NCRA MEMBER PROFILE: Ryan White, RMR, CRR

Ryan White, RMR, CRR

Ryan White, RMR, CRR

Currently resides in: Portland, Ore.
Employment type: Official
Member since: 2008
Graduated from: Sumner College, Portland, Ore.
Theory: Phoenix Theory

What are your favorite briefs?
I brief anything I can! I take ideas from Mark Kislingbury, FAPR, RDR, CRR; Ed Varallo, FAPR, RMR, CRR; Facebook court reporter groups; or I make them up as I go.

One of my favorites has to be MURPBD/MURPBD for the Miranda warnings that officers read verbatim off department-issued cards. Two strokes for an entire 80+ word paragraph!

How did you learn about the career?
My aunt is a court reporter, and she suggested I look into it. The rest is history!

What has been your best work experience so far in your career?
I have had so many good experiences, but I have to say I love being an official. I love being in the courtroom and working trials, I love the atmosphere and the people I work with. It’s given me an opportunity to grow as a reporter, fine-tune my skills, and provide realtime on a regular basis. It’s very gratifying to see my work in action, for example, splashed up on a courtroom projector during closing arguments.

What was your biggest hurdle to overcome?
I think the biggest hurdle was just getting started, getting my name out there to get freelance jobs. It took finding the right people to take me under their wings and give me a chance, and from there, it was all about providing the best service I could to build a good reputation.

What do you consider your greatest professional accomplishment?
My greatest accomplishment thus far has to be earning the CRR and RMR. I went into every test thinking I was just going to see where I was, and then I passed each one on my first try, with the exception of the RMR Jury Charge. I had a technical glitch, and so my first test wasn’t graded, but then I passed the next time.

Do you have a favorite tool?
My new favorite tool of the moment is the CVNet Browser Edition, which has enabled us to finally lose the cables to the judge’s computer, get full refresh, and provide realtime to anyone else who would like it, including court staff. It’s amazing!

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: 100-plus years of our profession (and counting)

By Diana Netherton

The duties of a court reporter, often referred to as a stenographer, have essentially remained the same for the past 100 years. The primary task of a court reporter is to capture the spoken word.

Technology, of course, has made the job of a court reporter much easier. From feather quills to computers, the evolution of the profession has been quite remarkable. Before the invention of an official shorthand, court proceedings were taken down in full writing. Of course, getting everything accurately was probably a stretch, but a basic summation of what occurred was recorded. The proceedings were then put into some form of a legible document, today referred to as a transcript, which could later be reviewed by the attorneys and judges for appeal purposes.

In the early 19th century, an American by the name of Isaac Pitman invented a phonetic shorthand theory that enabled stenographers to record proceedings at quicker speeds. This theory of shorthand was adopted by pen writers throughout the English-speaking world. Pitman then produced a varied number of new “editions” of his theory. However, some of his modifications did not bode well with the international shorthand community. One of the major changes was the placement of dot vowels. He reversed the order of the dot vowels and published his new theory in his following edition.

This slight modification rattled a few foundations throughout the steno community. After spending months, even years, crafting their skills with the original version, writers were faced with having to adopt these basic changes if they wanted to keep up with progressing trends. The British, in traditional stiff upper lip fashion, accepted the changes, stating that the modification would be the last they would accept. The Americans, however, in true rebellious fashion, were less accommodating. Some adopted the new theory, however, others produced their separate shorthand versions, keeping the vowels were they originally were. This resulted in several different versions, although not too dissimilar to the original version.

Fractions of these shorthand theories were used for many years until the arrival of a young, ambitious Irish immigrant called John Gregg. Often referred to as the “Apple MacIntosh of the 19th Century,” a new version of shorthand that Gregg created had many more appealing factors. Still phonetic in nature, Gregg’s shorthand proved to be more efficient than Pitman. It allowed the stenographer to keep the pen on the surface of the paper, so hand movements flowed easier. Pitman’s version had both thick and thin lines, whereas Gregg’s version depended on lighter strokes. Although both versions were utilized, in the end it was Gregg’s creation that won the popular vote. Gregg still remains the most popular version of pen shorthand to this day in North America.

Despite these advances in efficient notetaking, the pace technology quickly caught up with stenographers at the dawn of the 20th Century with the invention of the first functional stenotype machine. Created in 1877 by an American named Miles Bartholomew, this remarkable machine, comprising only ten keys, enabled the user to utilize the keys depressed singularly or simultaneously to capture the spoken word with a combination of dots and dashes. There were various improvements to this original prototype over the ensuing years. The modern steno machine keyboard that most resembles the keyboard utilized today by stenographers made its debut a few decades later in 1939. Still based on the use of phonetics, the machine enabled the operator to create “briefs,” allowing for entire phrases to be taken down at once. Extra keys were added, to a total of 26, and letters were assigned to each key or a combination thereof. A typical brief, for example, is the phrase beyond a reasonable doubt. These four words can be written simultaneously, and would look like this on a typical stenotype machine: “kwr a eu r d.” All it took to record this simple phrase was one stroke; all relevant keys being depressed at once. This was transferred to a roll of paper, similar in appearance to a grocery store bill, which was then typed up by the stenographer or a note reader, who could decipher these mysterious combination of letters.

The demise of Pitman/Gregg shorthand pen writers in the court systems began in much earlier, however, in 1914 at a national shorthand speed competition. Hundreds of hopeful pen writers crowded the convention, when in walked a group of teenage competitors. Sponsored by the Universal Stenotype Company, these upstart youths were trained to operate steno machines at equal or in excess speeds of the most seasoned of pen writers. These machine writers managed to win every contest and walked off with all of the awards. Alarmed at this new technological development, and fearing for their very livelihood, contest organizers pulled the plug on the national competition for five years. However, by the time the next national competition returned in 1919, the point had been made. Even though machine writers were banned from the competition, it was too late. Machine writers had already begun to replace pen writers in court rooms across America.

Today there are thousands of court reporters employed in various aspects of the profession. Increasing computer technology has enabled court reporters to be useful in other areas besides the courtroom. One of these areas is called CART, or Communication Access Realtime Translation. This enables the end user to read almost simultaneously what is being spoken on a computer or television screen. Specialized software is programmed to translate the reporter’s machine strokes, turning the seemingly unintelligible mass of letters into a comprehensible language. This is particularly helpful for the hearing impaired, who use the services of court reporters to follow live proceedings such as the news, government hearings, sporting events, and even in university settings.

Because of these rapid technological advances over the past 100 years, the future of the court reporting has remained a pertinent concern for those in the profession. There has always been speculation of what new invention could completely take over the duties of a court reporter. Budget cuts, lack of funding, and the economy have all played a part in the reduction of reporters and many government entities are implementing the use of electronic recording device systems. However, headways in technology have also assisted the profession. The widest area of changing direction is in the captioning field. Several captioning services are finding that there are more captioning hours to fill than trained stenographic captioners.

Despite the shifting trends that have affected the reporting profession, there is one fact that cannot be disputed, and that is the accuracy of having a live reporter at a proceeding. In the words of Vykki Morgan, RDR, CRI, CPE (Ret.), a court reporting instructor at Cerritos College in California: “Costs and technology can’t completely wipe out a reporter’s work duties as long as an accurate record is treasured and regarded as essential.” And because the profession of reporting has evolved and grown with the modern innovation, it is almost certain that reporters will be utilized and will remain essential for an accurate record for hopefully another 100 years or more.

Diana Netherton, RPR, is an official reporter based in Lancaster, Pa. She can be reached at NethertD@co.lancaster.pa.us.

My happiest reporting job

The JCR asked members about the happy occasions they have reported, and several members were excited to share their tales of the adoptions, graduations, and other joyful occasions they have worked. One respondent noted that just writing up her story about the happy occasion she reported put her in a better mood, so keep these stories in mind when you need a mood booster – or keep a file of your own favorite jobs as a reminder.

man in graduation cap and gown Watching my first CART student graduate

I feel like my first CART student and I grew up together. The day he graduated from college was one of the proudest days of my life.

After a number of years as an agency court reporter, I was offered a long-term assignment (through that same agency) providing CART to an incoming college freshman. I had never provided CART; he had never experienced CART. He was the only student who was deaf and non-ASL attending the university. He had been mainstreamed during his K-12 schooling. Wow! You can imagine his reaction when he started reading my screen that first day and finally saw how much information he had been missing. We literally were together for five years straight, through successes and failures, good classes and bad. We built a strong bond as he learned to trust and rely on me for both classroom CART and also communication access during times when my steno machine was not set up. He learned to lip read me very well, and I could reiterate conversations as we walked to classes together. I also was one of the few people who could understand him when he used his voice, and I think that allowed him a lot of freedom to express himself without the embarrassment of being misunderstood. In essence, I watched him become a strong, independent adult.

When graduation time came, I felt like a part of the family. His parents treated me with affection and gratitude. I became quite choked up as I captioned his graduation ceremony. I was overjoyed with happiness as I reflected back on his struggles, successes, and the bright future that was awaiting him.

It’s been a number of years now, and I’ve seen many students I worked with graduate. These graduations are always a time to celebrate the successes of the students with whom I’ve had the privilege of being their CART captioner. But I shall never forget my first graduate!

Kris Wurgler, RPR

Cottage Grove, Wis.

parents with newly adopted childAdoption days at my courthouse

I am an official in a district court in Texas. I’ve been reporting around 23 years and have been in this court almost 18 of those years with one judge. We are strictly family law, hearing all of the child protective Services child abuse and neglect cases in Smith County, divorces, child custodies, attorney general child support enforcement cases, termination of parental rights, and just every really sad thing having to do with families and children.

But we also do several adoptions. We even do two Adoption Days in our court, one being National Adoption Day, which is huge affair with a party, clowns, balloons, lunch, cakes, picture slide shows, and large gift baskets for every child being adopted. These are the only good, positive cases we hear, and they bring much needed happiness and usually tears of joy to all of the court staff and participants.

Even for the regular (non-Adoption Day) adoptions in the courtroom, my judge has the entire cast of family and friends/supporters of the family come up in front of the bench with the family. After testimony is adduced to prove up the legal proceedings, the judge steps off of her elevated bench, comes around with the families, talks to the kid(s), holds the little ones (if they’re not bigger than her tiny frame), has everyone there form a large circle while holding hands, and then grants the adoption. She then kisses the kid(s) on the head, and everyone applauds. Then we go off of the record and have photo shoots with everyone present, then the family, and then the immediate family (with and without the judge).

My judge makes it very special for everyone, and it’s a joyous occasion. It’s quite an oasis in a very dry desert.

Kristy Crawford, RMR, CRR

Tyler, Texas

Early in my career I reported an adoption day on a Saturday. I had no children then and was really honored to be a part of that day, because I knew that everyone who took part sincerely wanted to be there. Little did I know that years later, my husband and I would embark on our own adoption journey.

A family law case I reported years ago did not start out happy but ended up that way. A troubled boy’s parents had basically given up on him. An employee at the boy’s school and her husband decided to take him in. After that he thrived, and the last I heard, he was going to college. The mother was supposed to be sending this couple child support, but she didn’t. That did not change this couple’s desire to make this boy a part of their family.

More recently I reported a case in which a young woman wanted to take over guardianship of a young boy. Her deceased mother had been the boy’s guardian. The woman and her boyfriend really stepped up to the plate to care for this boy who was not a family member.

Dina Lidis, RPR, CRR

Los Angeles, Calif.

I worked in a child-in-need-of-care court for approximately three years, and we participate in National Adoption Day. This exciting event is held in November every year, and we made so many forever families! Every event is filled, usually 10 or more families, adoptions of foster children, step children, closed adoptions, open adoptions. It’s so difficult to have a smile on your face, a tear in your eye, and try to write it all down. We would make a copy of the adoption proceedings and give it to the parents as a gift of their special day.

Also, I went to cover a court proceeding where the defendant could read the written word but couldn’t process the spoken word. So he would be able to look at my screen to see what the judge had said so he could appropriately answer. It was one of the most rewarding scenarios I’ve participated in. He could hear; he just couldn’t process it.

Cindy L. Isaacsen, RPR

Olathe, Kan

Given the nature of the business that occurs in the courtroom, very few instances are happy events. Years ago while working as an official court reporter, I had the pleasure of reporting each hearing when our nieces were adopted. The judge of the probate court at that time would take a photo of the child, or children, and their adoptive parent or parents with the use of a Polaroid camera. After many years on the bench, the judge had quite a photo album!

Of course, there are those occasions that just might tickle your funny bone; the lawyer during jury selection in a murder trial who states, “there may be graphic photos depicting the scene of the murder and the victim is usually dead”; the lawyer who comes before the bench with his suit coat firmly tucked in his pants following his return from the little boy’s room; the all-important name change so that the petitioner’s name would match the misspelled tattoo of his name his new bride had emblazoned on her person for him as a surprise; and the lawyer that was interrupted by his “client” during argument in a provisional relief hearing only to learn that she was not, in fact, his client.

All times, mind you, that the trained, professional court reporter remains composed with a stoic look on his or her face that would fool even the most practiced Texas Hold’em player.

Timothy B. St. Clair, RMR

Mishawaka, Ind.

lighthouse at sunsetA narrated tour of historic lighthouses

I once provided CART on a ferry boat for the Hearing Loss Association (HLA) of Rhode Island. It was a narrated tour of Rhode Island’s historic lighthouses on Narragansett Bay. Our group was on the second or third level of the ferry. There were windows on all sides to view the bay. I had someone help me secure my screen to the front wall so it wouldn’t tip over. I sat in a booth sideways looking in towards the aisle. My projector was on the table. I remember wishing for a smooth trip so my projector would not get knocked over.

The narrator gave a historical and humorous presentation of all ten lighthouses. The HLA participants read my screen and got to look out at the bay simultaneously. It was a gentle ride, a memorable tour, and I got to feel like a tourist in my own state.

I’ve also provided CART for more than 15 graduations for parents, relatives, and graduates from colleges (state and Ivy League), the Naval War College, and high schools. They’ve been in every venue you can think of: auditoriums, arenas, gyms, outdoors, and in churches. I’ve projected on large screens or HD televisions. And I’ve used just my laptop for one or two consumers.

My most memorable was in 2014 when I was providing CART for the first Deaf graduate of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University. I had been working closely with him since 2006 as an undergrad at Brown. It was held at the First Unitarian Church of Providence. All the graduates were sitting in the pews as their families and loved ones looked on. I got to sit right in the pew. I even participated in rehearsal beforehand to make sure my laptop and writer would fit and that my equipment would not interfere with the flow of the graduates receiving their diplomas. I feel blessed that I got to be there front and center and celebrate this special milestone with him. He’s now at Yale in his second year of residency in internal medicine.

Jen Milette, RPR

Warwick, R.I.

Swearing in a judge

I had a friend who was appointed as a judge, and I volunteered to report that swearing-in ceremony. In our area, it is customary to have a swearing-in ceremony where the appointee is officially sworn in as a judge, and various friends and colleague speak about the new judge — some as a roast and some attesting to their character, ability, and so on. I was able to put in all the asides that we as reporters think about. That is, I put in parentheticals such as “rolling his eyes,” “whereupon Judge X blushed uncontrollably,” and “polite laughter at the bad joke.” You get the picture. It was quite fun, and my friend talked about how much fun he had reading it later with his family!

Pamela Cotten, RDR

Santa Ana, Calif.