I’m in awe of court reporters

First Posted: 6:03 am - August 15th, 2015

By Scott Ballard - District Attorney

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This past year I served as the Secretary/Treasurer for the District Attorneys Association of Georgia. So, when we met I had to take notes and later write the minutes.

It’s not as easy as it seems.

At our July meeting the new Secretary/Treasurer took over. It was fun to watch her as she struggled to take accurate notes while 49 District Attorneys offered insight into everything under the sun.

It makes me appreciate court reporters.

If you have been to court, I’m sure you have seen them. They sit somewhere near the witness stand. Their job is to record every single word that is said in court. Later they will write it all down. We call that document a “transcript.”

The next time you go to lunch with a group, try to imagine what it would be like to make a record of every word spoken. Folks talk at the same time. They mumble. They blab about boring stuff. And you have to keep up with all of that.

After ten minutes I would go crazy. Court reporters sit there all day.

Now I’m not pretending that they never take up for themselves. Back when Judge Andrew Whalen was on the bench, he was known for the infrequency of the recesses. He never needed a break. We called him “Thunderbladder.” The only way any of us ever got any relief was when his court reporter would tell him she needed to “powder her nose.”

So, in this age of tape recorders, why do we need court reporters? Other than, of course, to get the judge to take breaks every once in a while?

Tape recording isn’t accurate enough. The recorder misses things. It doesn’t know the identity of the speaker. It cuts off and nobody notices.

We get far better records of court proceedings with court reporters.

How they operate is very much a mystery to me. Some use a mask. The court reporter holds it over her mouth and it also covers her nose. Then she repeats every utterance in a whisper that her ultra-sensitive recorder can pick up.

One day a police officer who didn’t get to court very often turned to the officer sitting next to him and asked why that lady up in the front of the room was receiving oxygen. Apparently, the court reporting process was even more a mystery to him than it is for me.

Other court reporters use a fancy keyboard. It only has a few keys and they type in a form of shorthand. Somehow they tap on those keys and read the tape that comes out.It’s magic.

It’s also a lot of work. These transcripts they produce can be massive. A week of court can result in a couple thousand pages of transcript.

As you can tell, I’m in awe of our court reporters. I tell them that to their faces.

And I’m sure somewhere there is a transcript to prove what I said.

Scott Ballard is District Attorney of the Griffin Judicial Circuit, which consists of Fayette, Pike, Spalding and Upson counties.


By Scott Ballard

District Attorney



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