In polling the reporters who work with Planet Depos about when they interrupt a proceeding, the general consensus was that they don’t unless they absolutely, positively must. The two primary reasons for interrupting include:
• People speaking over one another
• People not speaking loudly or clearly enough
Because court reporters are expected to create a verbatim record, when people speak over one another, speak too quietly, or mumble/garble their words, court reporters may have no option but to interrupt.
The National Court Reporters Association distributes an excellent guide for attorneys entitled “Making the Record,” in which these issues are addressed. This guide book suggests that if counsel were to maintain an “awareness” that everything they say will be transcribed and retained as a permanent court record, that that is the first step to creating “an effective, usable record.” It goes on to explain that if the court reporter didn’t hear it, the jury probably didn’t hear it either.
Ken Norris, a reporter with Planet Depos, suggests that interrupting is a very “delicate” topic, and that if he finds he has no option but to interrupt, he is always “extra courteous” and will always ask for a pardon for the interruption.
“Recycling Negativity: Learning to Deal with Difficult Situations,” by Dorthea and Jim Brady, reminds reporters that “Learning to master difficult situations requires keen insight, flexible thinking . . . and direct communication,” all essential in evaluating when to interrupt. They also suggest being honest with yourself and asking questions like: Do my skills need improvement? Will improving my skills help alleviate some of these difficult situations?
In conclusion, court reporters should strive to keep interruptions to an absolute minimum, to communicate confidently the reason for the interruption, clearly and professionally, and to thank everyone for their assistance.