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AAERT: RIGHT ON TARGET

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Released today: AAERT’S 2016 White Paper:
“Analysis and Advantages of Digital Court Reporting and Recording in the Courts, Deposition, and Administrative Hearings Markets”
Download your free copy: aaert.org

Finding Your Representative

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By Rick Russell, AAERT Government Relations Chair

In AAERT’s January, 2016 newsletter, the article Monitoring Legislation shared information on how to find and track legislation that impacts our industry. If you find a pending bill in your state or on the national level what’s your next step?  First of all, let us know (rick.russell@aaert.org) so we can mobilize the association members and resources.

Next you’re going to want to contact your elected officials to request that they support you and your industry by voting for or against the pending bill. The first step in this process is to identify who represents you on the state and federal level:

State Level

Here are a couple of resources to help you identify your state and local representatives:

Open States  (http://openstates.org/find_your_legislator/)

Common Cause        (http://act.commoncause.org/site/PageServer?pagename=sunlight_advocacy_list_page )

Simply enter your complete address and your local, state, and in some cases, federal representatives will be listed along with links to their home pages which you can use to contact them.

Federal Level

To find your U.S. representative and senators you can use the Congress.gov site (www.Congress.gov).

To find your representative you will need to know in what congressional district you live.  Go to the “Find Your Representative” page ( http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/) and enter your zip code. If your zip code contains more than one congressional district you can use the map to determine your district or enter your Zip+4 or full address. Your representative will be listed with a link to their official website.

To locate your senator using Congress.gov, look at the top right section of the page entitled “Contact Your Member” and click the “Senators” button. Use the drop down button to select your state and your two senators will be listed with links to their homepage.

Give this a try and find out who is representing you at the state and national level. It’s important to know who is representing you and your interests in the process of making law and determining funding. If you have any personal connections with state or federal officials please let us know.

The next step is to contact your representatives with a well-crafted message in support or opposition to the issues that are important to you. I will cover that in the next article.

Rick Russell serves on the AAERT Board of Directors and is Chair of the Government Relations Committee.

Segue or Not to Segway

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BY ANTOINETTE M. FRANKS, CET

One thing we run into often in the world of transcription that we live in is the constant challenge of homonyms. For most, it’s a nonissue because they execute the majority of their communication verbally or through informal email and text. But for us, homonyms can have the effect of a natural disaster in our documents. We talk about the common occurrences:  its versus it’s; there, their, or they’re, lets or let’s. Obviously, they are the ones that wreak the most havoc because of their potential frequency. I have noticed, however, that we never address the not-so-common occurrences, and you’d be surprised that they may not be all that uncommon.

In the recent past, I have encountered an increasing occurrence of one set of homonyms, Segway versus segue. The sight of its misuse in a document never dulls because of the visual that accompanies it upon sight, as well as the immediate giggle that follows afterwards. Your witness is in the midst of testimony. The attorney decides to change topics, and here it comes.  “Mr. Smith, I’m now going to Segway into another topic.” Now some may say why is that capitalized or even okay, I don’t get it. If you’ve ever misused the word, have you ever wondered why, when you use Segway and type it in lowercase, Word puts that beautiful red line below it? Well, that’s because although it sounds like the word you want to use, and is probably the spelling you’re most familiar with of the two, it is not, unless your attorney has now put on a helmet and is suddenly riding that two-wheeled motorized human transporter through the courtroom. Segway is the company that manufactures that fun looking riding apparatus.

Segue, also pronounced [seɡwā], an uninterrupted or smooth transition from one thing to another, is the word we would all be looking to use in this instance. So before you go to type Segway and give your proofer or reader their giggle for the day, just visualize that theatrical attorney in your head enjoying his two-wheeling ride back and forth through the courtroom while conducting his examination, and you’ll never misuse the word again.

By Antoinette Franks, AAERT Certified Electronic Transcriber

antoinettemfranks@comcast.net

 

Personal Innovation

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By Raymond M. Vetter, CER

At times we become so accustomed to our transcription routine that we forget our own creativity. Many of us remember using transcriber machines to prepare transcripts from cassette tapes before digital became the preferred tool of our trade. These machines varied distinctly in quality and had a reputation for frequent breakdowns. The breakdowns were, perhaps, due to the constant play/rewind needs of court and legal transcription and the continuous stress to the mechanics of the unit.  A tape played on any unit, be it Panasonic, Sony, Lanier, Olympus, etc., varied greatly in sound from machine to machine, and once they broke and were sent for repair they were never the same. We continue to hope that reporters cease and desist from analog cassette recordings and move competently to digital recording, but old habits die hard, especially among my older generation.

I recently was assigned a 3-day administrative hearing docket on cassette tapes.  My client kindly provided a transcriber unit and foot pedal. I have known their reporter for over 25 years and know him to be expert at this type of hearing, able to provide fine quality recordings and overly detailed notes. I have always happily transcribed his work. One large problem: the recordings sounded terrible and were nearly untranscribable.  Indeed, I was near despair after too many attempts at completing the job. Before giving in, however, I fired up the little grey cells and considered my options.

Lo and behold, creativity kicked in. I played the tape on an old, high quality deck I still had and never used, and discovered that they were definitely very fine recordings. The problem was the rejected, refurbished and renovated transcriber unit.  I put out word via Facebook to my chorus membership of over 70 contacts, and was able to borrow an old (covered in dust) boombox with cassette player. Once I had downloaded free Audacity software to my laptop, I patched the boombox to the laptop and digitally recorded all the tapes. It did take actual play time but it enabled me to use the noise reduction feature to make the new files of even higher quality, and convert them to WMA files to use on my digital player. The result, with minimal creativity, was a collection of fine digital audio files which let me produce complete and accurate transcripts at my highest personal production rate.

Moral of this little story: we all have tremendous experience upon which to draw. Our work keeps us alert and engaged and can help us find solutions with a bit of effort and a lot of friends and associates. Feel free to use the AAERT site or the Facebook group more often to exchange ideas and experience.

Raymond M. Vetter, CER, is a native of New Jersey who now resides in Tucson, Arizona. He attended Georgetown University in Washington, DC and received a Bachelor of Science with a major in Arabic and a minor in Spanish. He also attended two separate scholarship terms at the American University in Cairo, Egypt for furtherance of Arabic studies. Raymond, a former AAERT board member, reported for 28 years and currently works part-time as a transcriptionist and interacts with the AAERT Certification Committee and as a member of the Education Committee.

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More Mysterious Words by Laurel Stoddard

confusing

 

 

____1. panjandrum

 

 

 

 

a.  relating to dreams

 

____2.  cognoscenti

 

 

 

b.  courage and fortitude

 

____3.  ouroboros

 

 

 

c.  dark and gloomy

 

____4.  phthisis

 

 

 

d.  those with superior knowledge

 

____5.  epistolary

 

 

 

e.  closely massed body of persons

 

____6.  oneiric

 

 

 

f.  pretentious official

 

____7.  palimpsest

 

 

 

g.  symbol of infinity

 

____8.  phalanx

 

 

 

h.  pulmonary tuberculosis

 

____9.  mettle

 

 

 

i.  contained in letters

 

____10.  tenebrous

 

 

 

j.  blank slate

     

Don’t peek until you are done!

Answers: 1.f., 2.d., 3.g.,4.h., 5.i., 6.a., 7.j., 8.e., 9.b., 10.c.

stoddard   By Laurel Stoddard, CET

JOIN THE HUNT!

 

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GEOFFREY  HUNT

As the newly elected president of AAERT, it is an honor for me to assume this office, and I pledge to do my best to further the mission of AAERT. My intent is to share my personal message with each of you as members over my term as president.

If you were unable to attend our AAERT 2016 conference in Phoenix, I look forward to meeting and chatting with you in person in 2017. Months before our Phoenix conference and while the snow was still flying, Executive Director Mike Tannen and T-TEAM together with our conference committee put together an outstanding program. The speakers and their presentations were informative and professional. I gathered new ideas and new insight into areas that are relevant to our work as reporters and transcribers. Vendors demonstrated their technical products. Speakers engaged our imaginations by projecting the future of court reporting, I met members and attendees from all over the world. Why not start planning now to attend AAERT Conference 2017? Where will we convene? AAERT 2017 will meet at the Marriott Northwest at Galleria, Atlanta, Georgia, a 10-minute stroll from the glorious new complex, The Battery. The location hits the bull’s eye for conference, dining, sightseeing, and family activities. For a preview, go to http://batteryatl.com/#experience.

I want to take a moment to acknowledge our immediate past president, Buck Ewing. During Buck’s two years as president, he took on and directed some mammoth tasks. He responded to our members’ needs with the creation of educational school standards, the first AAERT-approved curriculum and school, and the rebranding of our association. He tirelessly fought for the one-director amendment to the bylaws and established CEUs available online at an affordable cost to our members. These are just a few of his many accomplishments. I want to truly thank Buck for his time, his outstanding service and his dedication to our association.

What does the future look like for AAERT? From its inception in 1992, AAERT has cultivated its membership, its objectives, and the valuable content offered to members. We have attained a respected and professional standing across the United States. Our certification and testing procedures are now utilized by reporters and transcribers in other countries. In the early days, people such as Bill Wagner, CET; Karl Fuss, CET; Connie Rill; Steve Townsend; Jan Harris, CER, CET; Jim Bowen, CER; and others led the pack and blazed the trails. The activity was intense and time consuming.

Now that we have arrived at 2016/2017, AAERT will begin the implementation of the 4DX or 4 Disciplines of Execution. Our main focus is to provide heightened efforts to test and certify more members. All committees are developing goals and objectives designed to take AAERT’s mission to the next level.

The Education Committee, chaired by Betsy Ertel, already has an industrious plan in the works. In addition to her 4DX or Four Disciplines of the Excellence management system goals, her hand-picked committee members will be reviewing schools and programs for approval. To provide easy and affordable access to CEUs, her committee will be actively building our CEU material in an online library through our newly acquired Learning Management System or LMS.

The Certification Committee, chaired by K.C. Corbin, CER, CET, will be working to increase the number of her committee members. This will help to minimize the time it takes to obtain results from the transcriber practical exams. AAERT’s Best Practices Guide will be reviewed and examined in depth by K.C. and her committee for updates and suggested changes. My goal is to add tothe guide by incorporating and addressing court reporting in the freelance market. More details will be forthcoming.

Our Membership Committee is chaired by Lisa Dees. Lisa brings vast experience to the table. She has worked in the courtroom as an official reporter, outside the courtroom as a freelance court reporter, and as a firm owner. In addition, she has experience as a vendor for digital recording solutions. Her committee will work closely with the other committees to increase and enhance membership through the 4DX process.

Rick Russell is the chair of the Government Relations Committee. Last spring, Rick and Mary Ann Lutz, CER, CET led the fight for electronic court reporting in the California Family Courts. California Assembly Bill 1834 was tabled to hold the bill in committee without a vote. The war still rages on in many states that oppose alternative methods of court reporting. There are still states that have stenotype-only rules that prohibit alternative methods of court reporting. Rick and his committee members are charged with making progress in those states and with government agencies and to work aggressively for adoption of our certifications.

Heading up our Communications Committee is a long-time volunteer, the Editor-in-Chief of The Court Reporter and former office holder, Gail Malm Armstrong, CER, CET. Gail has done a fantastic job chairing the Social Media and Newsletter committees in the past. She brings great experience and knowledge about our profession that she shares with us daily. She truly is a bibliophile and professional. I look forward to working with her this coming year in spreading the word about our profession.

The ad hoc committee on Bylaws, chaired by Attorney Linda Rohman, will review our official Bylaws. She, along with Buck Ewing, will recommend changes that need to be made to our bylaws to bring them current with today’s standards. Buck will also be working with Linda to create our Policies and Procedures Manual. These efforts will assure compliance and keep the legal requirements for our association up to date and relevant.

I am happy to announce that AAERT has renewed its relationship with T-TEAM Management. Mike Tannen, CSEP and his team including Sherry Simmons, CER and Maria Tannen, provide the critical support our association requires to run successfully throughout the year. Mike will be taking a larger role in our Atlanta 2017 conference program. I am excited about this opportunity. We hope to assemble a group of presenters and vendors that will amaze yet educate you. Plan now to attend AAERT 2017 in Atlanta, Georgia.

Finally, I plan to bring new opportunities to our members. This will include AAERT’s continued advancement into the freelance court reporting market. A recent study conducted by Ducker Worldwide entitled Court Reporting Industry Outlook Report, states that there will be a shortfall of 5,500 court reporters nationally by 2018. The largest segment in our industry is the freelance reporter, approximately 72%. This huge, billion-dollar market is virtually untapped by electronic court reporters. AAERT will augment our certification programs by helping to educate our members on the skills needed to fill the projected shortage of court reporters. Digital recording has become the record of choice now in many courtrooms and venues. The benefits for our members include a multitude of job opportunities and the income to match those opportunities whether it is in the official or the freelance market.

Be assured that AAERT’s leadership has perseverance, the drive to work, and the focused attentiveness to accomplish these loftygoals. Future opportunities are an open door for those who educate, train, and certify. If you have not volunteered to work with one of our committees, please reach out to any AAERT board member or any committee chairperson. Whatever you can offer, whether it be a few hours, suggestions, or ideas constitute a valuable contribution to our committee work. The rewards are knowledge, networking, camaraderie, and the satisfaction that you have contributed to your profession.

A skilled hunter is passionate, motivated, patient, focused, endorses strong ethics, and enjoys the journey as much as the catch. As AAERT’s newly elected President, join me, the Hunt, in the hunt.

Geoffrey L. Hunt, AAERT President

 

There’s No Place Like Home

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by Gina Gattone, CET
They say that living abroad makes you appreciate what you have back home. Eleven years ago, I took my second trip from my home in Chicago to Argentina. I fell in love with my husband, a Spanish-Italian native of the port city, and moved to Buenos Aires a year later. It took some getting used to living in a metropolitan area of 13 million people, but we live simply, we love our neighborhood, and we have a happy little family.

Through our frequent visits and technology, I get to see my family often. But I don’t think I’ll ever get over missing the snow, especially during the winter holidays. And even though I can hop on a two-hour flight and be in Patagonia walking across a glacier surrounded by spectacular views with lots of ice and snow year-round, it’s not the same as making snow angels in front of your own home. During the rest of the year, I miss getting in a car to go to the grocery store and being able to pick out fruits and vegetables that aren’t in season. I miss waffles and doughnuts and all kinds of foods that are hard to find here. I’ve adapted though. I walk everywhere and eat healthier than I have in my entire life.

When my kids were old enough to start going to pre-school, I was a stay-at-home mom and wanted to find a job that was going to allow me to work at home for the short period of time that I had available; something that might allow me to use my specific skills acquired in my studies and that would keep me connected to my home in the U.S.

I have a Bachelor’s degree in anthropological linguistics. At university I was taught to perform detailed linguistic transcription looking at structures and codes of the language as well as seeking out the broader meaning of the cultural significance of what is being said. With some guidance from my sister, I discovered AAERT and the field of legal transcription. It seemed like it might be a profession that would allow me to use that skill I had honed in college. Happily, legal transcription has proven to be the perfect fit for me. I became certified, and I found a job that I love. I’m constantly challenged, and I love the people with whom I work.

I notice that a lot of people see me light up when I talk about my work. So I get asked the question, “What do you do?” a lot. When I tell people that I’m a transcriptionist, I usually need to follow that up with a little explanation of the difference between transcription and translation. Sometimes I just have to say, “I type out legal hearings in the U.S. from English to English.” For the most part, this subject piques a lot of people’s interest. I seem to be surrounded by family and friends who are lawyers and judges, and they have lots of questions about my work because the U.S. court system is different, fascinating, and most importantly, as they say, it’s honorable.

I get asked what I like about my work, and I like to tell them that it’s the criminal trials. Jokingly, I tell them that nobody has ever written a “Law and Order” civil trial series for a reason. That’s not to say that there are civil trials that aren’t interesting. On the contrary: there are some that are downright intriguing.

There are a few odd differences that I’ve noticed living here in Argentina as far as lawyers, the law, and the courts are concerned. For example, here in Argentina, when one becomes a lawyer, they get the title, “doctor” because they are “juris doctors.” This title stays with them whether or not they practice law. If they do go on to practice law and eventually get appointed as a judge to a certain court or “tribunal,” as they call them here, they are privileged to no longer have to pay income taxes — something that runs at about forty percent of the income here.

One really important difference is that jury trials are not available here in the same way as they are in the U.S., and just knowing that fact is quite emotional for me, especially when I have the opportunity to transcribe a jury trial.

In the Constitution of Argentina, there is a provision allowing for jury trials in certain penal cases. However, the courts are in a losing battle between their wanting to provide a jury trial according to the Constitution and limited resources and funds; judges who feel that an adequate jury would be impossible due to lack of education of the eligible participants; as well as the fear of an absolute impossibility of an impartial jury due to media (TV and newspaper) intervention. In the last two years, there have been a handful of jury trials in Argentina in the more rural provinces of Cordoba and Neuquen. The first jury trial to happen in the province of Buenos Aires took place in July of 2015. Just to be clear: literally one handful, five jury trials, have occurred in the last two years in Argentina. The Argentine Constitution does not allow for jury trials on civil cases.

Another problem that Argentina’s court system must face is transparency and its history of corruption. When the most recent jury was interviewed by the newspaper “La Nacion” last year, some said that they were literally trembling with fear that they would be picked for this job. They don’t know if someone is going to try to sway their judgment by threats, if they would have fear for their welfare afterwards, or even if they could handle the intense stress that comes with deciding a verdict. In Argentina, if the jury decides a guilty verdict, the defendant loses his right to an appeal.

As I look out the window of my office, I see people walking down the street and I wonder if they know their rights. They probably have thought about their rights of self-expression or their right to assemble as they love to protest anything and everything here, but they probably have given little thought to their rights of due process of law. If ever they were accused of a crime, even though the Argentine Constitution allows for a jury trial, it more than likely would not happen.

When I’m transcribing a change of plea and I hear the judge say, “You have the right to a jury trial,” it makes me pause to think about the due process that I rarely gave thought to years ago. When I have the opportunity to transcribe a jury trial, I work through the frustrations of trying to understand mumbling prospective jurors, the lawyers who like to walk around the courtroom away from the microphones, and that one juror with the cough who manages to sit in front of the microphone on every jury.

All kidding aside, it reminds me of how fortunate we are in the United States to have a complicated system that protects our citizens, in comparison to other court systems throughout the world. Knowing that I am part of this honorable process not only connects me to my home, but is a fulfilling and yet humbling experience.

Gina Gattone is an AAERT Certified Electronic Transcriber.

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