08 Aug On the Court Reporter’s Court
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:
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?