NYSCRA Student Webinar May 2020

NYSCRA’s got an upcoming webinar that all students are encouraged to register for. RSVP is required for security. I’m going to be talking about everyone’s favorite topic, politics and legislation. My colleagues are going to be discussing important things like CAT software, words, CART v traditional freelance and deposition reporting, money, and associations. If you don’t believe me, check the flyer, it’s happening. As many who saw our last webinar will know, we go through our agenda  and then allow questions from the audience. Questions that we don’t readily have an answer for can be addressed as an addendum or in a supplemental followup.

As for general NYSCRA news, we always need students and mentors signing up for the mentorship program.  Everybody’s got value. Everybody’s got a superpower. So if you want to reach out to a board member and let them know yours, definitely do.  The bottom line is when there’s an event, or a workshop idea, or even just time to spotlight someone in our quarterly newsletter, The Transcript, outreach can make all the difference. Also, if you haven’t had a chance to renew this year, renewals are open and reporters can get a little more exposure via the Find A Reporter feature on the site.

There are a lot of great times ahead. For stenographers and students, this is or will be your association. Come join us on May 20th and let’s all keep 2020 going strong!


NYSCRA Certs Waive Provisional Assessment for NY Courts

NYSCRA President Nancy Silberger announced on December 13, 2018 that holders of the NYSCRA (New York State Court Reporters Association) certs ACR (Association Certified Reporter) and RCR (Realtime Certified Reporter) will be able to skip the provisional assessment for the state court test. This happened thanks to the work of Debra Levinson. I had written in the past about the value of associations, and today I can honestly say that the value of a NYSCRA membership has increased.

To put it in plain language: Every one to four years there is a civil service examination for the court reporter title and a statewide civil service examination for the senior court reporter title in New York State Unified Court System. Senior court reporters work in the Supreme Court of the State of New York, which is the “highest” trial court in the state. Court reporters work for the other “lower” trial courts, criminal, civil, or family courts. Passing the civil service examination is what gets you a permanent position with the New York State Unified Court System. Sometimes, and as a matter of fact right now, there are provisional postings for titles where people may apply for and take an assessment test to work provisionally in a title. Working provisionally allows people to begin accruing vacation time, sick time, comp time, and I believe it also leads to time in the title and pension. Basically if you are waiting for a permanent position to open up, the provisional posting is your way in. What NYSCRA has done is made it possible for you to get the provisional position in the court reporter title without the assessment test. You already passed a test, so why take it again? So if you can pass NYSCRA’s NYACR or NYRCR, you don’t have to pass the provisional examination to get a job with the NYSUCS right now. What’s better than that?Join NYSCRA. Propose great ideas like this one, and watch the association work to make NY reporting better year after year.

Public Records

Knowledge Can Be Power.

Agency owner talking about a sweet new deal they got with the City of New York? How exciting! But wouldn’t it help your negotiation position if you knew what they were pulling in on that contract? Yes! But how could you do that? Check it out: You can go to the Mayor’s Office of Contracts Public Access Center at 253 Broadway, on the 9th Floor, in New York, New York, and you can print out data on their contracts with the city. You’ll need the proper business name, which you may obtain from the New York Business database.  Once you get a printout of the general contract information, such as the city agency the company does business with and the amount of the contract/contract number, you can make a FOIL request to the city agency they do business with for a copy of the contract. Knowledge is power if you do something with it. Use information to negotiate for yourself, bid on contracts, or share it with others so that they might negotiate more effectively.

FOIL Requests.

FOIL requests are easy. You find the FOIL law that applies. If it’s a New York Executive Agency, it’s covered under the Executive Law. The State provides tons of free resources for learning about FOIL requests. If the agency you are looking to find information from is a court, then it is likely covered under the Judiciary Law.

Writing your request is even easier than reading the law. Locate the address of the FOIL officer of the agency you are seeking to find information from. Often this information is available online. For example, as of writing, the FOIL Officer of the New York City Law Department is Andrea Fastenberg, 100 Church Street, Room 6-244, New York, New York 10007; which is information easily accessible through the Law Department directory.

Now sit down to write your FOIL request. Simply write hello, my name is so and so, and under such and such section of law, I make the following Freedom of Information Law requests for the following records. You list the records you want information about. You should ask for a full copy the record or contract, and any and all documents/records related to that record or contract. You should name the record or contract, and describe it as fully as possible so that the agency can locate it for you. Ensure that the agency has good contact information for you, and offer to accept the information by e-mail, because it may reduce your FOIL request costs. Succinctly, the government is entitled to a small fee for production of records. Often, receiving the information by e-mail eliminates this cost.

If you are seeking information generally from a state or city agency, you may also consider adding a time period to your FOIL request. For example: I request a copy of any and all contracts for stenographic reporting services, court reporting services, recording services, or electronic recording services from January 1, 2016 to January 1, 2017. This will help the agency with your request, because then they would only be looking for records in that year, as opposed to records going back a decade or more.

Always be professional and polite. If you do not receive a response within a month, you should consider following up with another FOIL request!