War Stories

by Fat Daddy, Esq. on November 2, 2010

Note: As it is with many professions, when attorneys get together they tend to tell “war stories” about their cases and clients. This is the first of hopefully many such stories. I encourage you to share your own war stories with me and I will post them here.

Court reporters have a tough job. When I begin a deposition, I routinely include a request to the testifying witness to please wait until my question is complete before answering and to provide verbal answers and not say something like uh-huh. I have rarely completed a deposition without the witness, or myself, talking over each other. Depending on the reporter, they may either suffer silently, trying to sort it all out, or say “hey, will one of you shut up?” or more polite words to that effect.

In my jurisdiction, all of the court reporters I have seen use stenograph machines or nowadays a hybrid computer-stenography keyboard system. A few years ago I went to another state to depose a witness and came across, what seemed to me, a strange way of reporting: voice writing. As I began to speak, I could hear a faint psst, psst, psst which was the reporter speaking into her mask. At first it was truly annoying but eventually I got used to it and was able to proceed.

One day, as a deposition was getting underway the court reporter began with great formality and confirmed with counsel that the deposition was being taken by agreement and that certain rules were being waived by the parties and then proceeded to turn to the witness to swear her in. “Please raise your right hand so that I can swear you in,” the court reporter said. The witness sat there for a second looking quite confused. It would not have been the first time that a witness did not know their right from their left. But this situation presented a different problem. The court reporter did not notice the witness when she sat down. The witness raised her handless stump and confusedly said, “I don’t have a hand, can I raise my arm instead?” The court reporter was greatly embarrassed and quickly confirmed that yes, it was okay to just raise her arm. The witness was sworn and the deposition was conducted, albeit with a slight discomfort in the room.

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