A Beginner’s Guide – or Refresher -- to Working with Court Reporters

A Beginner’s Guide – or Refresher — to Working with Court Reporters

A Beginner’s Guide – or Refresher -- to Working with Court ReportersWith all the parties and get-togethers over the holidays, I had the good fortune of running into an old friend and client.  I had not seen her for the longest time, and we quickly reminisced about the first time we met.  I was reporting a deposition at our office and her office was called and asked, “Is someone from your firm going to appear today at the deposition?”  It was quickly obvious that there was a miscommunication and that they needed to send someone over ASAP.  Well, she quickly drove over and arrived for the deposition.  It wasn’t until after everyone said their goodbyes that she turned to me and told me that it was HER VERY FIRST DEPOSITION. 

Thinking back on her performance, for lack of a better term, I was truly impressed.  Even though she probably was handed the file and had to rush over, she was collected and handled herself like an old pro.  She asked great questions, was mindful of the record, and did her job.  Obviously I am no pro at cross-examination skills – although I have seen some of the best in action – and would never make suggestions in that regard, but I do have tips I would like to share with attorneys, new to the deposition world or otherwise, that make for a better record in the end.

First, let’s make everyone’s job easier by providing the court reporter and their office with a full copy of the notice which includes any request for video — required per code — any document production, and the proof of service.  This notice will give the reporter your information as the noticing attorney, the caption, names and spellings of the parties, and the reporter will also know who to expect in attendance, including any interpreter that may be necessary.  If this matter is to be in the reporter’s conference room, it also gives them an idea on the size of the room needed.

Now you have arrived for the deposition.  If there is not a videographer present, the court reporter prefers to sit at the end of the conference room table with the witness next to them on one side and the noticing/questioning attorney on the other.  These things do vary depending on the room layout, whether it’s at a doctor’s office, et cetera.  Just be sure that the reporter can see and hear the witness.  What’s that line again? “Nobody puts Baby in the corner.”  Well, you can’t put the reporter in the corner and expect him/her to do their job.

At this point you have introduced yourself, handed the reporter a business card and confirmed they have a notice, and you are ready to proceed.  The reporter will then swear the witness and you will launch with probably an admonition and questions.  In my experience most witnesses are nervous and nervous people tend to speak quickly.  It’s also my experience that most attorneys could recite an admonition in their sleep.  However, usually the witness will follow the lead of the questioning attorney and this can make for a very fast start.  So let’s start off slowly so the reporter can warm up and acclimate to the voices in the room.  Not to worry, though, reporters understand when the questioning becomes intense and speed is part of the strategy to elicit information, but at the beginning it is helpful to take a little time.

Once questioning begins, it is obviously important to not speak over one another, not to mumble, put your hands over your mouth, et cetera.  Court reporters would prefer not to stop you and have you lose your train of thought, but their obligation and duty is to the record.  If the witness has a thick accent or cries or becomes hard to understand, be mindful that the reporter may need it repeated or it may be wise to restate what the witness said in the next question.  At times it takes a team to understand a witness and make the best record.

Is this witness an expert in a specialized field?  Is the testimony technical in nature?  If so, help the reporter to get the spellings and clarifications he/she needs.  We had a client for years who did medical malpractice work.  It was commonplace for him to walk in a deposition with a handwritten list of terms that would likely come up.  Of course I was familiar with these terms and understood them, but it was so helpful to know before the start of the deposition what I could expect and to come up with a one-stroke brief for “coccidioides immitis.” A one-stroke brief is something a court reporter can create by programing their software so when they stroke (or press down) a certain combination of their steno machine keys at the same time, the software interprets it as a specific word or phrase. As a court reporter increases the number of briefs they have, they become more efficient and accurate both during the deposition and in editing the final transcript afterwards.

Just a few things I would like to mention about quoting a document or reciting numbers.  Please slow down and enunciate.  When reading something for the record, most people will speed up.  You may think, well, I will give the reporter this document later and it can be filled in.  We need to report EVERYTHING you say and not guess if you quoted something accurately.  The same goes for numbers.  Numbers can be very challenging for a reporter so be sure to slow down and be clear on what the digits represent: dollars, dates, account numbers.  There is nothing worse than deciding how to write “twelve one fifty.”  Is it 12-1-50 or $12,150 or Account 12150?

Although I have definitely written hours on end in depositions when necessary, it is best for all to take a break at least every two hours.  You may want to consider a shorter period of time between breaks if the subject matter is difficult or the setting is tense.  Of course, you need to pay attention to the reporter’s demeanor as well.  If he/she starts coughing or goes for a drink of water, pause for a moment.  Trust me when I say there is nothing worse for a reporter than trying to subdue a cough and not have a moment to take a drink or grab a lozenge. 

If you plan to introduce exhibits, it is best to bring a copy for the reporter.  If you are at a law office or reporting firm, copies can be made, but copying documents at outside offices may not be possible.  It is best to come with the copies already made.  When presenting an exhibit to a witness, please first set it next to the reporter to be marked before continuing on with the questioning and definitely before marking the next exhibit.  If you hold it up to hand it to the reporter and you keep speaking, the reporter cannot lift her hands from the keyboard.  It may seem obvious, but I would be a rich woman if I received a dollar every time that happened during my career.  Once marked, the reporter will note it as well to keep track of the numbering or lettering.  At the end of the deposition – I suggest at every break – the exhibits are collected and maintained by the reporter.

Reporters report the spoken word and not gestures.  If you have a witness that points to a direction or a body part, be sure to state that for the record.  If before answering a question the witness leans over and whispers to his attorney, the reporter may note an off-the-record discussion, but you may also want to state something along the lines of “Now that you have had an opportunity to confer with counsel…..”

If remarks need to be made that are clearly not for the record, whatever those may be, it is best to go off the record first.  Once reported, and without the agreement of all counsel present, those statements will stay on the record.  You would hate to have some random discussion included in your record that you did not intend.

From a reporter’s point of view, I can tell you that there is no better feeling than working with true professionals that are mindful of the record.  When these practices are used, it makes for a better and more readable transcript.  Reporters are officers of the court and a critical part of the legal profession, and we want to deliver the best transcripts possible.

In closing, I hope this guide and these tips are helpful to not only the new litigator but also perhaps a refresher for the old pro.

Sandy Edmonson

Congratulations to One of Wood & Randall’s Finest!

Sandy EdmonsonLocal Court Reporter Earns National Certification

Sandy Edmonson recognized as Registered Diplomate Reporter

 

RESTON, Va., [November 16, 2017]—The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA), the country’s leading organization representing stenographic court reporters and captioners, has announced that Sandy Edmonson has earned the nationally recognized Registered Diplomate Reporter (RDR) certification, the highest credential available to stenographic court reporters. The reporters with the RDR credential are recognized for as highly experienced and seasoned, and members of the profession’s elite.

 

“Earning RDR credentials is a reflection of the commitment to advancement in a court reporter’s career and their professional growth. RDRs truly are the elite members of the court reporters and captioners when it comes to experience and knowledge of the latest technology, reporting practices and professional practices,” said Marcia Ferranto, CEO and executive director of NCRA. “NCRA currently has about 350 members who hold this highly prestigious certification.”

 

Edmonson, from Hanford, California, is a member of NCRA and has worked as a court reporter for 30 years. She also holds the professional certifications of Registered Professional Reporter (RPR), Registered Merit Reporter (RMR), Certified Realtime Reporter (CRR), and Certified Realtime Captioner (CRC), as well as the California state certification of Certified Shorthand Reporter (CSR).  Edmonson is currently a court reporter with Wood & Randall Certified Shorthand Reporters.

 

To be recognized as a RDR, candidates must hold the Registered Merit Reporter (RMR) certification and have five current and continuous years of membership in the NCRA, as well as pass a written knowledge test that focuses on the areas of technology, reporting practices and professional practices.

 

“I am very proud to have earned this certification.  I have to credit NCRA with requiring members to complete continuing education in order to maintain their certifications.  That requirement and my years of experience in both court and deposition settings gave me the knowledge to achieve the RDR certification.”

 

Career information about the court reporting profession—one of the leading career options that does not require a traditional four-year degree—can be found at DiscoverSteno.com.

 

About NCRA

The National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) is internationally recognized for promoting excellence among those who capture and convert the spoken word to text for more than 100 years. NCRA is committed to supporting its more than 16,000 members in achieving the highest level of professional expertise with educational opportunities and industry-recognized court reporting, educator and videographer certification programs. NCRA impacts legislative issues and the global marketplace through its actively involved membership. Forbes has named court reporting as one of the best career options that do not require a traditional four-year degree and the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the court reporting field is expected to grow by 14 percent through the year 2020. For more information, visit NCRA.org.

Telephonic Depositions: California Code of Civil Procedure 2025.310

Telephonic Depositions: California Code of Civil Procedure 2025.310

Telephonic Depositions: California Code of Civil Procedure 2025.310

Let’s face it, there are a lot of California Codes that have to be recognized for the purpose of a deposition. It’s helpful to occasionally have a refresher on the rules of the deposition so everyone’s day can go more smoothly and the deposition time is used efficiently.

CCP 2025.310 states this:

CCP 2025.310 (a) A person may take, and any person other than the deponent may attend, a deposition by telephone or other remote electronic means.

CCP 2025.310 (b) The court may expressively provide that a nonparty deponent may appear at the deposition by telephone if it finds there is a good cause and no prejudice to any party. A party deponent shall appear at the deposition in person and be the presence of the deposition officer.

CCP 2025.310 (c) The procedures to implement this section shall be established by court order in the specific action or proceeding or by the California Rules of Court.

Its application is very simple. The witness needs to be in the room with the court reporter (a deposition officer) when he/she is a party deponent or party to the action.  Other deponents can attend via videoconference or telephone, but if you are a party to the action, you need to be in the room with the court reporter. In the case of a party deponent, more than likely the deposition will cover a wider range of topics and will be longer timewise. With the reporter in the room with the party deponent, not only is it a face-to-face interaction, but the reporter can administer the oath in person, mark and handle any exhibits, and aid in the overall deposition process.

If you decide to go the telephonic route with a nonparty witness, you have the option of videoconferencing the deposition so you can also see the witness and be more a part of the deposition. Your trusted court reporting firm should be offering several remote options for out-of-towners or for the clients that aren’t able to make it out of the office. (Well, isn’t that nice!) Here’s an article that can help you with those options, 5 Scheduling Tips for Videoconference Depositions.

If you have any questions about working remote for depositions, we are here to help.  Just contact us at (800) 322-4595 or email me at [email protected].  You can also view more about our video services here.