On the Court Reporter’s Court

– by Gio Lester©

I prefer depositions and arbitration to actual courtroom work. One of the first things I do is make sure the court reporters know I am on their team. This usually helps with the flow.

From my personal point of view, ensuring that the record comes out clear is one of the main reasons for my presence. Those present need to be able to communicate, their exchanges need to be recorded, those records may be used later on to further the discovery process or in court.

Sometimes the deponent insists on speaking for him or herself, but I don’t take a break. I dutifully listen and take notes for the court reporter. “Excuse me, for the court reporter?” you ask. Yes. For the court reporter.

That’s something I learned from my colleague Dianne Teichman. The poor man or woman sitting there, typing away does not understand “Rua Lima e Silva, duzentos e catorze, apartamento 302” or “Pontifícia Universidade Católica de São Paulo,” or the various names of children, doctors, colleagues, hospitals, etc. that deponents rattle off and lawyers don’t even pick up on. When the lawyers notice a name they think they recognize, they ask the deponent to spell it out – and I have seen many deponents just panic at the prospect of spelling their own names.

So, I let the court reporter know that I will be taking down as many of those pesky words as I can. Here is what one of those pages may look like:

Sample notes

Click to enlarge

The pages are numbered, exhibit numbers are noted and all answers pertaining to that specific exhibit are grouped on the left, on the right I place some reference to the question. Sometimes I have to rewrite something because my handwriting isn’t always clear enough. Most times I take notes for myself first, and then while I am interpreting or the lawyers are talking, I create the notes for the court reporter. If the deposition is fast paced, with a lot of objections and discussions between the lawyers, then I just have to wait for a break to work on the notes for the court reporter. At the end of the procedure, we may go over my notes just to make sure the court reporter can actually read what I took down.

Readers who do not have experience with depositions may wonder why I am not reading a book, working on a translation or otherwise occupying myself with non-deposition related activities when deponents refuse my services. Easy, deponents who consider themselves self-sufficient in English will still look to the interpreter to confirm word choice or provide the proper term to help them convey a concept; or the lawyers themselves will look to the interpreter for support when they believe a questions they posed was not properly understood. So, though I am not “actively participating” in the procedure, I am still working, on a more passive manner. I have to be ready to fill in, to provide that missing word or that quick interpretation. My vocal chords do get a break, but my brain is going at the same speed as if I were actively interpreting.

So far I have gotten no complaints and no refusals. I have had to correct deponents’ spellings by interrupting the proceeding with “The interpreter would like to make a correction to the record,” which helps the court reporter when transcribing the notes for the lawyers.

I have asked myself who I am working for when I go to a deposition, and I find that the best answer is myself. Yes, I am being paid by a lawyer or an agency, I am helping the deponent communicate, I am assisting the court reporter with keeping the records clear, but in the end I am assuring that I am called back, that I offer a layer of service that is appreciated and quantifiable. After all, that’s what my boss expects of me, right?


13 thoughts on “On the Court Reporter’s Court”

  1. Kevin Mercado says:

    In reading Fundamentals of Court Interpretation (Gonzalez, Vasquez, Mikkelson), the first edition, pg. 424: “the court interpreter should be aware of this problem and should compile a list of these names for the court reporter as the proceeding progresses.”

    1. Gio Lester says:

      Exactly, Kevin. It is part of our job description, just some of us don’t seem to be aware of it. I wasn’t when I first started, and I would share my note with the court reporter. after Diane’s presentation, I devised a process, so I don’t have to linger after the deposition is over to clean my notes.

  2. ANNA WATROUS says:

    Dear Gio,
    The grateful looks from court reporters over the years have this practice well worth the effort on my part. It means you are doing the best job you possibly can, to make sure everyone in that conference room, courtroom, etc. is happy with the results. I always get compliments at the end of the procedure and best of all, calls to come back!
    Thanks for your articles!

    1. Gio Lester says:

      That’s what we are there for, right? Thank you, Anna, for confirming that court reporters out there can count on us to work with them and help lighten their load a bit.

      And I am glad you enjoy the articles. Thank you.

      – Gio

  3. Jennifer De La Cruz says:

    Hi, Gio!
    One of the things I learned early on is to be aware of the words blurted out in heavily accented English or even Spanish that the court reporter needs to spell for his or her record. If that happens, I try to jot the words down and at a break I ask the reporter whether any of the spellings would be helpful. Here in my area, many of the reporters speak Spanish or have heard enough to know spellings of the more common terms. It is a nice relationship to have because in the end, we are often faced with many of the same issues they are and we can exchange ideas.

    Thanks for the article!

  4. Gio Lester says:

    That’s another interesting situation. Especially because I will understand it and not realize the poor Court Reporter may not had gotten it. – for example when they are saying the name of a city or a street… I have to police myself :o)

  5. Helen Eby says:

    I sit between the court reporter and the deponent, because those are the two people who need to hear me the most clearly. I take notes in my little steno pad, and as a name comes through I write it on the page, wherever it is, put a box around it, tear the page out and give it to the court reporter. She just loves it!

    It also gives the deponent a chance to see what I’m writing as we go and make sure those names are correct. On occasion, they have made corrections. It helps especially when they are asked to spell their names and I write it down as they go.

    1. Gio Lester says:

      I only had one person ask me to give them the words as they came. All other court reporters asked me to give it to them at the end – I share it with them during the breaks to make sure they can read my handwriting or if I need to make a reference more clear.

      And I also prefer to sit between them. More convenient for all.

  6. Bethany Korp says:

    I agree, Gio. I always keep a separate sheet of paper off to the side and write down names and words that aren’t translated (like if the lawyers say them during a question, e.g. “And what did you understand the police officer to mean when he said, ‘¿puedo revisar tu carro?'”) as we go. I try to write the time and speaker next to the term, but I can’t always do that and keep interpreting!

    1. Gio Lester says:

      You are not the Super Interpreter people have been talking about??? :o)

      Especially when everyone decides to speak at once about the deponent or an objection and we have to do simultaneous for the poor deponent. I always wonder about the Court reporter at those times. At least they have their recordings to rely on later. But WE can’t keep up – and no recordings to refresh memory with.

  7. Seth Hammock says:

    I agree with what Helen Eby said,

    “It also gives the deponent a chance to see what I’m writing as we go and make sure those names are correct. On occasion, they have made corrections. It helps especially when they are asked to spell their names and I write it down as they go.”

    This has been the case for me numerous times. Great post, this is the first time I have read your blog, and I will be back!

  8. Gio Lester says:

    Thank you, Seth. You should start with the archives. There’s plenty of information and good humor there.

  9. Janis Palma says:

    I love that you do this, Geo! In our courts we are very mindful of court reporters, particularly those who do not speak a word of Spanish (some of our court reporters do speak the language.) We write words on post-its for quick reference and pass them on to the court reporter during the proceedings if the name or term is going to keep coming up and the poor court reporter has that look on her (or his) face that clearly mean “help!”. We also make lists for them to hand over at the end of the day (or event.) I often think we have so much in common with court reporters they are, indeed, part of the “team”, whether in court or out of court.

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