Court reporting schools and state associations across country honor veterans through the Veterans History Project

Many court reporting schools, state associations, firms, and courthouses across the nation celebrate Veterans Day by interviewing veterans about their wartime experiences for the Veterans History Project (VHP). These VHP Days have become annual traditions in Iowa, Minnesota, and Illinois, to name just a few places.

Iowa Court Reporters Association & Des Moines Area Community College

For the past eight years, the Iowa Court Reporters Association (ICRA) has partnered with a local court reporting school to host a VHP Day in November. The event was hosted at AIB College of Business until the school closed its court reporting program in 2012. When Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) picked up AIB’s court reporting program, it also happily picked up the partnership with ICRA. Between the partnerships with AIB and DMACC, ICRA has interviewed almost 200 veterans.

On Nov. 4, DMACC and ICRA hosted their third shared VHP Day and interviewed 12 veterans who had served in World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, and Operation Enduring Freedom.

The event involves more than simply interviewing veterans. This year, the local color guard posted the colors, Renee Davenport sang the national anthem, and Col. Greg Hapgood from Camp Dodge in Johnson, Iowa, handed out framed certificates to the veterans following a catered luncheon.

The event provides an opportunity to recognize veterans for their service, even when the veterans do not believe there is anything noteworthy about their service.

The committee who organized the VHP Day in Illinois. From left, front row: Teresa Kordick, Julie Van Cleve, Patti Ziegler. Back row: Kelli Mulcahy, Pam Burkle, Carrie Nauman, and Amanda Kieler. (Not pictured: Dixie Rash and Kelly Pieper)

The committee who organized the VHP Day in Illinois. From left, front row: Teresa Kordick, Julie Van Cleve, Patti Ziegler. Back row: Kelli Mulcahy, Pam Burkle, Carrie Nauman, and Amanda Kieler (Not pictured: Dixie Rash and Kelly Pieper)

“The common theme I have noted among all stories is that they don’t feel that their service was of any particular importance,” said Pamela Burkle, RPR, an official from Urbandale, Iowa, one of the organizers of the annual event. “But when you put them all together, they are important. One part cannot work without the other. One veteran said he made bread, and that was his job, and he didn’t feel it was very important. However, I think if you asked any of the veterans in his platoon, they would say their bread/food was an integral part of their survival.”

Since the event is hosted at DMACC, court reporting students are invited to participate as student guides and room monitors. In addition to hearing the veterans’ stories, which have a profound impact on everyone in the room, the students get the opportunity to speak with the seasoned court reporters who are transcribing the interviews.

“I was speaking with the student in my room and explaining how I was adding to my job dictionary based on the conversation the interviewer and the veteran were having prior to the interview starting,” said Burkle. “She had no idea how that worked, and she told me that she thought I was having computer problems because I kept going back to my laptop.”

There is a sense of urgency to interviewing veterans before it’s too late. “Last year, shortly after the histories were taken, a couple of the veterans passed away before the transcripts were even completed,” said Burkle. Fortunately, their stories will live on in the Library of Congress.

Anoka Technical College & Minnesota Association of Verbatim Reporters & Captioners

The Judicial Reporting Program at Anoka Technical College in Minnesota has hosted an annual VHP Day the Saturday before Veterans Day since 2008, interviewing approximately 50 veterans to date. Working closely with the Minnesota Association of Verbatim Reporters & Captioners, the college recruits students to interview the veterans and Minnesotan reporters to write and transcribe the interviews.

The annual event used to be hosted on the college campus, but Anoka Tech has recently taken the event off-site.

“The past couple of years we have taken our team to an assisted living home so we can interview World War II and Korean War veterans who are not as mobile anymore,” said Jennifer Sati, RMR, CRR, CRC, CRI, an NCRA Director and instructor at Anoka Tech. “Most recently, on Nov. 5, Minnesota reporters and students … joined together to help preserve history for 12 wartime veterans at Chandler Place Assisted Living in St. Anthony.” Nine of these veterans served in World War II and three served in the Korean War.

“We make our VHP event more than just interviews,” Sati continues. “We have food, music (an accordion player), decorations, and we invite veterans to return back the following years to enjoy the day and continue building friendships.”

John Pletscher, accompanied by his daughter Chris, is interviewed by Tom Piltoff while Debbie Peterson transcribes

John Pletscher, accompanied by his daughter Chris, is interviewed by Tom Piltoff while Debbie Peterson transcribes.

Tom Piltoff, a court reporting student, served as an interviewer at this year’s event. “It was an extremely humbling experience to be in the presence of such great men and an honor to have been able to hear even a small chapter or two of their stories,” he said.

The participants will remember these stories for years to come. One memorable veteran is Larry Tillemans.

“He lived in a small town outside of the Twin Cities,” said Sati. “One of the students who worked as a waitress in a small café he frequented mentioned that her school hosts VHP Days. He was interested! As it turns out, Mr. Tillemans was a typist with the Third Army in Munich, Germany (1945-1946). He was assigned by the Army to type transcripts at the Nuremberg War Crime Trials and the Dachau Tribunal. Throughout the 218 days Mr. Tillemans spent in Germany, he witnessed over 350 Nazis and victims of the Holocaust give their testimony. Mr. Tillemans personally typed over 200,000 affidavits. He shares his experience with as many people as he could. He is adamant people hear actual accounts from people who were present when history was being made.”

Lake County, Ill., Veterans History Project

The Lake County Courthouse in Waukegan, Ill., has hosted its annual VHP Day for the past five years on Veterans Day.

“Our VHP event would never have happened if it hadn’t been for my colleague, Vernita Allen-Williams (our current ILCRA president),” said Deborah Cohen-Rojas, RPR, an official from Lake County, Ill., one of the event’s organizers. Allen-Williams, RMR, an official from Waukegan, Ill., is the current president for the Illinois Court Reporters Association. “[She] had read about the project and mentioned it to our then-chief judge, Fred Foreman, and, upon his retirement, support for the project was continued by our next chief judge, John Phillips, who is also a veteran,” Cohen-Rojas continued. “Both Judge Foreman and Judge Phillips are retired now, but they remain strong supporters of the project, and they both volunteered at this year’s event.” According to Cohen-Rojas, Allen-Williams and Colleen Eitermann, an official, from Deerfield, Ill., coordinated the first event and began “what has become a proud tradition at our courthouse.”

This event has grown exponentially over the past five years, from nine veterans the first year to a record 35 veterans this year, bringing their five-year total up to 134 veterans interviewed.

“The first year we did the VHP,” says Cohen-Rojas, “we put out pastries and fruit and coffee, and we had the opening ceremony in one of our courtrooms. Then, as more people participated each year, more people wanted to be involved and more ideas started to surface. The Young Marines, in addition to helping serve the veterans and their families breakfast, also help out as escorts for disabled veterans. Last year we had challenge coins made for the veterans with all of the branches of the military represented on them. We started sending the veterans packages after the interviews with copies of their interview transcripts, framed certificates, thank-you letters, and photos from the event. Representatives from organizations like the Honor Flight and the Daughters of the American Revolution got involved, as well. It has really been an honor to watch this event grow and evolve. My favorite part is hearing afterward from volunteers that the experience has changed them and that they want to volunteer again not just for the next year, but for every year after that!”

The entire community backs the annual event. The Lake County Bar Association supplies interviewers and escorts for the veterans, and contributes financially to support the event.

“State’s attorneys, public defenders, and private practitioners participate, as well as several retired judges,” adds Cohen-Rojas. “The Marines volunteer time and food for the fantastic breakfast served to the veterans and their families. The staff at the 19th Circuit café volunteer their time in helping to serve breakfast, as well.”

Of course, the event wouldn’t be complete without the court reporters.

“The court reporters are really superstars. Several of the 19th Circuit’s reporters participate, and we have freelancers and other officials who come from all over the state as well as several from other states,” said Cohen-Rojas. “I talked to at least three reporters this year who had come from so far away that they got hotel rooms and traveled in the day before the event. These reporters happily sacrifice their time off and, in the case of freelancers, personal expense to be a part of this event. I really can’t say enough about them.”

For more information on how you can interview a veteran in your community, or host your own VHP Day, visit NCRA.org/NCRF or contact NCRF’s Foundation Manager, April Weiner, aweiner@ncra.org.

State-wide court reporter shortage could soon affect Rio Grande Valley

jcr-publications_high-resValleyCentral.com reported on Nov. 30 that a shortage of court reporters across the state could make it difficult for courts in the Rio Grande Valley, Texas, to fill these positions in the near future.

Read more.

South Dakota reports a shortage in court reporters

jcr-publications_high-resNCRA member Pat Beck, RMR, a freelance reporter from Sioux Falls, S.D., was quoted in a story posted Dec. 1 by television station KDLT, about a shortage of court reporters in the state.

Read more.

NCRA submits letter supporting freelance and official court reporters in Arizona

NCRA President Steve Zinone, RPR, submitted a letter on May 20 to the Arizona Supreme Court opposing the proposed petition to amend Rule 30. The letter also supports a previous petition made by the Arizona Court Reporters Association (ACRA). The letter clarified that, even though they are not all full-time employees of the court system, both freelance and official court reporters share the same technical qualifications as well as the same respect for the integrity of the record and the court reporters’ transcript should remain the official court record. The letter echoed ACRA’s suggestion to “implement regulations regarding the archiving and control of the record when the court reporter who is used is not employed by the court.”

Read more.

Promotions and pay raises for court reporters draws scrutiny

JCRiconAccording to an article posted by the Journal Star [Peoria, Ill.] on May 19, Judge Steve Kouri, chief judge of the 10th Judicial Circuit Court in Illinois, rescinded promotions of two court-reporting employees who recently had received five-figure raises after scrutiny from peers on the bench.

Read more.

DMACC court reporting students get first-hand tour of state Supreme Court

Students and staff from DMACC pose in front of the Iowa Supreme Court.On April 6, more than two dozen students from the court reporting program at the Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) had the opportunity to tour the Iowa Judicial Building and Iowa Supreme Court.

The tour was arranged by DMACC adjunct professor of CART, Cathy Penniston, RPR, CRI, to provide students with the opportunity to become familiar with the state’s judicial system, experience a live courtroom event, and learn from Iowa’s leading jurists. Penniston, who also is a CART provider, had previously worked with one of the judges. Also accompanying the students were Dr. Patti Ziegler, CRI, CPE, the program’s chair, and instructor Deb DeBuc.

During their visit, the students had the opportunity to meet with the Hon. Michael Mullins and the Hon. David Wiggins in the Court of Appeals. The meeting was followed by observing an hour of oral arguments in a live courtroom setting.

DMACC is the only school to offer a realtime court reporting program in Iowa. The program, launched in 2014, was recently certified by NCRA.

According to Ziegler, the students were very appreciative of the tour and expressed a great deal of positive feedback.

North Carolina budget increases court reporter pay

WFMY TV 2, Greensboro, N.C., reported on Sept. 16 that state lawmakers have approved salary increases for court reporters after cuts a year ago led to many reporters leaving to seek jobs in other states. The salary cuts had forced Forsyth County to shut down half of its district courtrooms.

Read more.

Alabama budget crisis could shut down court system

A June 8 story on the Alabamanews.net site noted that the court system could be shut down if lawmakers don’t fix the state budget. The court system is faced with cuts of approximately 15 percent, according to the article.

Read more.

District attorney’s office asks requests funds for new court staff

On March 12, silive.com reported that the Staten Island District Attorney’s Office has requested $214,966 annually from the city to staff the new state Supreme Court in St. George and handle an accelerated trial schedule with a new Criminal Court. The new staff would include a new judge, a law secretary, clerks, court reporters, and officers.

Read more.

Pennsylvania announces new rules for court reporting

A Dec. 5 article in the Pennsylvania Record reported that the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania has adopted a comprehensive set of new rules to govern court reporting services provided to judges, lawyers, and citizens in the state’s 60 judicial districts. The article cites a news release issued by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts dated Dec. 4. The changes, which include transcript fees, the use of electronic transcripts, how to handle payments, and transcript formatting among other things, are set to go into effect June 1, 2015.

“Five years ago, a select number of reporters were chosen to participate in discussions regarding Rule 5000 revisions. We were disappointed that our suggestions were, in large part, disregarded. The Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association engaged an attorney at that time to draft a response to the AOPC addressing our concerns, but communication was abruptly terminated by the AOPC. We heard nothing over the intervening five years until Dec. 5, when the order was announced,” says Kathy McHugh, president of the Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association.  “PCRA has formed together a committee to thoroughly review the rules and their impact on officials. With the help of NCRA and other state leaders who have reached out to us, we are developing talking points for reporters to discuss with their President Judges to facilitate a team approach in implementing these new rules.”

NCRA will work with PCRA to defend court reporters in this action.

Read more.