For the record, New London's new official court reporter loves her job
New London — Amy Anderson has settled into the same fourth-floor office in New London Superior Court where she interviewed 14 years ago for a temporary job as a court recording monitor.
She was promoted recently to official court reporter for the New London Judicial District after vying with 10 other candidates statewide for the position. At 36, she said she is Connecticut's youngest official court reporter. She replaced Debrah Veroni, who retired.
Always effervescent, Anderson was almost giddy during an interview this past week about her new position, which pays $77,000 a year plus benefits.
"I'm so excited," she said. "This is what I went to college for. This is what I did all the training for. It's life-changing in the best possible way."
She loves the challenge of managing the 14 court recording monitors (including herself) who work in the 18 courtrooms within the district's four courthouses. The job involves making sure monitors are available when judges need to "make a record" of a court proceeding and juggling staff schedules. Anderson still works in court sometimes and thinks it's important for a supervisor to be able to do the work of the employees.
She has personalized her office with family photos and other keepsakes. She likes when people comment on her framed prints of Stars Hollow, Conn., and the Dragonfly Inn, fictional settings of the Gilmore Girls, a 2000s TV show she adores.
Anderson's father was in the Navy, and she said she lived in many states before the family moved to Groton in 1997. She graduated from Robert E. Fitch Sr. High School in 2000. She went to Sweet Briar College in Virginia for one year, then transferred to Pine Manor College in Chestnut Hill, Mass., where she obtained her bachelor's degree.
Then known as Amy Cowan, she was headed to graduate school to become a teacher in 2004 when she applied for the temporary position. She remembers thinking she wasn't ready when she went into a courtroom after only a few days of training. She did it anyway, and realized quickly it provided a way to combine her degree in English with her ability to type 100 words a minute.
"We are solely responsible for the audio recording of all proceedings," she explained. "Anything anyone says, we have to make sure it is on the record. While we're listening, we're typing notes of what's going on."
The job requires a lot of focus, she said. One day a monitor might be covering a criminal case riddled with street jargon, and the next they're assigned to a medical malpractice proceeding involving medical terminology.
Participants in legal matters often require a transcript, which is a word-for-word record of a proceeding. The court monitors are paid extra to produce transcripts using their notes and audio recordings. The job sometimes requires them to work nights and weekends in order to have the transcripts ready for the beginning of the next court day.
Anderson said she looked at every transcript as an opportunity, and that the extra money allowed her to take some fabulous trips. For now, she said, she won't be doing transcripts. She prefers to go home to Norwich and spend time with her husband, Darren, and their 2-year-old daughter, Nora. Her husband, who has a degree in culinary arts, is doing a stint as a stay-at-home dad, an arrangement Anderson said allows her to focus fully on work during the weekdays.
"She's really committed to the position," said Hillary B. Strackbein, chief administrative judge for the district. "Her demeanor makes her a pleasure to work with."
Court Officer Martha Jenssen said Anderson is an asset, not only for the New London Judicial district but also for the Judicial Branch.
"She has always been extremely professional in both her duties inside of court and behind the scenes," Jenssen said in an email. "She will be a loyal employee to the Judicial Branch for many years to come. I was so pleased when I found out that she was offered the job. She is a very hard worker and treats her staff and her other co-workers with respect, which is like a light of sunshine here!"
Prosecutor David J. Smith said he's worked with Anderson for more than a decade and has done numerous cases with her.
"She's always attentive," Smith said. "She always makes it a point to check in with me and the defense attorney to make sure she's accurately getting information to put into her transcripts. She's diligent and getting information quickly to the state and defense and the judge when it's requested. She'll probably do a really good job in raising the profile of that office."
Many remember when court reporters used shorthand machines to make the official record of the proceedings.
When Anderson started, recordings were made on cassette tapes. She remembers the machine would "beep" in the middle of hearings to indicate that it needed to be turned over. During her first murder trial, she said the machine malfunctioned and stopped recording during the testimony of a key witnesses. The monitors can't be shy, since they sometimes have to stop the proceedings while they adjust their equipment or interrupt testimony to ask lawyers and witnesses to speak up or stop talking over one another.
As of 2013, the Judicial Branch exclusively uses a digital audio recording system called For The Record, which Anderson said makes searches of specific testimony or playback for juries much easier. She said she doubts that court recording monitors will be replaced entirely by technology.
"I always think there's going to be a human element needed in the courtroom," she said.
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