Court Reporter

Court Reporter

The Record Keeper

Arlington, VA

Female, 30

I have been a working court reporter in the D.C. Metro area for 5 years. I record legal proceedings via stenotype --also known as shorthand -- to create a verbatim transcript for later use at trial or in the appeals process. I primarily take down criminal proceedings, but I have also done my fair share of civil proceedings such as family law cases and medical malpractice cases.

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17 Questions


Last Answer on September 18, 2014

Best Rated

How do you transcribe when people in the courtroom are talking over and interrupting each other?

Asked by nomercy almost 10 years ago

It's difficult and sometimes impossible depending on the situation.

Usually, during Q and A, for example, if a witness starts answering a question before the attorney is finished asking it, the attorney will either stop with what they were asking and listen to the answer, or they will stop the witness and ask that they wait for the question to be finished. In this situation, when it is only a few words that are spoken over each other, it is very easily picked up and transcribed.

We are trained to trail the speakers in order to get the right context of the words spoken and to allow for the insertion of the correct punctuation and homophones to be entered, e.g., there, their, and they're. This retention training, so to speak, is useful in these situations and allows us to continue transcribing the other party without having to stop every time this happens.

On the other hand, if people are talking over one another and neither one is stopping, it is impossible. Most of the time the judge in a court proceeding is very good at stopping this from happening. He/She also loses the ability to follow along when this happens. If the judge does not interrupt and we are losing our complete ability to follow along with the testimony, we will stop the proceedings and ask the parties to not speak over one another. Luckily, I have only had to do this three times in my career so far. 

I also always wondered about the special keyboards that court reporters type on to get 200+ words per minute, as you said. If they're literally 3 times faster than a QWERTY keyboard, why doesn't everyone use them? Are they harder to learn?

Asked by PaulusHook almost 10 years ago

The machines that we use are specialized stenography machines used to write shorthand. We are able to write well over 200 words per minute on said machines. I have reached up to 310 words per minute at times, although not for extended periods of time. 

In order to learn how to use the machine, you have to learn the shorthand "language" -- we call it a theory -- and apply it to the keyboard. Unlike a QWERTY keyboard, we write everything phonetically and are able to "type" a word or phrase in one stroke -- depression of the keys -- rather than having to type each and every letter as well as a space afterward. Essentially, the left side of the keyboard is the prefix, the bottom, middle row is the vowel sounds, and the right side is the suffix. This is what allows us to write words and names we have never heard before, like most complex medical testimony. 

For example, dog in steno is TKAUG, which obviously looks nothing like the word and has more letters. We are able to do this in one stroke. To type dog on a QWERTY keyboard means typing four different letters separately, plus the space after the word.  Ladies and gentlemen of the jury is HRAEURPBLG. Again, we are able to do this in one stroke on our keyboard versus 32 on a QWERTY keyboard. Our dictionary that we build in our transcription software automatically translates this stroke into English and includes spaces after each word.

The short answer to your question as to whether it is harder is yes. The dropout rate for court reporting schools is 85 to 90 percent. Our tests are read aloud at a specific speed, and we take it down on our machines. You only get to hear it once, and then you have to transcribe it from there with 96 percent accuracy. Every error, including capitalization, punctuation, et cetera, is a point deducted. It's not something you can really study for. It's a skill you have to master. 

Do you achieve 100% accuracy when you type? Or do you sometimes have to go back and listen to audio recordings to make sure you got something right?

Asked by AmberLV almost 10 years ago

While in school, passing our tests required 96% accuracy or greater at the top speed of 225 words per minute. The national testing for certification requires 95% accuracy or greater. These percentages also take into account spelling, punctuation, capitalization, et cetera. That being said, it's almost impossible to write -- we call it writing, not typing -- with 100% accuracy all of the time. While I cannot speak for all reporters, almost all reporters use some form of backup audio. This ensures the most accurate record possible, and in some cases, it can also protect the reporter if their record of the proceedings ever comes into question.


What happens to all of the transcripts reporters produce? Is every transcript from every trial anywhere in the country available / searchable in some public database?

Asked by greenredyellow_ almost 10 years ago

Every transcript we produce is transcribed at the request of counsel, interested parties, or the court. I have hundreds of transcripts on my computer right now that have never been requested to be transcribed. Generally, transripts are needed in order to prepare for upcoming trials and to appeal cases to a higher court. Sometimes cases are settled after the discovery depositions are taken, and the transcripts are not needed. 

In order to receive a transcript, the ordering party is charged a per page rate for the transcript. You may be able to find some transcripts online that people have posted, but ordinarily, the transcripts that have been produced are in the possession of the person who ordered it. Sadly, most of the remaining "misfit" transcripts will never see the light of day.

When a judge says "Strike that from the record!", do you actually go back and delete it from the transcript?

Asked by PaulusHook almost 10 years ago

Nope.  Actually, it stays in the record just as it was said. Nothing is ever actually stricken from the record. Certain proceedings or excerpts of proceedings can be sealed and deemed confidential, in which case there would be redacations, but other than that, everything remains.

What do you do when you miss something someone says? Can you ask them to repeat it, or do you just leave a blank or something? Is everything recorded so you can go back and listen to it to patch up your transcript?

Asked by Mike over 9 years ago


What’s that thing you talk into?

Asked by Question over 3 years ago