he had just turned 70.

I was shocked when I first saw him that morning. He appeared very unwell. His skin exhibited a gray pallor, and he had lost a great deal of weight. He said that he would be out for another extended period of time because he had gotten food poisoning in India and needed to recover, but I suspected there was more to this story than what was revealed. It seemed like this once powerful, dynamic man had shrunk, and the vitality and vigor sucked out of him. My eyes started to tear. I knew, I sensed, that this would mostly likely be the last time I would see my dear friend and mentor, and as it turned out, it was.

He wished me well on my new life in America, offered me a hug, and handed me another enormous book, this time on the American Revolution. I thanked him for the kindness he had displayed to me over the years that we had worked together, kindness that was not always extended to a wide-eyed, young female American in an often stuffy, old boys’ environment. I thought that I could almost see tears in his eyes as I exited his chambers.

The Honourable John Murchie passed away only a few months after our final encounter. The food poisoning he alluded to turned out to be bowel cancer that had spread throughout his entire body. The dignity that he displayed so powerfully in life was also present upon his death. I was informed that he went peacefully with his loving wife by his side.

Two days after the news of his passing, I boarded a plane to America, my new book on the American Revolution tucked neatly away in my satchel.

I don’t know if the queen attended his funeral. I would like to think that she perhaps did, to pay homage to such a remarkable, loyal subject.

Diana L. Netherton, RPR, is an official court reporter in Lancaster, Pa. In addition to being an NCRA member, she is also a member of the British Institute of Verbatim Reporters. She can be reached at diana_n68@yahoo.com.