Posts Tagged ‘courthouse

30
May
11

Court reporters

Court reporters fascinate me.

I spend more than my fair share of time in courtrooms waiting to get a sub-par picture of a shackled suspect as they are whisked by me.  To pass the time, I often pay attention to the court reporter.

They are almost always women.  They have intense eyes as they pay attention with more fervor to what’s being said than I ever did on any math test.  But at the same time, the rest of her body usually seems to be doing something else, as if she’s painting her toenails under the desk.  And finally, they talk into that weird contraption.

What the hell are they saying into that thing?  Is it some kind of shorthand speak that only the computer recognises?  Is it a standardised language?  How different is it from what the lawyer in the cheap suit is actually saying?  How detailed is it really? Every word? Mostly the gist? Sometimes the back and forth gets pretty darn fast.

All these questions are thrust upon me every time I have to shoot an assignment in a courtroom.

On one recent trip (to the sparkling new courthouse so I was excited), one of the cases before the one I had to shoot related to an assistant band teacher, HIV positive mind you, who was accused of have sex with one of his students.  Now this was just the bond hearing, but a lot of gruesome details were brought up by the young prosecutor that this poor court reporter had to transcribe in detail.  While most of the court was shaking their heads softly and some were mumbling words of astonishment, this lady was hard at work, never flinching.  Clearly she had heard this type of story a million times before. Fellatio, sodomy – somehow the use of clinical, sterile words in context makes it worse.

Which begs the question, at what point does it get normal?  This was a question I routinely asked when I used to do a feature on local dirty jobs called Grime Pays.  At what point do you forget you’re waist deep in raw sewage?  Or when do you stop noticing the smell in your clothes after a day of picking up roadkill?  The answer was almost always very quickly.  Partly because your senses get dulled from routine exposure, and partly because the mind is quite a powerful thing.  If it’s thrust into a particularly unpleasant situation, it will turn things off in order to survive, or at least in this case to make life relatively bearable while spraying down used port-o-potties.

At any rate, here’s a picture of that particular court reporter hard at work.  Looking at the photo now, it kind of seems like a lonely job.  Just you, your short-term memory and the mic thing.

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com