Accurate court records are imperative. Court reporters are responsible for making sure testimony is recorded exactly as it occurs in court. But how can lawyers help make sure that happens? One important way is to make sure what is being said in a courtroom can easily be understood and recorded. Here are several tips on how to help:
- Offer spellings of names and important or unusual terms.
- Remind witnesses to wait until the entire question has been asked before answering.
- Ask witnesses to speak clearly on all answers. Remind them that head nodding or statements like “uh huh” are not clearly understood.
- Verbally describe any gestures made in court. If the witness points to a piece of evidence, state what was gestured to for the record.
- Avoid overlapping discussions or talking over witness’ answers.
- Verbally describe body language and non-verbal answers. For example, if a witness states “It was about this big” and gestures, state “Let the record show that the witness indicated about two feet.”
- Remind interpreters to speak in first person.
- If the case might involve the use of acronyms or specific terminology, prepare a glossary of terms for your reporter in advance. Most reporters have a broad general knowledge of terms, but specific chemicals or scientific terms might not be readily known. Acronyms used in a specific industry could be confusing.
- Be aware of the numbers. If a witness answers a monetary amount, for example with “Around one twenty”, ask them to clarify, is it $1.20? $120?
- What time is it? Don’t forget to clarify AM and PM when asking for time of day.
- Exhibit A. Using visual exhibits are often very important but can’t be accurately recorded into the written record without a clear description of what is being displayed.
These are just a few of the ways you can ensure accurate record keeping. It’s important to also remember that a court reporter’s job is to record everything. If you don’t want something on the record, clearly state that it should be kept off the record.