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Protect your court reporting gear.

Court Reporters – Watch Out! There are Thieves Lurking Out There

In the past two months I have heard of two court reporters having their gear stolen from their vehicle. One reporter had just reported a deposition with a witness who was flown in from a foreign country pursuant to a court order.  He testified for three hours.  The reporter packed up her gear, left the office complex garage, drove to a gas station to fill up her tank. As she was pumping gas, a car drove up, a man jumped out, opened her back door, and stole her laptop, steno machine, and depo bag.  It was fast!  The court reporter yelled, “Stop,” but the thief jumped back into the car and drove off.  The reporter had her cell phone in her hand and took a picture of the driver’s license of the get-away car.

She called the police. They asked her to go to a city website and fill out a report and attach any document/photos she wished to attach.  Bottom line, the job was gone.

I had to call the attorneys and let them know. This is what they wanted from the court reporter:

  1. Time/location of theft.
  2. Police report. Even if the police don’t want to come out and write up a report, insist that you have the chance to file a report with the police and keep any information about the report number, locale, et cetera. Our clients wanted to follow up and have documentation to prove to the judge the deposition was gone.
  3. Photograph of license plate. Our clients decided to hire a private detective to go after the thieves. Obviously, it might be rare to have the photograph, but any identification of the car, license plate, and thieves would be helpful.

The reporter’s laptop and exhibits, deposition bag probably will never be found again, but few people know what to do with a steno machine. The reporter called the local pawn shops and asked them to let her know if a steno machine, green Luminex, was turned in or someone was trying to pawn a machine.]

I did some research regarding thefts at gas stations, and there is a new kind of thief called a “slider.”   The thieves wait for the person to get out of their car to pump gas, before “sliding” into the car.  Crouched over, the thief opens the passenger door, steals whatever is there, and slides back out many times with the driver not even noticing.

It is sad that we need to be paranoid for our belongings, but it is better to be aware of what is going on and protect our gear.

Deposition by Written Question

CFR United States Department of Labor OSHA Deposition Guidelines

Reading through the Code of Federal Regulations, OSHA guidelines regarding depositions, there are many differences from Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30 when it comes to the court reporter and videographer. The provisions are set out as follows:

2200.56(a) General. Deposition of parties, intervenors, or witnesses shall be allowed only by agreement of all parties, or on order of the Commission or Judge following the filing of a motion of a party stating good and just reasons.  All depositions shall be before an officer authorized to administer oaths and affirmations at the place of examination.  The deposition shall be taken in accordance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, particularly Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30.

2200.56(b) When to file. A motion to take a deposition may be filed after the filing of the first responsive pleading or motion that delays the filing of an answer, such as a motion to strike.

2200.56(c) Notice of taking. Any depositions allowed by the Commission or Judge may be taken 10 days written notice to the other party or parties.  The 10-day notice requirement may be waived by the parties.

2200.56(d) Expenses. Expenses for a court reporter and the preparing and serving of depositions shall be borne by the party at whose instance the deposition is taken.

2200.56(e) Use of depositions. Depositions taken under this rule may be used for discovery, to contradict or impeach the testimony of a deponent as a witness, or for any other purpose permitted by the Federal Rules of Evidence and the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, particularly Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 32.

2200.56(f) Excerpts from depositions to be offered at hearing. Except when used for purposes of impeachment, at least 5 working days prior to the hearing, the parties or counsel shall furnish to the Judge and all opposing counsel the excerpts from depositions (by page and line number) which they expect to introduce at the hearing.  Four working days thereafter, the adverse party or counsel for the adverse party shall furnish to the Judge and all opposing parties or counsel additional excerpts from the depositions (by page and line number) which they expect to be read pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 32(a)(4), as well as any objections (by page and line number) to opposing party’s or counsel’s depositions.  With reasonable notice to the Judge and all parties or counsel, other excerpts may be read.

2200.56(g)(1) Telephone depositions may be conducted pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(4)

2200.56(g)(2) If a party objects to a telephone deposition, he shall make known his objections at least 5 days prior to the taking of the deposition. If the objection is not resolved by the parties or the Judge before the scheduled deposition date, the deposition shall be stayed pending resolution of the dispute.

2200.56(h) Video depositions. By indicating in its notice of a deposition that it wishes to record the deposition by videotape (and identifying the proposed videotape operator), a party shall be deemed to have moved for such an order under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(b)(3).  Unless an objection is filed and served within 10 days after such notice is received, the Judge shall be deemed to have granted the motion pursuant to the following terms and conditions:

Stenographic recording. The videotaped deposition shall be simultaneously recorded stenographically by a qualified court reporter.  The court reporter shall administer the oath or affirmation to the deponents on camera.  The written transcript by the court reporter shall constitute the official record of the deposition for purposes of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 30(e)(submission to witness).

2200.56(h)(2) Cost.  The noticing party shall bear the expense of both the videotaping and the stenographic recording.  Any party may at its own expense obtain a copy of the videotape and the stenographic transcript.

2200.56(h)(3) Video operator. The operator(s) of the videotape recording equipment shall be subject to the provisions of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 28(c). At the commencement of the deposition the operator(s) shall swear or affirm to record the proceedings fairly and accurately.

2200.56(h)(4) Attendance. Each witness, attorney, and other person attending the deposition shall be identified on camera at the commencement of the deposition.  Thereafter, only the deponent (and demonstrative materials used during the deposition) will be videotaped.  Identification on camera of each witness, attorney, and other person attending the deposition may be waived by the attorney for the parties.

2200.56(h)(5) Standards. The deposition shall be conducted in a manner to replicate, to the extent feasible, the presentation of evidence at a hearing.  Unless physically incapacitated, the deponent shall be seated at a table or in a witness box except when reviewing or presenting demonstrative materials for which a change in position is needed.  To the extent practicable, the deposition shall be conducted in a neutral setting, against a solid background, with only such lighting as is required for accurate video recording.  Lighting, camera angle, lens setting, and field of view will be changed only as necessary to record accurately the natural body movements of the deponent or to portray exhibits and materials used during the deposition.  Sound levels will be altered only as necessary to record satisfactorily the voices of counsel and the deponent. Eating and smoking by deponents or counsel during the deposition will not be permitted.

2200.56(h)(6) Interruptions. Videotape recording will be suspended during all “off the record” discussions.

A couple of the more interesting provisions require the videographer to be sworn in to video fairly and accurately, and no eating or smoking is permissible at the deposition.

Kramm Court Reporters & Legal Video has the court reporters and videographers that are familiar with the rules and are happy to answer any questions you might have about your next deposition.  Here is a link to more information about Federal Rules of Civil Procedure 30(e) regarding reading/signing depositions.

 

@rosaliekramm  (Twitter)

Kramm Court Reporting (Facebook)

Deposition Arbitration Room

TIPS FOR TELEPHONIC DEPOSITIONS FOR ATTORNEYS & COURT REPORTERS

Everyone is looking for opportunities to save costs these days in litigation. Many attorneys are choosing to take depositions telephonically so as to not incur travel costs and to save travel time.  Here are some ideas on how to make the telephonic deposition go smoothly.

  1. Have the court reporter with the witness. The reporter is able to swear in the witness and hear every word. As everyone knows, with teleconferences, if two people speak at the same time or there is any type of line interference, it is hard to hear or understand. Having the reporter with the witness ensures a better record.
  2. Advice to court reporters (especially if there are multiple people on the line): Rather than writing down each person’s information, including address and phone number(s), just get the attorney’s full name and website. It is much easier to look up the attorneys and create your appearance page(s) from a website than from scribbling down information over a phone.
  3. Court reporters, speak up if you are not understanding something, can’t hear, or don’t know who is speaking. Before the deposition starts, make a statement, for example, “Please identify yourself before you speak. There are multiple voices, and it is difficult to differentiate between them.” If someone starts speaking, and you are not sure who it is, you may interrupt with, “Excuse me. Who is speaking?” After a while, people will get the hang of it.
  4. Attorneys, if your court reporter interrupts, as discussed above, please be patient and understanding. They are not, in any way, trying to disrupt you. They are only trying to do produce the best record they can of the deposition.
  5. Court reporters, if possible, get a service list before the deposition begins and start inputting your appearance page or get a copy and check off names. You will need to know who the different participants represent. Once again, it is often difficult to get that kind of information with spellings over the phone.
  6. Court reporters, if the firm you are working with agrees and/or if you don’t mind giving out your personal email, give the participants your email address and ask the participants to email you who they represent.
  7. Be confident, court reporter. Nobody enjoys doing a telephonic deposition (or at least most people don’t). If you are polite, organized, and ready for action, your day may turn out to be one of the best ever!

In another related article, we discuss What Attorneys Need to Know When Using a Realtime Court Reporter.

 

@rosaliekramm  (Twitter)

Kramm Court Reporting (Facebook)

Avoid Cyber Attacks

Law Firms Beware – Ransomware: 9 Tips to Avoid Cyber Attack

Upon listening to a panel of cybersecurity experts, I came to the conclusion that law firms and court reporting firms are vulnerable to the most prevalent cyber attack, ransomware.  Ransomware is defined as “a type of malicious software that is designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid.” Many times, the currency used to pay the ransom is Bitcoin.

Advice given by the experts includes these 9 tips to avoid a ransomware cyber attack:

1. Regularly update your Windows, Mac, Linus software especially when the update is security related.

2. Install antivirus software and keep it up-to-date to block emerging malware.

3. Be wary of suspicious emails and pop-ups.  What is suspicious?

  • Look at email address of the sender to see if it is coming from a legitimate email.
  • Look for obvious typos and grammatical errors in the body of the email.
  • Hover over hyperlinks and see if it would direct you to a suspicious web page.
  • Banks, doctors, the IRS will never ask you to send sensitive information like your SS number.

4. Often pop-ups windows that advertise software products that remove malware have ransomware in the pop-up ready to attack.  Don’t click through to learn more or download these products.

5. If you are a victim of ransomware, immediately disconnect your computer from the internet, and then report the crime to law enforcement.  Seek help from a technology professional who specializes in data recovery to see what your options might be.

6. Look into purchasing cybersecurity insurance.

7. If you are storing your data offsite with a third-party vendor (colo site), ask them if they have cybersecurity insurance.  (The answer should be yes.)  Ask your vendor to add your firm as an additional insured on the policy.

8. Educate your personnel on not opening suspicious emails or pop-ups, “But the dancing bunny was so cute… I clicked on it.”

9. Don’t allow personnel to check personal email from their workstation or have their smart phone, personal computer, or other devices connected to their workstation.

Along with following these above steps in our offices, Kramm Court Reporting has taken steps to protect sensitive data that we have online including having our Case 24/7 repository be SSA 16 compliant and having our backup locations encrypted over VPNs, and SSL certificates are used. If you are one of our clients, you can be assured that we have proactively done and continue to do everything we can to protect your information from these attacks.

In another related article, we discuss How Paralegals + Legal Assistants Can Benefit from Court Reporting Technology in the Cloud.

 

@rosaliekramm  (Twitter)

Kramm Court Reporting (Facebook)

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.

 

 

 

A Court Reporter Getting Organized

Between running a court reporting firm, starting a new business, being a working court reporter, and keeping on task with my social media goals, my life sometimes feels a little out of control.  I believe one of the keys to success is being organized.  I have been reading some blogs and articles on organization and have found a common thread through all of them:  Getting organized and staying organized relieves stress and clears your mind for creative thoughts.

Most of what I have discovered in my readings is obvious and not earth-shattering, and yet it is good to be reminded of what we can do to get organized.

Here are the steps:

  1.  Decide if you are more comfortable with a paper system or digital – don’t go back and forth.  Choose a method that is easy for you to work with. Don’t fight it.
  2.  Create 3 lists:  one that is your “to do” list, tasks that you are to complete; a “waiting for” list for tasks you are waiting for others to do; and a “someday/maybe” list, a place to remember new ideas and dreams
  3. Finish one task before you start a new one.  Distractions are the quickest way to inefficiency. 
  4. Start each task with an action word, for example, Call…, Present…, Drive to…  It gets your brain to start thinking about taking action
  5. Organize paperwork:  Buy bins and folders and label everything.  Organize your paperwork by date to be completed or organize everything by project.  Either way, have a place for everything on your desk and in your drawers.
  6. Dedicate time every morning or end of your workday to read your lists.  It will keep the tasks top of mind and keep you focused.
  7. In the morning when you get to work, pick 3 tasks you need to accomplish that day.  Check them off when they are completed.  Most days become chaotic, and you might not finish your list.  When you get the 3 tasks completed, you will feel a sense of accomplishment. 
  8. Don’t let the lists run your life.  You decide what you are going to do and when.
  9. Be sure to put exercising or enjoying life on your list.  I have a habit of going, going, going, and forget to stop and breathe and enjoy the sky or a meadow lark’s song. (I didn’t read this in an article or blog.  I am throwing this one in because I believe it is really important.)

 

rosalie@kramm.com

@rosaliekramm (Twitter)

Moving Up the Ladder – Thoughts of a Court Reporting Firm Owner

As many of you know by now, I have been the owner of Kramm Court Reporting since 1985.  I began my career as a court reporter in 1981 at the age of 21.  I went straight from high school to court reporting school and then out to the work world.  In running my business, most of my education has come from the school of hard knocks.  I have been blessed with smart, generous mentors who have given me time and advice, and I have read many books, articles, and blogs in an effort to learn from the best how to manage and succeed.

I came across an article this week, “Want to Move Up?  Learn to Manage like a CEO.”  The author, Steve Tobak, speaks to the value of learning how to run a business by just doing it rather than getting an MBA or a business education and has come up with five steps.

His first step is, “Focus on critical, trouble areas and leave everything else alone.”  I know that putting out fires and solving problems is my job.  I learned at a very early stage ignoring a situation and hoping it goes away or gets solved on its own very rarely, if ever happens.  All problems need to be tackled immediately.  A firm owner needs a powerful team behind him/her to come up with smart solutions.

Tobak’s second step follows beautifully, “Hire functional experts who are also solid, upcoming managers.”  Every expert, every successful person, everything I have ever read talks about surrounding yourself with people smarter than you are and who are experts in their field.  I would take this advice one step further and suggest a business owner has to hire the best vendors/service providers as well.  I want everyone that interacts with my company or my clients to be the best and to love their job, from our delivery guy to my banker.

The third point is, “Business comes first.”   Any great manager would understand this.  When I read the statement, “Business comes first,” I don’t look at it in a pejorative sense that a business should only care about making money.  In my opinion, business coming first means happy employees and court reporters; fair compensation for work being done.  The moment a company defines “business comes first” as a means to only generate personal income for itself  or management is the moment that that company will start their downward spiral.  Managers, salespeople, and employees need to understand that business does come first, the business of customers, service, and sales in the aggregate.

Tobak goes on to step number four, “Manage up.” He talks about “a critical function of any manager is to provide his boss with what she needs to succeed.”  Communication is key, and it starts at the top.  The CEO, owner of any company, must give permission for managers and employees to speak their mind and allow for give-and-take.  A business owner has to have the ear and trust of their management and vice versa and be able to admit they need information and even help, and the managers need to be free to speak to a business owner when he/she feels something is not on track.  Everyone has the same interest at heart, what is best for the business.

My favorite step of Tobak’s is the last step, “Help to manage the company.”  If an employee or manager sees a situation in another department where help is needed and steps in to be supportive, brainstorm, or even physically works alongside to complete a task, that person becomes invaluable to the owner.  If a manager sees a lack of direction in any area of a company and can step in and begin a process or even define the problem, that person will undoubtedly “move up” in a company.  But if an owner hears, “It is not my job” or “not my department,” you can bet that the owner is going to start looking for someone else to take that person’s place whenever possible.

There are many days I wish I had an MBA, but I don’t.  Learning from the school of hard knocks has taught me a lot about myself, and there is one thing I know for sure, I need the people around me to be a part of the team.  I believe the five steps above all illustrate a common goal, wanting what is best for the company, the clients.  If the management team is helping the owner/CEO work towards that goal in an authentic and focused manner, one can guarantee success.

rosalie@kramm.com

@rosaliekramm (Twitter)