How Not to Ask for Repetitions

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After I wrote that, I realized that “how not to ask for repetitions” could be taken two ways, so I’d like to address both of them.

Part I: How Not to Need Repetitions.

1. Practice your active listening skills.

2. Train yourself to understand different accents (in both your working languages).

3. Buy sound-enhancing equipment for yourself, so you can hear better.

4. Understand the law, case law, and court processes so you can make a good educated guess at something you aren’t sure if you heard or not. (For example, memorizing possible sentences associated with certain crimes.)

5. Learn to talk faster. I suggest tongue twisters and shadowing the news.

6. Work on the Stare of Death you can give the chatterbox who’s standing behind you (not a party to the case).

7. Practice gestures and body language that will help you control the flow of witness testimony so you don’t forget long segments …

8. … but also strengthen your short-term memory and note-taking skills so you can remember longer segments.

Part II: How Not to Annoy the Person You’re Asking

1. Work on all the above to make asking for repetitions a rare thing.

2. Remember that you always address requests for repetition to the presiding judicial officer, not the speaker.

3. Whenever possible, break in at a natural pause in the proceedings.

4. Start your request with the proper form of address, such as “Your Honor,…” or “Madam Hearing Officer,…”

5. Always speak in the third person so as not to confuse the record.

6. Keep your remark/request brief but authoritative.

7. There are three possible routes here, and I’m afraid that you have to feel out which one the judicial officer prefers.

a. Request the accommodation straight off. “Mr. Hearing Officer, could counsel please repeat the last sentence?” “Your Honor, may the interpreter request a repetition?” [This is my default method, especially when asking for a repetition from someone other than the judge.]

b. State the problem clearly and wait for the judicial officer to suggest or request a solution. “Your Honor, the interpreter cannot hear counsel/Your Honor.” “Madam Hearing Officer, the interpreter cannot keep up with counsel/Your Honor.” (By the way, if the problem is that someone not associated with the case is standing directly behind me and talking, I sometimes also nod at or look toward that person as I inform the court that I cannot hear, to subtly point out the source of the problem to the judicial officer.)

c. Combine the two ideas above. “Your Honor, could Your Honor speak more slowly? The interpreter is having trouble keeping up.” “Madam Hearing Officer, the interpreter cannot hear counsel for the defendant. Could he please speak more clearly?”

8. Say “Thank you, Your Honor/Mr. Hearing Officer” if possible. (Sometimes the hearing may simply continue and you won’t have a chance.)

So there you have it: how to reduce your need for repetitions to the lowest frequency possible, and how to make your (now requests) for repetitions as appealing as possible. Good luck!

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