A Thirst for Something Better
By Aimée Suhie

Don’t think H. Allen Benowitz is stuck on himself just because his name starts with an initial. It all goes back to his days playing stickball in Brooklyn, NY, when there were just too darn many kids whose names began with H and he became H. Allen.

But if anyone has a reason to be stuck on himself, arguably this man does. He overcame a tough childhood to rack up an impressive list of firsts in the court reporting industry:

  • First in the nation to perform a videotape deposition.
  • First in founding a videoconference network for the legal community
  • First to offer computer-aided transcription in South Florida and to introduce computerized litigation support.
  • First in the nation to conduct a multipoint videoconference for hard-of-hearing individuals.

Allen was one of four children of deaf parents, all whom were placed in children’s homes in 1951 because their mother could no longer care for them. Allen was nine when he and a sister went to live in one home, his two brothers in two other homes. "It may have been a blessing in disguise,” he says now, because he would never have had the opportunities he was later offered by living in the very quiet world that was his parents’ home. However, it was exactly his short life with deaf parents — reading lips, signing and translating for them with the hearing world under the age of six — that helped him develop what he terms “a sixth sense”  which heightened his sensitivities and powers of concentration and, he says, “made me a better reporter.”

Allen was a dental mechanics major in high school and spent his afternoons after class working in a lab making dentures and delivering them to local dental offices. On really hot days, he would duck into the air-conditioned courtroom of the Supreme Court building on Jay Street-Borough Hall in Brooklyn to do homework in the cool and comfortable back row.

“After two weeks, one of the attorneys and a court reporter invited me out to lunch,” he explains. “I didn’t know why, but a free lunch is a free lunch.”  Turns out they thought he was a cub reporter for the New York Daily News and wanted to make certain he spelled their names correctly.  But he told them he had become entranced by “the silent man’s role” in the courtroom: the court reporter.

After conferring with his school grade advisor and social worker at the children’s home, he received a scholarship grant to attend the Interboro Institute of Business in Manhattan, completing the three-year program in 11 months and passing his Certificate of Proficiency test (forerunner of the RPR) and Connecticut Circuit Court exam only 10 months after entering school.  Soon thereafter, he was hired by Jack W. Mallicoat & Associates, a Miami official reporter of the Circuit Court and freelance firm.

Allen went on to pass the RPR, flew through the RMR in one sitting so he could qualify for the national speed contest at the age of 22, and then placed third in the literary and fifth in the legal opinion all on the same day.  He reported such high profile jobs as the  ABC/NBC coverage of the Democratic and Republican national conventions, the National Women’s Political Caucus debate with Bella Abzug, and the William F. Buckley and John Kenneth Galbraith debate in 1972 as well.

Along the way, he married and later divorced and has two children, Cheryl Sisak, 35, a financial analyst; and Michael Benowitz, 32, who is operations manager of Veritext/Florida Reporting and vice president of Benowitz’s Worldwide Videoconferencing Corporation and father of Allen’s pride and joy, granddaughter Jenna Erin, almost 2.

Although tennis elbow ended his realtiming in 1995, Allen didn’t let that slow him down. He became vice president of marketing and sales for Veritext/Florida when the companies merged and is also involved in client relations for Veritext/Florida and reporter recruitment.

“I always had a natural love for reporting,” he says. “And my passion has not diminished.” Allen calls himself a “life sampler,” a term he thinks he may have coined. “It’s how I feel,” he explains. “I had very little when I started out, and I always had a hunger and a thirst for something better. My background made me a survivor, increased my sense of appreciation. I tried to learn what I could not from my parents, and sampled whatever I could.”

He founded H. Allen Benowitz & Associates in Miami in 1969, formed Worldwide Videoconferencing in 1989, merged with Veritext LLC in 1998, and consolidated three additional court reporting firms with his in 1999, growing from a $2 million company with 27 employees to $7 million in annual revenue with 100 people.



  1. Allen Benowitz at Forbidden City,

Peoples Republic of China.


He received the Emily Mann Distinguished Service Award from the Florida Court Reporters Association and is a Fellow of the Academy of Professional Reporters of NCRA.

What he’s sampling now is photography.  And in typical Benowitz fashion, he is excelling at that, too.  He took candid shots of his friends at the children’s home as a boy and saw his early passion resurface in 1976 when he snapped his six-year-old son and their dog bathed in a sunbeam through an amber stained-glass window He went on to win honorable mention for the shot in the International Kodak Contest. He later won more prizes for his photography and developed contacts in the photo art community. Recently his work was shown at the One Ear Society’s gallery and is scheduled to occupy Gallerie Vincent in Coconut Grove, Fla., this spring.  He has also developed a Web site featuring his photo art at

His photography has also almost gotten him killed when he was captured by the Sandinistas on a deposition trip. That earned him the nickname “Indiana Benowitz.” Here’s how he tells it:

“One of my most daring international assignments was in Managua, Nicaragua, a year after the Sandinista revolution. Two attorneys took me there to report litigation arising from an insurance claim based on a tobacco plantation allegedly bombed by the National Guard in its war with the rebels.

“The insurance company defense attorneys represented that the occupants of a so-called ‘phantom pickup truck’ had done the damage when they were spotted leaving the scene.”

Allen says a lot happened between leaving the hotel, driving through the jungle in two safari jeeps, negotiating checkpoints, being fumigated for agricultural safety, taking the deposition testimony 80 miles into the mountain country and returning to Managua. He was captured by Sandinistas with bayonet-mounted rifles and interrogated for taking photographs of the “sensitive scenes.”

“An attorney said one day that I would get in trouble for taking photographs,” Allen remembers with a chuckle. “And he was right.  But it was worth the challenge.”

Allen sprinkles his conversations with tributes to everyone who helped him achieve his goals throughout his life. Living in the children’s home with six children to a room and only one shelf in a closet taught him to be meticulous with his possessions and create a sense of organization in his life “even when it was in disarray.”

He credits his mentors in court reporting, Bill Cohen, Jack Mallicoat, Doris Mauldin (later to be NSRA president) and Raymond DeSimone (another Past President), who early on encouraged him to take his photography to a higher level.

And although his father died in the 1980s, Allen is still in touch with his mother through a telephone relay operator and flew her into Miami when her great-granddaughter was born. He is especially proud that he was able to combine his past and the future when he simultaneously merged all the court reporting technologies of CAT, split-screen realtime captioning while videotaping a multipoint four-city videoconference at NCRA’s annual convention showcase spectacular in Chicago in the early ‘90s.  He spoke to an audience that included members of the Association of Late Deafened Adults and Gallaudet University at two of the four video-conference locations and made that a tribute to his mom, providing the captioned and videotaped program as his special gift.

JCR Contributing Editor Aimée Suhie, BA, RPR, is from New Fairfield Conn.