The history of court reporting in Minnesota is inseparable from those of the organizations formed by reporters to advance the interests of their profession. Few members of the legal profession, which is so dependent on the reporting profession, are aware of this history.
In 1873, the legislature passed special laws authorizing Ramsey County, Dakota County and the judges in the Seventh Judicial District to hire court reporters; the following year a law extending that option to most other courts in the state was enacted. At this time, all transcriptions were done by hand, in pen and ink. St. Paul reporter George Hillman introduced the first typewriter in 1882.
The Minnesota District Court Reporters Association was formed in 1886, and reorganized in 1907 as the Minnesota Shorthand Reporters Association. During the rest of the century, the MSRA lobbied the legislature for higher salaries and other benefits, set professional standards and took steps to enhance the status of its members. Its membership grew. As did competition, particularly in the 1960s from electronic recording devices. In 1969, MSRA amended its bylaws to bar its members from using any means of recording except by pen or machine. Meanwhile, in 1985, freelance reporters formed the Minnesota Freelance Court Reporters Association. The movement for electronic and computerized transcription was irresistible, and by the end of that decade six out of eight judicial districts in the state used electronic recording devices. Besides technological changes, the two associations dealt with a variety of problems facing their members, including the propriety of making incentive gifts, reporting depositions of relatives and other ethical issues. In 1998, the MSRA and the MFCRA merged to become the Minnesota Association of Verbatim Reporters and Captioners.
In recent years, MAVRC has adopted an expansive vision of its mission. Among other actions, it has taken positions on proposed rules of the Minnesota Supreme Court that effect the reporting profession; it has lobbied the legislature on the need to adequately fund the court system and state colleges; its members have provided pro bono services to Advocates for Human Rights at the Liberian Truth and Reconciliation Commission; and four members have traveled to Africa to report the Rwanda Genocide Trials.
This is a remarkable story, succinctly told by Jackie Young, a former president of MAVRC and recipient of its Distinguished Service Award.