A freelancer’s new perspective of court: Lessons on deposition transcripts

Gavel on a folder filler with papers

Photo by: wp paarz

By Tricia Rosate

In California, freelancers often cover civil trials, and I’ve been reporting more trials lately. I consider myself a pretty good writer, but this pace is phenomenal. No shuffling through exhibits, no 10-minute lulls where the witness is taking their sweet time reading every page of a lengthy email exchange. This is theater.

More specifically, seeing deposition transcripts blown up on the big screen for the entire courtroom to see has really given me a new perspective. One thing I’ve learned is that it’s not necessary to capitalize things that don’t need to be (i.e., “I work in the Finance Department” vs. “I work in the finance department”). It’s distracting and looks strange. When in doubt and there’s no rule or reason to cap it, leave it alone.

Secondly, please use a proofreader. There were times in my career that I thought, “Who even reads this?” Well, one day it could be a judge, two counsel tables filled with attorneys, the clerk, bailiff, 14 jurors, the official (pro tem) reporter, and anyone observing.

On the subject of verbatim: When reporting video depositions, there is no need to include every single stutter, i.e., “It’s — it’s — it’s — it’s the third one down.” One set of dashes is just fine. All the dashes look so awful on the big screen and make it almost unreadable. I know we’re verbatim and the parties make their own record, but a little best judgment goes a long way. I guarantee that the jurors are not counting the stutters and thinking the reporter dropped the ball if they’re not all in there.

Then there’s another verbatim thing that I know has been a hot topic: the 2000s. The attorney says, “So it happened in two ten?” The reporter knows the attorney means 2010 but writes “2’10.” I’m not saying this is wrong. However, please picture it blown up on a screen in a courtroom during a trial, with 14 jurors looking at the transcript — and, yes, they do — and the attorney telling the jurors to please disregard the typo.

“But it’s not a typo! He said two ten, not 2010,” you might say. If someone doesn’t say two thousand and ten, it’s the reporter’s call on how to format it. But not one of these jurors understands or cares why the reporter formatted it that way. It looks weird and disjointed.

In somewhat the same vein, I recently Googled myself to see if there were any privacy concerns I should address, and I came across several excerpts of my transcripts posted online, which again goes to my point. People do read your transcripts! Sometimes many more people than you ever imagined!

Tricia Rosate, RDR, CRR, is a freelancer in San Diego, Calif. This article is revised from a post she wrote in the “Guardians of the Record” Facebook discussion group. Tricia Rosate can be reached at rosate.csr@gmail.com.

Court of Appeal reinstates class action despite mootness

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyThe Metropolitan News-Enterprise, Los Angeles, Calif., reported on Oct. 26 that the Sixth District Court of Appeal has ordered reinstatement of a class action. The case challenges a policy of the Santa Cruz Superior Court to refund court reporter fees, paid in advance, when no court reporter was provided only if a written request is made. The superior court dismissed the contention that the appeal should be dismissed as moot because all refunds have now been made and the court no longer requires a request in writing.

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NCRA member named Employee of the Year at Brooklyn Supreme Court

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyThe Brooklyn Daily Eagle (N.Y.) reported on Oct. 6 that NCRA member and senior court reporter Enika Bodnar, RPR, CRI, was named the Employee of the Year at the Brooklyn Supreme Court. Bodnar has been working in the court system since July 1996 and started at Brooklyn Supreme Court in March 2007.

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No one is recording what happens in family law court anymore

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyThe Voice of San Diego (Calif.) reported on Oct. 9 that the city’s Superior Court is no longer providing court reporters for family law proceedings, which means there is no verbatim, written record of what happens in court. Family law attorneys say the move will disproportionately affect low- and middle-income families who have complaints before the court.

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San Diego Superior Court to stop providing court reporters for family law matters

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How a house fire burned up a man’s murder conviction

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyWSB Radio, Atlanta, Ga., reported on Oct. 4 that a man serving life for murder had his conviction tossed out by Georgia’s Supreme Court because recordings and notes from his trial were destroyed in a fire at the home of the court reporter.

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Reporteras de la corte: Una profesión bien pagada, pero poco conocida/Court reporting: A well-paying but little-known profession

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyA Sept. 7 article in the Spanish publication La Opinión highlights NCRA members Alma Zapata, RPR; Camille Márquez; and Adriana Montañez, who are all officials in Southern California. The article, which is in Spanish, discusses how each of them came to reporting as well as the benefits of a career in reporting, including salary potential, flexibility, and the opportunity to learn something new every day. The article also suggests that being bilingual is an advantage to learning steno.

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NCRA attends CTC, keeps profession relevant

Set in a moderately busy vendor hall, two women in professional garb speak with a few men who are visiting the booth. One of the women is seated at a steno machine. On the table are flyers and propped up iPads.

NCRA President Christine J. Willette (seated) and NCRA Secretary-Treasurer Debra A. Dibble speak with attendees at the 2017 Court Technology Conference.

NCRA was proud to host a booth in the expo hall at the Court Technology Conference (CTC) held Sept. 12-14, in Salt Lake City, Utah. The National Center for State Courts holds the biennial conference, which is the world’s premier event showcasing the developments in court technology. The event draws more than 1,500 court professionals from around the nation.

Volunteers at the NCRA booth at this year’s CTC event included NCRA President Christine J. Willette, RDR, CRR, CRC; Secretary-Treasurer Debra A. Dibble, RDR, CRR, CRC; Director of Professional Development Programs Cynthia Bruce Andrews; and Government Relations Manager Matthew Barusch. Other volunteers included:

  • Rockie Dustin, RPR, a freelancer in Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Phoebe Moorhead, RPR, CRR, a freelancer in North Ogden, Utah
  • Laura Robinson, RPR, an official in Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Laurie Shingle, RPR, CMRS, a freelancer in Pleasant View, Utah
  • Pattie Walker, RPR, an official in Holladay, Utah

The NCRA representatives used the opportunity to demonstrate to attendees the professional advantage of using stenographic court reporters as well as display the latest technology in realtime reporting. They also had the opportunity to speak to judges, IT professionals, and other court professionals.

“We experienced great interactions with court IT attendees. The lack of certified stenographic reporters to cover courts was a common theme expressed by many visitors to our booth. They’re really feeling the shortage,” said Willette. “They all love realtime. Many of them who use realtime said they can’t live without it. One judge called her reporter right on the spot to make sure they knew about realtime to the cloud,” she added.

The CTC serves as the venue for unveiling the latest developments in court technology to the court-professionals community, giving NCRA a prime opportunity to promote the gold standard of court reporting.

“The potentially monumental contacts that can be made at CTC are innumerable and invaluable in view of the broad expanse of crucial decision-makers who attend,” said Dibble. “We met with judges, attorneys, IT personnel, court reporters, and vendors of litigation services and technologies to court systems — everyone is looking for ways to be more effective in their roles to more efficiently execute the judicial process,” she added.

Willette and Dibble both agree that having the opportunity to demonstrate the capabilities of stenographic court reporters to those charged with implementing court-technology services helps to open doors and inspire ideas to incorporate stenographic skills into the products they offer. Attending the CTC also helps to keep NCRA members relevant as technologies evolve.

“It is imperative that NCRA be a part of that solution-finding process and be visible to every facet of this field. We spent our time listening and learning about the interests and needs of attendees, then sharing with them how we can provide solutions to their needs and how our services create efficiencies to their processes,” Dibble said.

The next Court Technology Conference will be in September 2019 in New Orleans, La. For more information, visit ctc2017.org.

San Diego Superior Court to stop providing court reporters for family law matters

JCR: Journal of Court Reporting, TheJCR.com, JCR WeeklyTV station KUSI, San Diego, Calif., reported on Aug. 3 that effective next month, the San Diego Superior Court will no longer provide official court reporters in family-law matters for domestic-violence restraining order hearings or “request for order’’ hearings of 40 minutes or less.

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San Diego Superior Court further decreases court reporter services

No one is recording what happens in family law court anymore

Delays in court cases lead to class action suit

The Amsterdam News, New York, N.Y., reported on May 10 that several attorneys have filed a class action lawsuit against officials as a result of months and sometimes even years-long delays in the cases being heard for residents of the Bronx who have been arrested for a misdemeanor charge. The delays in part are being blamed on lack of a court reporter.

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Departments make 2016 budget requests

The LewisboroLedger.com, Lewisboro, N.Y., reported on Oct. 16 that town Justice Marc Seedorf recently presented his and Justice Susan Simon’s request for $156,000 to run their department for 2016, which included two increases. Seedorf said he planned to offset the costs with savings on court stenographers but noted that the town’s decision, a few years ago, to retain two full-time court clerks had benefited the town’s finances and the functioning of the court. He thanked officials for keeping them on board.

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