Court Hearings and the Court Reporter

Best Practices for Attorneys re the Court Reporter at Hearings

In many county courthouses throughout California, Friday is law and motion day. Every hour a new calendar is called by the judge with approximately 10 matters.  Attorneys will hire a court reporter to report their hearing if they feel it is important to have a record of the proceedings for a later date.  Many attorneys have more than one matter to cover on any given Friday and will rush in, argue their motion, and then immediately leave.  In these situations, it is tough for the court reporter to get the appearances.  Even though the judge will have counsel state their appearances for the record, later it is incumbent upon the court reporter to track down the address, phone number, and email address of each attorney.  Using the California Bar Attorney Search is helpful, but sometimes attorneys say their names incredibly fast, mumble, or have a common name that is shared by many other attorneys in California.

As a court reporter who has reported hundreds of hearings, I thought it might be helpful to suggest best practices to ensure an accurate and quick transcript.

  1. Find time to hand the court reporter your card with information written on it including who you are representing.
  2. When you state your appearance, speak slowly and clearly.
  3. If you cite a case or points and authorities, be ready to email the documents to the court reporter.
  4. When reading a cite, read slowly and enunciate each word. Don’t feel as if you need to rush and skip over the small words.
  5. If you are appearing via CourtCall, state your name and law firm clearly, and spell your last name.
  6. Let the reporter know if you will need a transcript of the hearing. The court reporter will not assume you automatically want the transcript. Many attorneys don’t want the transcript until and unless there is an appeal.
  7. If you know you will want a transcript before the hearing, have whomever is calling the court reporting agency to let the reporter know beforehand a transcript is being requested to be immediately written up. The agency will not send a court reporter who has a backlog and might not be able to quickly get the transcript out.

Court reporters want to do a good job for you. The more information they have, the more efficient they can be in getting out a transcript.

 

@rosaliekramm

Kramm Court Reporting (Facebook)

Attorneys - Depositions -
Consciousness

Attorneys – Deposition Transcripts – Consciousness

A common topic at court reporting conferences around the country is attorney consciousness and how attorneys seem to be less aware or even care about the record than in the past; that there are two types of attorneys, attorneys who are conscious of the record and attorneys who are not. I believe all attorneys want and need a good record, but many are not aware of what is happening while a deposition is taking place and get caught up in the moment, wanting to fulfill their mission to get testimony as advocates for their cause.

Conscious attorneys are mindful of each word. Their questions are grammatically correct, don’t contain double negatives, and are a full and complete thought.  When attorneys interrupt the witness or allow the witness to interrupt them, or there is constant talking at the same time, and there is a series of incomplete questions and answers, later on if that deposition testimony is read or shown to a judge and jury, it is going to be confusing.  Recently I have heard anecdotal stories by reporters saying that they will ask for people to speak one at a time and are told to just deal with it, “You can fix it later.”

As a way to learn how to make a clean record, I suggest to young attorneys that they request a real-time court reporter for a deposition or two (or more if the budget allows). It does cost more to have a real-time court reporter, but it is a great way to watch the record unfold, have a chance to pause, and actually read the record to ensure you have what you need with a clean question and answer.

Seasoned, successful attorneys typically make a beautiful record. It is a joy to report attorneys who are conscious of the record.

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lawbooks

Old-Fashioned Court Reporter?

I have been a Certified Shorthand Reporter for 34 years. When I got out of school, court reporters were still dictating their notes.  There were no computers.  When court reporters were first giving out rough drafts, I thought that was crazy.  Why would an attorney want a transcript that wasn’t perfect?  And then I heard about real-time reporting and thought that would never work.  Why in the world would I let an attorney see my raw writing?  It would be embarrassing.

Now I give out rough drafts and write real-time weekly, including streaming the transcript to remote sites.

BUT I have a feeling I might be old-fashioned in some of my thinking. The new norm is many court reporting firms are owned by non-court reporters, and new court reporters are trained how to punctuate by proofers.  My old-fashioned thinking is they need a court reporter to read their transcripts and teach them the nuances of punctuating a transcript, what to Global, and how to use parentheticals.  Modern reporters who wish to be great will go to seminars put on by their state associations and NCRA, and also might choose to learn online from the brilliant Margie Wakeman Wells on her website Margie Holds Court.  Margie’s website is a tremendous resource with webinars and one-on-one trainings available.  I didn’t know Margie’s website existed until a young reporter asked me if I thought that would help her with her English grammar.  I said, “Absolutely, yes.”

Another old-fashioned idea I have is that court reporters who become licensed shouldn’t put themselves out to be real-time reporters until they have at least two years under their belt. I believe most real-time depositions or trials are going to have complex, sophisticated subject matter, and a new reporter needs time to build speed, stamina, and a sophisticated dictionary.  I understand a new court reporter might have the knowledge to connect computers and send real-time, but my current belief system is that writing thousands of pages and having on-the-job experience would be a prerequisite to successful real-time reporting.  Maybe I am wrong.

As of three years ago, I thought that a court reporter getting out of school had to decide between working in court or freelance and report depositions. With the laying off of court reporters in civil courtrooms in California, the reporters have any option to be a hybrid and do both.  I find many court reporters are still choosing court or depositions, but as time goes on, I have met many young reporters who have a desire to choose court or depositions on any given day.

It has struck me in the last couple of weeks that there are a lot of new ways of doing things, and I am behind. I know a lot about real-time technology, electronic exhibits in depositions, and trial technologies.  I know about social media, connecting with LinkedIn or Facebook, but I am wondering what I don’t know.

My goal is to search out what I don’t know, and my plan is to talk to court reporters around the country at the NCRA convention in Chicago next month and ask them, “What’s happening?”

@rosaliekramm

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Stress free Court Reporters

How Court Reporters Can WIN the Stress Game

Stress free Court Reporters

Court reporters live with stress. Whether one has just gotten out of court reporting school and is having to deal with their first deposition, first hearing, first interpreter, whatever first, or one is a seasoned court reporter dealing with fast talking attorneys examining an expert witness in a patent case, stress is a part of the court reporter’s life.

In a recent TedTalk, health psychologist Kelly McGonigal said, “Stress is not the enemy we believe it is. In fact, according to a recent study, stress is only a risk to your health if you think stress is a risk to your health.”  In a study of 30,000 people, which took place over an eight-year period, researchers found that people who experienced a high amount of stress faced a 43 percent increased risk of death if they also believed stress is harmful to their health.  She says, “Instead of viewing stress as a health hazard, learn to make stress your friend.”  People who experienced the most stress, but did not believe it was harmful, had the lowest risk of dying. “Believing stress is bad for you was the 15th largest cause of death in the USA last year, killing more people than skin cancer, HIV, AIDS, and homicide.

“If you can change your mind about stress, you can change your body’s response to stress.”

According to the science, we have two opposing hormone responses to life. There are the fight or flight hormones, cortisol and adrenaline, which speed up your heart rate and create the hyper state which allows you to rapidly react your way out of danger; and there is the comfort and trust hormone, oxytocin, which has the exact opposite effects.  When life is difficult, your stress response wants you to be around people that will help you or comfort you, and being around those kinds of people your body has the built-in mechanism to counter stress, creating oxytocin.

Tony DeAngelis describes the hormone oxytocin in his article, “The two faces of oxytocin,” in Science Watch, published by the American Psychological Association, saying, “Oxytocin is produced mainly in the hypothalamus, where it is either released into the blood via the pituitary gland, or to other parts of the brain and spinal cord.” Oxytocin is described as “the love or cuddle hormone” as it increases feelings of trust and emotional bonding.

McGonigal states, “When you choose to view your stress response as helpful, you create the biology of courage. And when you choose to connect with others under stress, you can create resilience.”

I know when I am really worried about a deadline or a future job that I know is going to be super difficult, and I reach out to one of my dear friends in the court reporting world, people I have met at our state associations meetings, NCRA and STAR conferences, people who have the same stresses and pressures, and I ask for help or comfort, and I get the oxytocin flowing, my exhausting adrenaline surge will shift to positive energy. I am really happy to have found Kelly McGonigal’s TedTalk because now I know that reaching out to my friends is not only fun and makes me happy, but it is going to counteract the stress hormones and keep my healthy.

@rosaliekramm  Twitter

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Proofer court reporters' transcript.

Seven Tips for Newly Licensed Court Reporters

I have the privilege of working with newly licensed San Diego California Certified Shorthand Reporters. I am extremely proud of their writing ability and the fact they are not scared to learn and use the sophisticated functionality of their CAT software. I consider myself to be their coach.  My goal is their total success throughout their careers, wherever their incredible talent takes them.

In my coaching I have noticed a couple of issues that seem to come up that might be confusing.   Some of the tips would only relate to San Diego or California transcripts and might not apply to other parts of the country.

Tips:

  1. San Diego case numbers are extremely long, for instance, 2015-0000329-CU-PT-CTL. The case number is too long to follow the caption and fit on a line. What reporters do is divide the number up, 2015-000329-, second line CU-PT-CTL.
  2. For the certificate page, the court reporter signs their name on the signature line, and the date line should have the date of your signature, not the date of the job.
  3. Attorneys in Southern California will ask reporters to leave a blank for the witness to fill in, for instance, asking for a telephone number of a doctor. The reporter would leave a blank in a parenthetical format: (Information Requested: ______________________________________.) The index for the transcript would index the request:
  4. INFORMATION REQUESTED TO BE PROVIDED:                                                                               PAGE
  1. Telephone number of doctor                                                                                                                            23
  1. Women are known as Ms. (not Mrs. or Miss). Unless someone says “Mrs.” or “Miss” In a transcript, women are all referred to as Ms. In colloquy it will always be MS. JONES, never MRS. JONES or MISS JONES. If someone asked me to refer to her as MRS. JONES in colloquy, I would do it, but in the past 35 years no one has asked me to do so.
  2. Unlike school, attorneys won’t always sit where they are supposed to, on the left side of the table for plaintiff and right side of the table for defendant. My suggestion is to wait until the attorneys sit down and then assign the left or right bank to their name rather than if they represent the plaintiff or defendant. This is especially important if you have many attorneys present representing cross-plaintiffs, cross-defendants, or third parties.
  3. For some reason possessive seems to be tricky. The only time you write it’s is if the word is a conjunction, and it could read it is. “It’s” is never possessive, for instance, I love it’s hat. (wrong)
  4. Use the California State Bar Attorney search to find elusive phone numbers and email addresses of attorneys. Save it as a FAVORITE. Attorneys have to keep their information current on the site or risk losing their license.

I wish all newly licensed court reporters great success. Please know that experienced reporters all over the country are relying on you to take up the gauntlet and keep our industry alive and strong.  You have our support.  Ask questions.  We need you.

@rosaliekramm (twitter)

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Veronica with little setup

Court Reporters – What is an Oral Reply?

In certain jurisdictions and cases, attorneys hire court reporters to report an oral reply. In my experience, oral replies are typically used in union grievances especially in employment matters.  The court reporter is hired to take down the statement of the hearing officer, grievant, and her/his attorneys.  The hearing officer will swear in the grievant who will give their statement as to why they should not be reprimanded or punished for whatever charge they are being accused of.  For example, a border patrol agent might have gone home early before their shift was over and got paid for that time.

What the court reporter needs to expect is that the grievant many times will read the statement, and what I would suggest is the court reporter in a very matter of fact tone ask for any materials that are read. I will often say, “I need your statement that you read from so I have all of the correct spellings.”

I suggest that the court reporter ask the hearing officer at the end if the grievant is to have the opportunity to read and sign the transcript so you know whether or not to leave a penalty of perjury clause.   The reporter should include a cover page with the name of the governmental agency, the grievant’s name, “Oral Reply of Joan Smith,” and a date line and a certificate page similar or the same as a certificate page a court reporter would use in a court hearing or deposition.

 

 

 

Court Reporters and Legal Videographers - What is Witness' Name?

Court Reporters and Legal Videographers – What is the Witness’ Name?

Court reporters have the responsibility of getting the names of deponents, witnesses in court, and attorneys.  It might be surprising, but getting the spelling of a witness’ name can be challenging.

Having produced thousands of deposition transcripts, and having made mistakes as far as a witness’ name, I have created the following rules for myself:

  1. Always ask the witness for their full name, and never rely on a deposition notice or the attorney’s suggested spelling of the name.
  2. Upon asking for the deponent’s name, if the answer is something like, George Fallon, I always follow up with the question, “Do you have a middle name?” Otherwise, it is inevitable once we go on the record, and the attorney says, Please state your name for the record,” the witness will answer with a middle name that is tough to spell, for instance, “George Alan/Allen Fallon.”
  3. Once you get the full name, ask for the spelling of the whole name. The name David might be spelled Davyd. Never assume a spelling. I will ask, “Is David spelled the typical way, D-a-v-i-d, or does it have a unique spelling?” Otherwise, people might look at me like I am crazy asking how to spell David.
  4. Be consistent. If you use the full name on the cover page (Deposition of George Allen Fallon), use that full name on the certification page, the signature line, everywhere. Don’t use George Allen Fallon in one place, George Fallon in another place, or George A. Fallon another place. The transcript will not look professional.
  5. When the witness is doctor, Ph.D., (expert), put the appropriate initials after the name.  Do not use Dr. George Fallon; rather use George Fallon, M.D.  An expert’s report or business card will have the correct initials of any licenses or certifications.  If you use M.D., and choose not to put other initials behind the name, be consistent throughout the transcript.  For instance, use George Fallon, M.D. or George Fallon, M.D., Ph.D., BCED.

Names can be tricky, but not for great court reporters.

 

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Court Reporters and Legal Videographers - Financial Planning 101

Court Reporters, Videographers – Financial Literacy 101

A few weeks ago, while chatting with Bronwen Drummond, a financial advisor,  it hit me hard that court reporters and videographers, independent contractors, need to have a financial plan to protect their future and understand what is happening with any money they are making.   I know I used to just work, work, work, and not pay attention to what was happening because “that’s not my thing.”  At the age of 50 I decided to make it my thing, and now I feel more calm about the future.

I asked Bronwen if she would create for me a checklist of thinking points for court reporters and videographers.  Here is what she advises:

1.  Establish a foundation that includes a budget, “Save first and then spend what’s left over.  Rule of thumb for allocating your spending – 20%/60%/20%.  20%should be spent on saving and investing.  60% of your income should be spent on essential expenses, i.e., rent, mortgage, food.  20% can be spent on discretionary expenses, clothing, dining…

2.  Establish an emergency fund.  Have 3 to 6 months of living expenses saved.  Protect yourself against the unexpected.

3.  Risk Management – Protect yourself and your family from financial peril with disability insurance, health insurance, and life insurance.

4.  Debt Management Strategy – Educate yourself on the difference between healthy debt (debt that is tax deductible, i.e., mortgage, student loans) and unhealthy debt (credit cards).  DO NOT live on the mentality that you need to pay off your debt before you can start saving.

5.  Wealth Accumulation – Create a strategy for growth!  Where can you put your money so it works for your short-term/mid-term/long-term goals?  Short-term goals are what you want to accomplish between now and two years from now, i.e., down payment on a home.  The place to save your money for a short-term goal might be in a checking or savings account.  This is also where you put your emergency fund (3 to 6 months of expenses).   Mid-term and long-term goals, such as retirement, would use stocks, T-bills, bonds, and mutual funds; real estate.

I have read many experts opine that a third of your savings should be in cash, a third in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and a third in real estate.  The bottom line is having a strategy, setting goals, and then taking the steps to achieve the goals.   Being financially literate is truly not that hard.  It just takes some focus and perhaps a professional advisor along with your accountant and banker (your team) to help you understand where there might be tax savings, what products are on the market that would be perfect for you, and a plan.

I wish for everyone great success and a wonderful future.  We deserve it.

Rosalie Kramm

 

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Court Hearings and the Court Reporter

Motion GRANTED re Court Reporters’ Page Rates

Government Code Sections 69950 and 69954 regulate page rates an official court reporter may charge for transcripts in California Superior Courts. A lawsuit was brought by attorneys against an independent court reporting firm for charging more than what the Government Code provides for.   On Friday, January 8, 2016, the Court ruled on a motion brought be the Defendants for judgment.  The following is language from the ruling by Amy D. Hogue, Judge of the Superior Court.

“The Court is concerned, moreover, that government regulation of private court reporter rates compromises strong countervailing public policies favoring free enterprise and competition. The Court also agrees with Defendant that regulating the rates for private reporters may have additional impacts on the free market and potentially reduce the economic incentive for highly qualified private court reporters to serve as official reporters pro tempore.”

“With tax payers are no longer providing official court reporting services to all litigants and private reporters generating their own salaries, insurance and benefits, it is difficult to justify regulating private reporter rates as a matter of public policy.”

“The Court rejects Plaintiffs’ interpretation of the applicable statutes and finds that Plaintiffs have failed to state an actionable claim. The Court therefore GRANTS Defendant’s motion for judgment on the pleadings,” Amy D. Hogue, Judge of the Superior Court.

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Linda Pool Wins Disney Race

Five Tips For Success and Opportunity – Attorneys, Court Reporters…

In the last few months I have been approached by an attorney who just passed the bar, a financial planner that is selling for a large insurance company, a 53-year-old woman who was just laid off after 29 years working at a grocery store, and a newly licensed Certified Shorthand Reporter, all asking if I had any advice about networking and finding opportunity.  I know from experience certain things, but I wanted to give them “scientific, expert” advice.  Therefore, I did some research and found the following:

  1. A 10th of a Second: A series of experiments by Princeton psychologists Janine Willis and Alexander Todorov reveal that all it takes is a tenth of a second to form an impression of a stranger from their facial expression and how they present themselves.  You need to be 100 percent ready the moment you walk in the room, smiling, dressed appropriately, and with a positive attitude.
  2. Adjust your attitude:   In a recent Forbes article, Carol Kinsey Goman, Ph.D., business coach advises, “People pick up your attitude instantly. Before you turn to greet someone, or enter the boardroom, courtroom, or deposition, think about the situation and make a conscious choice about the attitude you want to embody.”  Before you get in the room think to yourself, “It’s show time,” and get energized.
  3. Straighten your posture: Goman also writes, “Status and power are nonverbally conveyed by height and space. Standing tall, pulling your shoulders back, and holding your head straight are all signals of confidence and competence.”
  4. Physical Contact: Reading, “Psychology of a Handshake,” it states, “A good handshake relates positively to extroversion and emotional expressiveness like sociability and friendliness, while a limp handshake is regarded negatively, as being indicative of shyness, neuroticism, and introversion.  Learn how to give a firm, friendly handshake.
  5. Use the Person’s Name:  As Dale Carnegie states, “A person’s name is to him or her the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”  There is a great article that talks about everything from using someone’s name you meet at a party to an email I found in the Washington Post, “Career Coach:  The Power of Using a Name.”

These five pieces of advice are all doable.  They are physical and practical.  Once a person has their degree, certification, or diploma, I believe you have the tools to embrace opportunity.  The key is to go forth and “do it.”  Congratulations to all of the newly licensed court reporters, attorneys, financial planners – everyone in the workforce.  I wish all of you great success in your careers.

 

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