Court Reporter's ipad cord at a deposition

Court Reporters Beware – the Danger of Frayed Cords

I was lucky enough to report an electrical engineer this week.  His credentials are PH.D., P.E., and CFEI.  I had set up for real-time with my iPads on the conference room table.  Before the deposition began, the witness turned to
me and said in a kind voice, “You need to throw this away.  It’s very dangerous.”  He had picked up my iPad charging cord.  Unbeknownst to me, the deposition was about whether a faulty wire had caused a huge fire.

After the deposition I thanked the witness for warning me about my dangerous cord.  The other attorneys, whom specialize in fire accident cases, all chimed in telling me about past cases they had been involved in where a bent
cord, smashed cord, frayed cord had caused catastrophic fires.  I did some research about what they were telling me and was stunned to find out the following:

1. Even though an iPhone charger only puts out 5 volts at 5 watts/1 amp (an iPad charger puts out 12 watts/2.1 amps) it is more than enough power to cause overheating and the beginning of a fire.  A frayed cable (like mine
pictured above) can cook the battery by causing a short circuit, which again could cause a fire.

2. One attorney mentioned a case because of a bent power cord.  My research tells me power and extension cords that are pinched, pierced, bent or otherwise damaged do not look threatening, but can cause serious fire and shock hazards.

3. Pressing furniture against an outlet (i.e., behind the couch) where a cord is plugged in is a potential fire hazard.  Don’t have bent cords.

4. In your kitchen, don’t pinch the cord behind an appliance or wrap it around the toaster or kettle.  That can damage the casing or melt the insulation around the wire.

5. Don’t run cords under carpets to keep them out of sight.  The carpet will keep the cord from properly cooling, and it is easy to damage the cord with foot traffic or furniture.

6. Keep your pets from chewing power cords – super dangerous.

7. Never patch power and extension cords.  Watch out for corroded or bent plug blades.  It is better to replace the appliance than tape a damaged cord.

8. Don’t daisy chain cords together or use extension cords for a long-term purpose.  Get a new outlet if you have to plug something in far from your existing outlets.

9. Dryer thermostats can fail allowing the dryer to overheat.  If the main heating element fails, it can send molten metal into the drum, igniting your clothes.

10. Get into the habit of unplugging your appliances (coffee maker, toaster, kettle).  Even though the appliance is not on, it is still being energized when it is plugged in.  This habit plugged in.  This habit can save not only energy, but lives.

11. One of the attorneys mentioned that is wife was foolish enough one time  to leave the house with the dishwasher going.  I mentioned I do that all the time.  The witness and attorneys looked at me like I was crazy.  Their serious advice is not to leave the house when any major appliance is running.

12. The witness said to never, ever have an energized device (laptop, iPhone, iPad…) rest on your bedding.  If you have a habit of scoping or proofing in bed, it is incredibly dangerous.  When your device is being energized, it gets
hot, and the bedding doesn’t allow air into the fans, and a fire can easily happen.

I have read newspaper articles, seen warnings on the television about fires and electrical appliances and cords at Christmastime from lights and always thought to myself, “That would never happen to me.”  What I learned at my
deposition was it happens all of the time to all kinds of people.  One of the things I love about being a court reporter is I get to meet all kinds of brilliant people.  This deposition of an electrical engineer changed my life.
I promised him I would be careful forever more.

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.

Scanning Court Reporters

Court Reporters and Scanners – Win, Win, Win!

Recently the wonderful Mike Miller, Depoman, posted on Facebook – “Asbestos depo, 5 people in the room, 10+ on the phone.  Expert produces 50 pages of handwritten notes.  Phone people object to not having the notes.  I scanned them, sent them on, and the deposition went forward.”

Many of the great court reporters bring small scanners to depositions or use their smart phones.  I asked a couple of my brilliant court reporting friends what they use and asked if I could share their advice to court reporters everywhere.

Marjorie Peters suggested reporters use the CamScanner app.  You can use your mobile phone to take a picture of whatever needs to be scanned.  It allows for auto edge cropping if you are so inclined to clean up the background.  The CamScanner generates a high-resolution JPEG or PDF file.  CamScanner OCRs text files and then allows you to email the image.  (You can use it also for scanning attorneys’ business cards, notices…”

Mike Miller advises that the Fujitsu ScanSnap ix1500 is the best solution.  He and his brilliant wife, Susan Perry Miller, will set it up unobtrusively across the room and scan exhibits at breaks, which is particularly helpful on rush jobs.  Looking at the Fujitsu web page, some of the benefits are that it is wireless, uses a touch screen, has speedy 30 ppm color scanning, and you can scan 50 sheets in the Automatic Document Feeder.    Mike also likes the ScanSnap s1300.  It will only scan about 20 pages at a time, but it is much more portable than the ix500.

Court reporters are carrying a lot of equipment to the job, and a scanner might seem excessive, but when we are in an intense, high-stake deposition, and can pull off a quick scan, particularly if there are attorneys who are attending remotely, you will become even more invaluable.

Another scenario I can picture is if you have a scopist working remotely on the job while you’re writing, and you can send exhibits that attorneys are reading from, it is a win-win-win.

rosalie@kramm.com

Attorneys - Depositions -
Consciousness

Should I become a court reporter? What about voice recognition technology?

Over the last two years, I have had the privilege to speak to the criminal justice classes at San Marcos High School.  The teacher tells me that the students look forward to meeting the court reporter more so than any of his other legal professional speakers (court clerk, bailiff, and even judge).  When I get to the class, I set up so that they can see my CAT screen on a large monitor, and that allows them to see my steno notes, words-per-minute count, and real-time transcript.  I invite the students to write words on the machine and dictate a mock cross-examination while I write.

One of the questions that always comes up is, “Why don’t they just use a tape recorder or something like Siri?”  I actually look forward to that question, because the answer is so obvious.

But then I started thinking, what is happening with AI anyway?  I know Siri is weak when it comes to accurately writing down the spoken word.  She sometimes gets it right, but for the most part there are mistakes, misinterpretation of words, and bad punctuation.  So I did a little research.

I came across on article on DZone, “Everything You Need to Know About Voice Recognition Technology.”  The article explains how the technology works, and then comments on the “challenges when faced integrating voice capabilities.”

The first challenge mentioned is real-time response behavior.  The author talks about network capabilities and real-time response behavior.  The network connection, microphone, and server needed to fetch the results have to be optimized.

The second challenge is languages and accents.  “Every software doesn’t support all languages, and developers need to identify the regions of their target audience to make strategic decisions regarding languages or accents recognized.”  As court reporters, we know how difficult it is for the human brain to decipher what experts are saying with thick accents, and in the world of IP, I find many of the witnesses are from other countries and have heavy accents speaking about the newest technologies.

The third challenge is punctuation.  The author writes, “This is one of the biggest challenges that is faced when it comes to voice-based software.  Unfortunately, even the best improvements and algorithms may not work because there are virtually endless sentences with different sorts of punctuation.”

After doing my research, I have come to realize once again that the human court reporter who can write clean is essential for making a real-time record.  No machine, algorithm, or technology can perform the job of a great real-time court reporter.  The students in court reporting school have a bright future with many job opportunities in both the court and freelance sector.

 

rkramm@veritext.com

Deposition by Written Question

Consequences to Tearing Apart the Original Deposition Transcript

In Southern California many of the attorneys recite at the end of a deposition what is known as the “SoCal stip,” which is a stipulation that the noticing attorney agrees the court reporter will send the witness’ attorney the original transcript for reading/signing, and the witness’ attorney is tasked with maintaining the original and bringing it to court for trial.   (Nowhere else in the USA does this practice happen.)

Kramm Court Reporting uses VeloBind to bind transcripts, a method that punches tiny holes along the spine of the transcript, plastic strips are inserted, and then the VeloBind machine uses heat to melt the plastic so that there is a strong bind, and it is difficult to pull the transcript apart.

Last week I received a call from an attorney demanding that we re-bind an original transcript. I asked him who tore it apart. He replied that his firm did so that they could scan and OCR the transcript since they did not wish to purchase a Certified Copy from the court reporter.

I told him that it would be improper under the California Code of Civil Procedure for us to re-bind an original that had been torn apart. He asked why? I replied that we wouldn’t be able to certify a transcript that was taken apart. He asked why again.  I gave him the hypothetical that perhaps his firm might have changed some of the testimony, added or deleted something.

Then he said, “Why would we do that? It was our client’s testimony.”

I replied, “Maybe you didn’t like your client’s testimony.”

He wanted my full name so he could report me.

______________________________________________________________________________________________

Bottom line: Court reporters, don’t be intimidated or acquiesce when someone asks or demands that you put together an original transcript after it was taken apart.  Attorneys do stipulate away the original to allow for easier read/sign, but no part of that stipulation gives anyone permission to tear apart the transcript. Once a transcript has been dismantled, the liability of the torn-apart transcript falls upon the person’s shoulders who took it apart.  That person can tell the judge what happened and suffer the consequences.

Oxytocin Battles Stress

Three Things I Hate: Stress, Rejection, Worrying – Part 1 Stress

I’m not a social psychologist, but I know how to research a subject on the internet,
and I decided to learn about what the experts say about three things I hate, but are
a huge part of my daily life, feeling stressed, dealing with rejection, and worrying.

My first article in this series will deal with stress.

Part 1 – Stress

Stress is defined as “changes our body and mind experience in response to a
continually changing environment, something you can’t control; for example, traffic.
You can’t control traffic; you can control attorneys talking at the same time or too
fast to a certain extent, but a full day of telling people to talk one at a time is
stressful, and often the court reporter doesn’t have control.

What I discovered in my research is if we adjust ourselves to different circumstances,
stress can actually help us, or hinder us, depending on how we react to it.  When we are
stressed we secrete cortisol/adrenaline, fear or flight hormones.  As a working court
reporter and firm owner, I have relied on adrenaline to write faster and get things done.
I felt being “hyped up” was the way to be most effective.  I start with a double
cappuccino every morning to get my adrenal glands pumping.  But after 40 years, my energy
level is not as strong, and as a consequence I have hypothyroidism and have to take
Synthroid medication.

But, in my research, I learned about a relatively new scientific fact that is incredibly
great.  Oxytocin, the “love hormone” can physiologically battle the harmful effects of stress,
and it is pumped out simultaneously with adrenaline.

What scientists used to believe is oxytocin would only be produced by a mother breastfeeding
her child to help bond with her child.

Physiologically, when we are stressed our arteries get tighter.  Our heart beats faster, We
start breathing more, getting oxygen into our blood cells, which is a good thing, but that
tightening of the arteries is what’s really dangerous.  Oxytocin actually widens the
arteries allowing more blood flow.

The question is:  How do you get oxytocin to secrete in your body? Have you ever noticed when
you are stressed you want to reach out to a friend, confidante, someone you can talk to and
connect with?  When you do connect, you pump out oxytocin.

Personally, when I am stressed out about work or life in general, I look to talk to my husband
or trusted friends.  Just talking dissipates the “flight or fright” feeling.

The lesson is when you are stressed out, talk to a friend and connect – pump out your oxytocin.
Your arteries will open up, and your body will thank you.  Oxytocin = resilience.

Advice from the experts:  Think of your adrenals as a built-in pump, something that gets you
going when you feel that adrenaline rush.  Stop saying, “I am stressed,” but think of yourself as
being in a situation that is giving you stress.  It’s not you.  It’s not your body.  It’s the
situation.  Be curious.  Ask, “Why every single time I am in this situation I get so stressed
out?”  And start your oxytocin pump.

 

Twitter: @rosaliekramm

Court Reporters and Golfers practice for perfection.

COURT REPORTERS – How to Write SUPER FAST with Stress

I was reading a fantastic article in the Wall Street Journal about Francesco Molinari’s win at the British Open Golf Championship, “The Uncomfortable Practice Habits of a Champion,” and immediately thought about court reporters and particularly court reporting students.

The article, by Brian Costa, talks about how in past years Molinari would practice hitting balls on the driving range, hitting perfect shots, was always considered a top golfer, but never made the cut. Molinari was frustrated and decided to hire Dave Alred, a soccer/rugby sports psychologist. Alred wrote the book, “The Pressure Principle.” He advises athletes (court reporters) “you need to add stress to sometimes otherwise mindless practice shots” (speed tapes).

Golfers in many ways are like court reporters. They practice at their own speed, improve at their own pace, and don’t require teammates to make them successful. Becoming a great golfer takes hundreds of hours of practice and a special talent that only certain people are born with. Court reporters learn their theory and then spend hundreds of hours practicing for speed and accuracy, many hours alone only motivated by their strong desire to be great (or pass a speed test).

When Alred was hired by Molinari, Alred asked, “Do you want to be comfortable, or do you want to be ready?” As a court reporter, I know that I can write clean and fast when everyone is speaking clearly with a consistent cadence. But when it is time to pass the CSR, CRR, RMR… even though the speakers are speaking clearly and with a consistent cadence, nerves set in, and the writing becomes a challenge.

Costa writes, “Molinari went on to win the British Open with a stellar short game and almost robotically steady play on a volatile leaderboard. But his ascent to become the first Italian to win a major championship is rooted partly in a change he made only to the past two years. It wasn’t in the way he swung. It was the way he practiced.”

Costa goes on, “At their first session together, at the Riviera Country Club outside Los Angeles, was a preview of how things were about to change. Alred had Molinari practice a tricky flop shot on a downhill lie and asked him to keep hitting it until he had stopped five balls within 3 feet of the hole. It took him 48 tries.”   Alred made Molinari practice at a high frustration level

Another sports psychologist, Cordie Walker says, “We want to have learning environments that foster skills that are retained on the golf course.” (Speed test.) “Desirable difficulty,” a term coined by cognitive psychologist Robert Bjork argues that introducing a certain degree of challenge to the learning process boosts long-term retention.

The bottom line is the experts believe that practicing just for the sake of practice is not good enough. Practice needs to be intense and even uncomfortable. I am thinking it would be good to practice at quick bursts of speeds beyond my capability, slowing down to write sustained complex material, and then have another speed burst. That would be very tiring for my brain, but perhaps a beneficial exercise for increasing speed and accuracy.

I found the article about Molinari to be inspiring. I want to be better. Pushing out of our comfort zone will make us better than ever!

 

@rosaliekramm  (Twitter)

Kramm Court Reporting (Facebook)

 

Setting Goals and Winning

7 Tips for Achieving Your Goals – Attorneys, Paralegals, Court Reporters

I have found reading different experts’ opinions on how to achieve goals to be extremely helpful in not only my writing steno as a court reporter, but in running my business.  The San Diego Union Tribune published one of the best articles I have ever read under their “SUCCESS” column, “Getting to the Goal,” by Marcel Schwantes.

Schwantes cites research performed at the University of Scranton which found that 92 percent of people who set New Year’s goals never achieve them.  Not achieving goals that you mindfully made and set out to achieve, only to fail, is disheartening.  The question is, what do the 8 percent of people who do achieve their goals do differently?

Schwantes’ 7 Tips:

1. Begin with the end in mind.  Write out your goal and then create a roadmap on how to achieve the goal including the sub-goals you need to achieve and the resources that will get you there.

2. Build a support system around you.  Build a network of experts who care about your success in reaching your goals, including friends and colleagues.  Super successful people surround themselves with mentors, coaches, and other successful people in different industries that are like-minded and have a similar desire for greatness.

3. Set specific and challenging goals.  Researchers Edwin Locke and Gary Latham found that when people set specific and challenging goals, it led to higher performance.  For example, if you want to lose 25 pounds by the end of the year, maybe in September you will go on a sugar-free diet for 10 days and in October train to run a 10-K in November.  With clarity, you have a better chance of success.

4. Recognize when you are procrastinating.  Schwantes suggests:  A) Have clearly prioritized to-do lists, schedules, and time frames.  B) Work back from your deadlines to know how long you need and when to get started so you don’t finish late.  C) Focus on one task at a time.

5. Practice the 52 and 17 Rule.  Brad Stulberg and Steve Magness, co-authors of “Peak Performers,” found that adopting the rule of 52 minutes of work and 17 minutes of rest creates an environment for peak performance.

6. Listen to music for focus.  I love this one, and I believe it is absolutely true.  Schwantes suggests the key is to experiment first and find suitable music that helps you focus.  Coffitivity is an app that provides background noise that emulates the ambient sounds of a café.  I think we all have found music to be a great way to keep our energy up.

7. Don’t multitask.  Schwantes says, “The most successful people are patient and avoid juggling many things.”  Research has shown that multitasking can be DAMAGING to your brain.

My goal is to choose one of the goals that I truly want to achieve and mindfully apply these seven steps.  I am excited to start, because I believe I will WIN at the end, and I wish for all of my friends and colleagues to WIN as well.  Let’s go for it!

 

@rosaliekramm  (Twitter)

Kramm Court Reporting (Facebook)

Deposition by Written Question

Federal Rule 30 – Deposition by Written Questions – Best Practices

Upon occasion attorneys will provide the deposition officer (court reporter) a set of written questions that a deponent is to answer pursuant to Federal Rule 30.  Court reporters around the country have contacted me asking for advice when written questions come in as far as the logistics and format, so I have come up with the following best practices for attorneys and court reporters so the examination can go smoothly.

The rule reads:  (3) Participating Through Written Questions. Instead of participating in the oral examination, a party may serve written questions in a sealed envelope on the party noticing the deposition, who must deliver them to the officer. The officer must ask the deponent those questions and record the answers verbatim.

Best Practices for Attorneys:

1. Number questions starting with No. 1.  It will make it easier for the court reporter to provide a transcript that you can easily discern which answer corresponds to which question.

2. Alternatively, include the written questions on a flash drive in the sealed envelope.  The court reporter could then easily copy/paste your question before the answer if you prefer to see the question and answer together in the final transcript.

Best Practices/Procedure for the Court Reporter:

1. Swear in the witness
2. Read the whole of the question to the witness
3. Upon completion of reading the question, report the witness’ answer verbatim.
4. Attach a certificate to the end of the transcript including the fact the witness was duly sworn, each question was read to the witness and that the witness’ answers were taken down verbatim, along with the language used in your standard Federal Rules certificate.

ADVICE:  Before the questions are read, inform the deponent that you will not be commenting in any way, shape, or form on the questions.  Many times witnesses will ask how they are supposed to answer or ask to have something clarified.  DO NOT COMMENT ON THE QUESTIONS.  Let the witness know that you are only to write down their answers verbatim.

If you found this article helpful, you might want to read the article, Federal Rule 30(e) – Deposition Read/Sign.

@rosaliekramm  (Twitter)

Kramm Court Reporting (Facebook)

Court Reporters = Stamina

5 Tips for Building Mental Stamina (Attorneys, Paralegals, Court Reporters)

Great attorneys, court reporters, videographers, and paralegals all perform in their jobs at the highest level and can get far on their raw ability, but as Robert E. Corb, Ph.D, the Director of Sports Psychology Program at UCLA in the article “5 Tips for Building Mental Stamina” points out, “What separates the truly elite from the rest is that they know how to use their minds.”

Professionals in the legal field need mental stamina to deal with quick deadlines, expedites, and many hours of focused inquiry and writing.  Corb suggests the following tips to build mental stamina:

1. Think Positively:  “Self-confidence is the most important mental characteristic that athletes (legal professionals) need,” says Corb.  We’ve all seen highly-skilled athletes who    lose their self-confidence fall apart.

How do you get more self-confidence?  Corb urges people to listen to what they’re telling themselves.  “If you keep saying, ‘I’ll never be able to do this,’” before a speed test or jury trial, “then you won’t be able to do it. If you say something enough to yourself, you’ll make it come true.”

I think we all have heard the advice, “act as if.”  The experts suggest that you replace the negative thoughts with positive thoughts on a conscious level, and in time interrupting    the negative thoughts and replacing them with positive ones will have a real effect on what you want to succeed at.

2. Use Visualization: “Some athletes use visualization right before a game to practice mentally,” says David Geier, M.D., an orthopedic surgeon and Director of Sports Medicine at the   Medical University of South Carolina.  “A basketball player might close her eyes and think what a free throw will look like.”  Visualization can give you a mental space to rehearse.
Corb also says, “I tell people to visualize past achievements.  It’s almost like a highlight reel that you play back in your mind.  Focus on times you felt really good, and remember  that feeling.  It can give you a real boost.”

3. Plan for Setbacks:  As an attorney you might lose a client, and as a court reporter in school you might not pass a speed test you thought you were ready for.  These things happen.   Corb suggests, “One of the things that separates elite athletes is their ability to hold up after a setback.  They don’t spiral out of control.”  How can you regain your confidence  when things go wrong?  “You need to practice techniques to re-center yourself,” Corb says.  Athletes use different methods to become re-centered:  a sequence of stretches, a  positive mantra they repeat to themselves, a specific song they play in their head or iPod; 30 seconds of deep breathing. The experts say to have a plan in place so you know what to  do when the pressure mounts.

4. Manage Stress:  “Not all stress is bad,” says Geier.  “The fight or flight response can push you harder during an athletic competition.”  Corb points out, “Positive stress  (excitement) and negative stress (anxiety) really have the same physical effects.  Your heart rate and breathing go up.  Your pupils dilate.”  Use excitement to get amped up, but if  it is tipping you into panic, that’s bad.  It is up to you how you interpret the “stress.”
5. Sleep More:  Studies have shown that getting enough sleep can improve reaction time and split second decision making.  (7 to 9 hours a night is the goal.)
Develop a Plan to Build Your Mental Stamina

Mental stamina is a skill.  Building your mental stamina takes practice, and the experts say to have a plan.  Building mental stamina will have a tremendous benefit for your life.

 

@rosaliekramm  (Twitter)

Kramm Court Reporting (Facebook)