The Courts of Mississippi are pleased to announce Pearl River Community College’s inaugural program for court reporters. Classes are scheduled to begin Aug. 6 at the Hattiesburg campus of Pearl River Community College.
The program is designed to respond to an urgent need for well-trained professional stenographers to record, transcribe and create an official record of court proceedings. There is a shortage of certified court reporters, as retirements have outpaced new people coming into the profession. There are currently 281 licensed court reporters in Mississippi, according to the Mississippi Board of Certified Court Reporters. There were 375 licensed court reporters a decade ago. That includes official court reporters for all federal and state courts as well as freelance court reporters.
For students considering court reporting as a profession, “You are not going to have a problem finding a job,” said Rose Sanchez of Hattiesburg, who became the Mississippi Court Reporters Association president in April. She is a court reporter for Circuit Judge Prentiss Harrell in the 15th Circuit District.
Other employment opportunities are available outside the courtroom, with the need for closed captioning in television, movies, sports broadcasting and other venues.
Twila Jordan-Hoover of Carriere, immediate past president of the Mississippi Court Reporters Association, and Sanchez will teach classes on Friday and Saturday twice a month. The hybrid program will also include online classes.
The new program is prepared to enroll as many as 15 students, said Dr. Jana Causey, Vice President for the Forrest County campus of PRCC. The first step for interested students is to apply for enrollment at PRCC. Enrollment information may be found on the college’s website, www.prcc.edu.
Leaders of the Mississippi Court Reporters Association set plans in motion for a training program about three years ago. Sanchez, Jordan-Hoover and other court reporters around the state volunteered to provide in-person instruction through a national organization that provides a hybrid online six-week introduction to court reporting. The free program, known as A to Z, is designed to give students an opportunity to learn about a possible career path without investing a lot of time and money.
Online programs are available through which students can pursue training, but the nearest classroom program for court reporting was in Gadsden, Ala. “The problem is if they leave, what if they don’t come back,” Jordan-Hoover said. She knows several A to Z participants who went to classes in Alabama and Texas. “Having a school here will allow us to keep our students here and fulfill the need we have in our state.”
Jordan-Hoover works as a court reporter for Chancellor Deborah Gambrell Chambers in the 10th Chancery District. She discussed the association’s ideas with Judge Gambrell Chambers, who reached out to Supreme Court Chief Justice Mike Randolph and to Mississippi Judicial College Director Randy Pierce. They discussed ways to set up a training program and contacted several colleges and universities. Pearl River Community College agreed to provide the program and obtained approval for the curriculum.
“There was a need and we just figured out a way to bring it to fruition,” said Judge Gambrell Chambers. “Pearl River Community College and its leadership are to be commended,” Pierce said.
Chief Justice Randolph said, “I am extremely pleased that the leaders of the Court Reporters Association, in conjunction with urging by Judge Gambrell Chambers, and the willingness of Pearl River Community College, have created this wonderful opportunity for young people to get involved in a very well-respected and well-paid profession. This will provide a career path for those individuals who do not desire a four year education, but seek a meaningful and rewarding career.”
Chancellor Kiley Kirk and Court Administrator Erin Land of the Sixth Chancery Court know the frustration of searching for temporary court reporters to fill in. The official court reporter left in April. Land said, “I call around and just try to find one to schedule for motions and trial dates.” Trial dates are scheduled into next year. But, Land said, “Nobody really wants to schedule that far in advance.” Judge Kirk said, “I like for things to be lined up. I’m having to work in an atmosphere of uncertainty.”