Litigation + Valuation Perspectives

Demystifying Valuation, Economic Damages + Forensic Accounting

The amazing court reporters

I have testified at dozens of depositions and always had a court reporter present to transcribe my testimony. In my earlier days of testifying in a courtroom, a court reporter was always present. Today, court reporters in the courtroom are a rare sight. The courtrooms in Maricopa County Arizona Superior Court, for example, generally use microphones for the judges, attorneys and witnesses. Testimony is electronically transcribed. The words spoken in the courtroom are now recorded on discs.

Whenever I’ve given a deposition, I am always amazed and impressed at how effortlessly the court reporters restate my testimony on those little typewriter-thingy machines they peck away at. Oh, alright, I looked up the official name of the gadgets and found they seemed to be called stenographs, or stenography machines. Whatever they are called, it takes a skilled court reporter to make them hum.

I look with wonder at the court reporters – mostly ladies but sometimes men, and how their nimble fingers fly as I am spouting off whatever it is that I’m testifying about. I am thinking there is no possible way the reporter could type all that I just said and have it come out in some intelligible written document later on. No way. Yet, in the end, their wonderfully assembled written reports had – what I thought was said too quickly, accurately transcribed.

I’ve also found, for some reason unknown to me, the reporters are always courteous and friendly. In other words, they never appear to get rattled or allow themselves to be jaundiced by the high emotions and sometimes caustic and hurtful remarks from both the witness being deposed as well as the opposing attorney asking the questions. I had one court reporter tell me one time that he was transcribing at a deposition when the witness, an elderly gent in his early 80s, decided he’d had enough of the perceived badgering by the opposing questioning attorney. He suddenly reached for the pitcher of ice water on the middle of the conference room table and tossed its contents onto the befuddled and stunned said questioning attorney. I wonder how the court reporter accounted for this in his transcript. I thought it must have gone something like this:

Q. So you admit that it was a very unreasonable – strike that; a very dumb – strike that; a very stupid thing you chose to do. Isn’t that right Mr. Kruft?

A. Why you dirty #@!%&*! I’ll show you who’s stupid.

Next, I wondered how the court reporter would make written note of what he’d just witnessed. Surely, this event was so significant that it had to, somehow, be noted in the old guy’s deposition. I thought the ice water incident might have been recorded by the court reporter something like this:

(The witness suddenly picks up the pitcher of ice cold water, with several ice cubes in it, which was sitting in the middle of the conference room table, and slings it all over Mr. Ames. A short recess is taken.)

I’ve found court reporters to be unflappable, even when catastrophe strikes them during a deposition. I remember once when I was testifying and the court reporter, who was sitting to my left, placed a glass of water on the conference room table in front of her. The water happened to be right in front of, and above, her stenograph machine and a laptop computer which was storing the court reporter’s typing. I thought to myself, “Uh-oh, this doesn’t look good.” Sure enough, the reporter rose from her chair and reached to pick up a document on the conference room table. The document was to be marked by the reporter as an exhibit to my testimony. As the court reporter attempted to sit down – you guessed it – her left hand caught the glass of water. It spilled onto the conference room table. It spilled onto her stenograph machine. And, it spilled onto the laptop. A short recess was taken. The reporter calmly called her office which, fortunately, was not too far from my deposition location and asked a colleague to bring a backup stenograph machine and laptop. Within 20 minutes the new equipment arrived and my deposition continued. The reporter remained calm and upbeat. I was impressed.

In closing, I tip my hat to court reporters. They are truly amazing people. And that’s the truth!

Don Bays, CPA, ABV, CVA, CFF