1st class of court reporters ready to roll

Four of the five court reporters who are expected to graduate July 29: (From left) Felicia...
Four of the five court reporters who are expected to graduate July 29: (From left) Felicia Jackson, Hattiesburg; Candace Cooley, Waynesboro; Alicia Miller, Magee; and Amanda Barnes Hernandez of Eatonville. Not pictured: Jessie “Morgan” Ponder Anglin, Mount Olive.(Pearl River Community College)
Published: Jul. 14, 2022 at 5:34 PM CDT
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HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - By most accounts, Mississippi’s court system is in urgent need of stenographic court reporters.

Pearl River Community College is trying to do something about the shortage.

PRCC’s first class of stenographic court reporters will be honored at a ceremony at 1 p.m. July 29 at the Forrest County Chancery Court, 641 Main St., Hattiesburg.

Five court reporters will receive certificates for having completed the academic training. 

  • Felicia Jackson, Hattiesburg
  • Candace Cooley, Waynesboro
  • Alicia Miller, Magee
  • Amanda Barnes Hernandez, Eatonville
  • Jessie “Morgan” Ponder Anglin, Mount Olive.

The quintet must seek state or national certification, said Twila Jordan-Hoover, former president of the Mississippi Court Reporters Association and an instructor for the PRCC program.

A new class will begin in August, said David Collum, PRCC dean of Career and Technical Education.

Fifteen students were enrolled as of July 12.

Enrollment information may be found on the college’s website, www.prcc.edu.

The court reporter training 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.

The average age of the court reporters in Mississippi is 55, and 25 percent of the court reporters are between 61 and 70 years old.

“There remains a critical need for court reporters in Mississippi,” Mississippi Judicial College Director Randy Pierce said, “For people deciding on a career or perhaps contemplating a career change, this profession is one to consider.

“Court reporters are vital to the judiciary, and the benefits are fantastic for official court reporters and freelance court reporters.”

There are currently 282 licensed court reporters, including 21 who live in surrounding states and have nonresident temporary licenses, said Tracy Graves, administrator of the Mississippi Board of Certified Court Reporters.

There were 375 licensed court reporters more than 10 years ago, including official court reporters for all federal and state courts as well as freelance court reporters.

Other employment opportunities are available outside the courtroom, with the need for closed captioning in television, movies, sports broadcasting and other venues.

“I congratulate them on their upcoming graduation as court reporters,” said Supreme Court Presiding Justice Leslie King, chairman of the Board of Certified Court Reporters.

“Court reporters are a vital part of the judiciary. I look forward to welcoming each of them as licensed, court-reporting professionals.”

Tenth Chancery District Senior Chancellor Deborah Gambrell Chambers helped implement the training program.

She will preside over the graduation of the inaugural class.

“All of the students have had the opportunity to actually sit in court and do a quasi-internship with local judges,” she said. “Because state and federal judges have allowed them access to the courts, we feel confident that they will immediately fill the voids that currently exist.”

Said Jordan-Hoover: “The Tenth Chancery Judges have been extremely supportive of the school and encouraging towards the students.”

Leaders of the Mississippi Court Reporters Association set plans in motion for a training program about four years ago.

Jordan-Hoover and Rose Sanchez, another former association president, 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,” gave students an opportunity to learn about a possible career path without investing a lot of time and money.

PRCC agreed to offer classes, becoming the only college program in the state to train court reporters. Classes began in August 2021 at the Hattiesburg campus. Jordan-Hoover, a court reporter for the 10th Chancery Court, and Sanchez, a court reporter for the Fifteenth Circuit Court, taught classes on Friday and Saturday twice a month.

The hybrid program also included online classes.

Officers of the Mississippi Court Reporters Association hope to be able to start another training program in the northern part of the state. They are working to find a community college or university willing to add the program to its curriculum.

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