John Marzulli, who covers the courts for the Daily News, has a sweet story in today’s paper. Two court reporters, i.e., stenographers, are retiring after four decades of recording every single word of court proceedings. Take a look at Two veteran stenographers at Brooklyn Federal Court retire – NY Daily News.
The two guys, Henry Shapiro and Sheldon Silverman, drop a couple of cute memories about crime lord trials (Marzulli covers primarily the crime beat, especially underworld crime).
The phrase “on the record” means their record. The odd black box with only a few keys upon which court reporters type somehow records every word of a proceeding. I’ve watched them, have asked how it’s done—they press keys in combinations—but I’m still bewildered.
When I first encountered court reporters, there were still a few old dogs who took down proceedings not on the stenotype machine but in shorthand. Now, court reporters use the machines, but instead of producing long rolls of what looked like adding machine paper, their typing goes directly into a specialized laptop computer. They do whatever editing is required on the computer, too.
I’ve read the results in my own and others’ depositions. Reading a deposition transcript, if you’re the deposée, is both exhilarating (hey, I got some punchy stuff in there!) and humiliating (that’s how I talk? Nah, I’m so much more fluent than that, and I really thought my ripostes were sharper). Lately, I’ve had reason to question the basic literacy of some younger reporters who do indeed make mistakes, some of them ignorant. One woman superimposed her own bad grammar on my (unfailingly!) excellent grammar.
But reading your defendant’s deposition transcript can make up for any disappointments in your own performance. There, on paper, are all the amblings, evasions, lies, defensive assaults. On paper. On the record.