Dover court reporter speeds to national title

Delaware Court of Chancery reporter Juli LaBadia, of Dover, typed at a 99.912 percent accuracy rate while winning the 2015 National Speed Contest championship held in New York City in August. (Submitted photo/Administrative Office of the Courts)

Delaware Court of Chancery reporter Juli LaBadia, of Dover, typed at a 99.912 percent accuracy rate while winning the 2015 National Speed Contest championship held in New York City in August. (Submitted photo/Administrative Office of the Courts)

DOVER — She’s amazingly fast.

She’s exceedingly accurate.

She’s a national champion.

Dover resident Juli LaBadia captured top honors in all three categories to become the 2015 National Speed Contest Champion at the National Court Reporters Association Convention in New York City last month.

There was no cash prize for taking it all, though “the honor of winning” and a trio of gold medals resulted.

Upon returning home to her Delaware Court of Chancery work site, the 49-year-old found her office decorated, with a sash, tiara and balloons waiting for her.

Apparently there are some stars in the world of court reporters, since Ms. LaBadia admitted to being nervous upon entering the contest for the first time.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and when you show up and see all the well-known talents in the same room, it’s intimidating,” she said.

The atmosphere was hardly cut-throat, however.

“Everyone was nice and collegial …” according to Ms. LaBadia.

Expectations were not too far reaching.

“I went there thinking I want to do this and see if I can pass it,” she said. “When you’re in a room of experts you certainly don’t expect to finish first among all of them.”

The jitters abated quickly, evidenced by Ms. LaBadia reaching speeds of 220 to 280 words per minute and committing just three errors in three tests, an accuracy rate of 99.912 percent.

“I was nervous right up until it started, especially knowing how great the competition was,” she said. “You just take a breath and say to yourself ‘This is it, I’ve got to go’ and kind of go on autopilot and do what you have to do.”

Basically, the competitors took live dictation in three five-minute sessions covering question and answer sequences, legal opinion of a judge ruling, and a literary aspect with dense syllables and big words, kind of like what might come during a commencement address.

Clearly nitpicking, Ms. LaBadia thinks she missed a comma in one competitive transcript, and had at least one word

Delaware Court of Chancery reporter Juli LaBadia, of Dover, typed at a 99.912 percent accuracy rate while winning the 2015 National Speed Contest championship held in New York City in August.

Delaware Court of Chancery reporter Juli LaBadia, of Dover, typed at a 99.912 percent accuracy rate while winning the 2015 National Speed Contest championship held in New York City in August.

wrong in another part. She didn’t recall where the third error was spotted.

A court reporter for 29 years, Ms. LaBadia arrived in Delaware from New Mexico to be closer to family in upstate New York, east of Cooperstown; she was a freelance court stenographer in the First State from 2007 until taking a Court of Chancery position in 2013.

Her Court of Chancery experience allowed her to work for judges she considers “geniuses.” Since her win, the court’s chancellor and vice chancellor have light-heartedly prodded attorneys to speak as quickly as possible when Ms. LaBadia is taking the transcripts.

Seriously, though, court personnel acknowledge what an asset the national champion is.

“We are certainly impressed by the speed but we are most gratified about her accuracy,” Court Administrator Karlis Johnson said.

“We know we have some of the best court reporters in the country and this win by Juli just goes to prove that point.”
Chief Realtime Chancery Court Reporter Neith D. Ecker described the office’s mood as “giddy” regarding having a national champion in their midst.

“We are so proud of Juli and are fortunate to have her as part of the Chancery Court reporters for the state of Delaware,” Ms. Ecker said.

“Juli has a fondness for the word ‘awesome.’ So in her honor, we say: ‘Awesome is as awesome does!”

Ms. LaBadia cited her experience as a pianist as a mechanical key to becoming an outstanding court reporter.

“It takes both hands and all fingers on deck,” she said. “There’s a lot of flexibility required and you’re constantly building up strength in your hands.

“Your forearms hurt from making your fingers move for as long and fast as they do. Some days are longer than others …” she said.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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