For the Record: When to Speak Up & How to Have Confidence in the Courtroom
21 September 2022

For the Record: When to Speak Up & How to Have Confidence in the Courtroom

Court reporters are vital to the justice administration process. They provide accurate and vivid reports of the events that occur in court. 

Indeed, court reporters spend more time writing or recording court proceedings, so they rarely speak in court. However, having confidence in the courtroom is still essential for all court reporters. 

Firstly, confidence helps the court reporter boldly record what transpired in court. They wouldn't be intimidated by the litigants, their lawyers, or even the Judge. Also, court reporters may have to speak up in court at some point. 

When they do, they'll have to address the court confidently. This article explains when a court reporter may speak up in court. In addition, it explains vital tips for building courtroom confidence. 

When Can a Court Reporter Speak Up in Court?

The Court Reporters Board of California states that "the fundamental duty of the court reporter is to protect the record." So, they can interrupt proceedings if the accuracy of the record is threatened. This means that there are instances where a court reporter should speak up in court. 

We explain some of them below. 

Witnesses Aren't Speaking Clearly or Audibly

Trial witnesses don't always speak loudly and clearly enough. Sometimes, this is because of timidity, or the witness generally doesn't speak audibly. Now, suppose the court reporter doesn't speak up. 

Then, they'll be unable to record the proceedings accurately. For example, such a reporter may write what the witness never said or miss a vital detail. Therefore, the court reporter must speak up and ask the court or the witness's lawyer to instruct them to talk louder. 

Asking for Clarification 

Court reporters may also need to ask for clarification over specific issues. If reporters aren't sure what they heard, they'll record incorrect facts. For example, the court reporter may request for spellings of:

  • Names,
  • Cities, or 
  • Streets.

So, they can direct questions to the Judge, lawyers, or witnesses. Speaking up here ensures that interested parties get an accurate transcript. 

Preventing Crosstalk

Crosstalk refers to any interference when a person is speaking. In court, this happens when multiple parties are talking simultaneously. 

For instance, many witnesses don't wait for their lawyers to complete their questions before they answer. Another example is an agitated spectator interrupting a witness’s testimony from the gallery. 

Requesting Breaks 

Trials and depositions sometimes get unusually long. When they do, fatigue can set in for the court reporter. Consequently, such a tired reporter becomes prone to errors. To prevent mistakes, request that the court adjourn or take a break. 

There are many other scenarios where a court reporter may need to speak out in court. They include:

  • Asking for verbal responses in place of grunts
  • Telling witnesses to talk slowly
  • Asking parties to repeat sentences or phrases while testifying
  • Demanding documents to write down their relevant statements 

How To Have Confidence in the Courtroom

Not only lawyers require confidence in the courtroom. Speaking before judges and a crowd can be intimidating. In addition, interrupting proceedings as a non-lawyer and non-litigant requires extra confidence. 

Therefore, we've outlined our best tips for building confidence in the courtroom. 

Prepare and Practice

Preparation prevents poor performance in court. So, practicing how to address the court frequently will keep you prepared. Continuous practice is vital because you don't know when you'll need to interrupt a court. 

You can practice the words to say. For instance, you and everyone else in the courtroom must address judges as "Your Honor." Therefore, if you're familiar with these requirements, you'll be more confident to speak up. 

Understand That You're Making a Legitimate Request

Interrupting court proceedings is generally unlawful. However, all the scenarios mentioned above where a court reporter can interrupt the court are legitimate. In addition, stopping the court here is in the best interest of justice. 

So, you're essentially the good guy! Know this and confidently ask the court to pause. Since you're making a reasonable request, it's doubtful that the Judge will sanction you. Other parties in court may even be grateful that you spoke up, especially for lengthy proceedings. 

Dress Properly

It's no secret that your wardrobe contributes to your confidence. A study has shown a link between clothing choices and the wearer's self-esteem. What's more? Judges and lawyers dress corporately and formally. 

Even witnesses dress similarly to impress the court. Therefore, a court reporter should maintain the same standards. Anything less than this can affect your confidence in the courtroom. 

Timing Your Interruption Appropriately

Finally, there's a right time for everything. This also applies to interrupting court proceedings. Timing your statement correctly can boost your confidence because there'll be fewer chances of consequences from the court. So, it'll help to wait for when the court takes a natural pause before interrupting proceedings. 

For example, it could be during:

  • The marking of exhibits, 
  • Calling of another witness, or 
  • Change of topics.

Dos and Don'ts for Speaking Up in Court 

There are rules for speaking up in court. We're referring to things you can and cannot do while addressing the court. Furthermore, this includes what to say and how to say it. 

So, follow the tips below to boost your confidence in the courtroom:

  • Speak calmly and clearly
  • Maintain polite speech 
  • Stand when addressing the Judge
  • Make eye contact with the Judge
  • Explain the reason for the interruption and adequately explain your request and its effects
  • Thank the Judge whether or not your request is granted
  • Don't interrupt someone who's already speaking
  • Don't lose your temper or shout
  • Don't fold your arms or address the court casually

Final Thoughts 

Court reporters train themselves not to delay or needlessly interrupt court proceedings or depositions. However, the authenticity and credibility of the transcript are paramount. 

Therefore, it'll be better to speak up and ensure you record every vital piece of information. But, you'll have to do this boldly and assertively. 

Do you have more questions about building confidence in the courtroom? Contact our team for more information.