April 17, 2014
Dear Fellow Court Reporter:
Please allow me to introduce myself. My name is Cindy Davis, and I am president of the Maryland Court Reporters Association (MCRA). I am currently an official reporter with the Circuit Court for Prince George’s County.
The purpose of my letter is to urge you to support and join MCRA. Our association is constantly battling to maintain and increase membership. Without your financial support and the support of your fellow reporters, we cannot continue to coordinate the resources available to fight back against the near constant challenge to put court reporters out of business.
MCRA has been very busy this year. In the last month alone we were able to mobilize forces to help strike down a proposal in the Maryland House of Delegates that would have mandated that any entity providing transcription services to the courts must “donate” 5% of their services to a pro bono indigent fund. This proposal unfairly targeted hard-working reporters and transcriptionists and did not require the same “donation” from other entities that provide services to the court systems. We are very grateful to Chairman Joe Vallario for his assistance in striking down this proposal.
For several years now the Office of the Public Defender (OPD) has been championing a page-rate reduction. There was also a proposal by the OPD to have the entire State of Maryland participate in a procurement process whereby all transcription services would be put out for bid. Essentially, this would have meant official court reporters would lose their jobs. Two years ago we were successful in pushing back on this proposal, only to find it rear its head again in the last few months.
The Standing Committee on Court Reporting (SCCR), appointed by then-Chief Judge Bell of the Court of Appeals, was tasked with addressing this issue. One of MCRA’s board members serves as a representative on this Committee. It is with great pleasure that I can report that both proposals driven by the OPD have been voted on by the Committee, and an overwhelming majority voted to recommend to the Chief Judge that the OPD’s proposals be denied. As such, the current page rates that have been in effect for 15 years will go unchanged and no official reporters will be losing their jobs, at least not for this reason.
This Committee’s work is not done, however. There is a proposal to impose term limits on the members of this Committee. MCRA needs to continue to have representation on the SCCR. To have truly effective representation, we need members. Our position is so much stronger when we have a large membership to draw from.
Future issues to be addressed are the MDEC roll-out (Maryland Electronic Courts) over the next few years. Maryland is rapidly moving to a paperless system and how we prepare and file transcripts in the future will be changing. Again, this could possibly affect the page rates currently in effect.
Also, the current administrator for the courts is a strong proponent of audio recording technology. We will continue to monitor this situation and will keep you informed of any developments.
We need funds to continue the fight, as we did with House Bill 845. We need to have an advocate to monitor legislation being introduced that could affect our profession.
I am happy to report that the planning for our 2014 convention is well under way. This year’s convention will be held at the Chesapeake Beach Resort and Spa in Chesapeake Beach, Maryland. Please mark your calendars for September 19, 20 and 21, 2014. We have some great speakers already lined up and are diligently working to find more. We are still in the planning stages as to whether the convention will encompass Friday and Saturday or just Saturday or Saturday and Sunday, but as soon as the details are finalized, we will send out an update.
We have something new this year. MCRA was contacted by the Prince Institute-Southeast in Montgomery, Alabama. Prince has been awarded a Realtime Writers’ grant and, as such, they have reached out to MCRA to hold one of their boot camps concurrent to our state convention. This boot camp will encompass three full days of instruction, with the first day dedicated to realtime instruction and the following two days dedicated to captioning.
Again, please help keep MCRA Reporter-Strong and join our association. As an added bonus, MCRA is offering one free paid convention registration. All you have to do is join MCRA by May 31, 2014, to have your name entered into the drawing. We will draw the winner the first week of June. Good luck!
Join today and don’t delay. Our future depends on all of us.
Cindy S. Davis, RPR