Tips for a Clean Record
Court participants should never lose sight of the fact that their utterances are being recorded. Consciousness of the record and its importance will impel clarity of thought and speech and, thereby, promote accuracy and readability of the transcript.
Inability to Hear
Between the resonant utterances of the gifted orator and the almost inaudible mumbling of the incoherent witness lies a wide range of speech mannerisms and peculiarities. Rhetorical speakers often rise to heights of forensic eloquence, suddenly to descend to a whispered, inaudible completion of the thought cycle. Nothing is more upsetting to the reporter than the inability to hear distinctly each word uttered.
Instructions to the Witness
Explain the role of the court reporter to the witness. Instruct the witness to answer with an audible response versus uh-huh or huh-uh sounds or shakes, nods, or gestures. Also, instruct the witness to wait until the question has been completely asked before beginning to respond.
Try not to overlap, or speak on top of one another. Court reporters have difficulty transcribing two or more people talking at the same time.
Before proceeding, give your card to the court reporter and indicate on it whom you represent so that you will be properly identified in the transcript.
When numbers are involved, specify the context. Numbers can be confusing in a transcript when counsel does not specify whether the subject is dollars, quantities, percentages or otherwise.
Be sure to clearly specify letters of the alphabet if they are discussed individually, and identify them in spellings, such as "V as in Victor."
Exhibits for the plaintiff are marked “Plaintiff's Exhibit 1, 2, etc." and marked “Defendant's Exhibit A, B, etc." for the defendant. When the entire alphabet has been gone through, the next series is lettered “AA, AB, AC, etc.” and then “BA, BB, BC, etc.” and then “CA, CB, CC, etc.” This avoids the cumbersome result which follows from just adding another letter, which can lead to confusion when having to refer to "Exhibit AAAAA."
Off the Record
Counsel will say, “Off the record,” which is the signal for the court reporter to stop reporting. Discussion continues apace until counsel becomes aware that something of importance is not being reported. This could easily be avoided by telling the court reporter, “Let's go back on the record.”
In cases involving abstruse terminology, trade names, foreign names, technical words, patent names, or acronyms, the process will be facilitated if a glossary of unusual terms is provided to the court reporter at the outset. In this way the court reporter will be acquainted with the terminology of the case, and tend to avoid interruptions during the discovery or trial process.
If an interpreter is used for a foreign language speaking witness, be sure the interpreter speaks in lieu of the witness and in the first person. The court reporter must be able to understand the interpreter to accurately transcribe the proceedings.
Don't hesitate to ask the court reporter to read back a question or an answer if you are in doubt as to a response. Be aware, though, this process can be time-consuming, especially if the read-back area is located much earlier in the proceeding.
Communicate all special requests, such as expedited delivery, rough draft, ASCII, Realtime ™ hookup, video sync, et cetera, to the court reporting firm at the time you schedule a court reporter.