Lawyers response to interruptions. Tips for interrupting?

In 2010 I started a website forum called 'Read Back' which was geared for court reporting-related questions & answers. People asked questions, others answers. I added the ability to vote on the best answers as deemed by the other site users. It was a great site, full of info and a little bit of humor. Unfortunately, I took the site down in 2014 due to lack of technical support :( However, with over four years' worth of information stockpiled, I've decided to turn some of the best Q & As into blog posts.

Today's archive question comes from user PATWORDSMYTHE:


Lawyers response to interruptions. Tips for interrupting?

I'm always a little bit nervous when I need to interrupt during a reporting job. Will the lawyers be angry if a court reporter interrupts the deposition or hearing?

After 1167 views and 4 responses, the Best Answer with 10 votes comes from DUNBARCSR


I interrupt to protect the record because that's my job.  A good lawyer should appreciate that.  I try not to do it if I think a lawyer is really on an intense line of questioning, but even so, you sometimes have to stop them.  If you didn't hear something, and you don't get it quickly within added context, it's best to clarify it then and there.

I don't interrupt for spellings, though.  I write SPELLING SPELLING and then search during a break and get them.  I also don't ask for too many medical spellings either because I know most of the prefixes and suffixes and things are so easy to look up these days. 

I have also had some crazy screaming match depos where I took my hands off the machine and told them they either needed to take it down a notch or they weren't going to have a record.  I stay professional but firm.  I'm a court reporter, not a miracle worker.   

Many young attorneys especially aren't trained to conduct a depo in a way that will yield a good record.  I've had several indicate to me that they have learned more from the reaction of the court reporter than they did in law school regarding this.  As long as you are reasonable and keeping the integrity of the record in mind, your interrupting will help the court reporters AND attorneys that follow.  Depo is an art...



If you find yourself interrupting frequently, perhaps to the lawyers dismay, there are a few things you can do:

Be patient.   Oftentimes, a muddled word will be clarified by the atty in the very next question.

Q    I'm sorry.   What was the word you used?

or...   Q   When you said Gobbly-gook, did you mean...?

Then you get your clarification without interrupting.

If it's a spelling, try to mentally note where that word may appear in the documents or in a report.   Oftentimes, attys will ask me, Oh, do you need the spelling?   And I'll say, That's okay.  I'll get it from the exhibit.  

Hit an outline on your machine that means you need to go back and clarify on a break.   I hit DAOEF, which pulls up (Define!)  Then ask on a break.   Most of the time it will come out in the testimony and you won't even need to ask.   They'll start saying that same term over and over and you'll hear it, or it'll be right there in the caption!

If you really need to interrupt, simply do so politely and quickly, repeating the part you have, prompting the wit to quickly clarify:

THE REPORTER:    His arm was caught in the...

THE WITNESS:   In the jacuzzi filter...

THE REPORTER:   Thank you.

Attys don't completely hate interrupting.   I've heard stories (and it's happened to me) where the atty sees you're sooooo quiet and he's scared you're silently suffering not getting anything... so they do a test read back.   Ahh, I catch them every time.   You can tell by how calmly they ask you to read back something of no importance whatsoever.

Atty3:   Excuse me, Ted.   Can I get that read back?

Ted:   Sure.

The reporter:   What time did you leave the store?

atty3:   Thanks.

Oh, yeah.   That was a test to see if I'm awake.   That's okay atty3... I got you!   Now you have the right to eyeball him the rest of the time to be sure he orders a!


From time to time, interrupting the hearing or deposition is necessary in order to make sure that you're keeping an accurate record - in other words, it's necessary to interrupt to do your job. As long as you aren't interrupting too frequently and only when it's really necessary, even if it throws them off a little bit, the lawyers will understand and you'll be okay.

Lawyers might seem put off if you interrupt the proceedings - whether at a hearing or a deposition - but the reality is that, as long as you're only interrupting to make sure that you're keeping accurate records, they'll know that it's just a matter of you doing your job.

Quote of the day: I'm a court reporter, not a miracle worker. :)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Todd Olivas

Todd Olivas is a court reporter and entrepreneur.
He founded TO&A in 2003.

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