August 7, 2009


On Wednesday, August 4, I completed four hours of court observation at the Santa Ana courthouse. As a school requirement, I need to complete 10 hours of shadowing work before reaching the 180 wpm speed (I need one more test to get to that speed; I'm currently at 160 wpm). I was lucky enough to be able to shadow or sit-in with the lovely Ms. Kathy who works in the family law division (divorce court) at the Santa Ana courthouse. Now, I live in Los Angeles, yet I chose to ask Kathy if I could shadow her in Santa Ana (it's about an hour drive one way without traffic) because Kathy seemed so nice, welcoming, and knowledgeable throughout the forums at Thankfully, she said YES! She even gave me awesome steno briefs before our court date! Here are some excellent ones she shared with me:
  • I don't know ... KWR O PB
  • I don't remember ... KWR O R
  • I don't recall ... KWR O RL
So here's how my day went: I left Los Angeles at 11:00 a.m. to give me plenty of time to get to Santa Ana by 1:30 p.m. without getting lost and/or with sufficient time to deal with any traffic delays. Guess what? I got lost anyway! Of course, I did! I always seem to when it's important! :P Thankfully, I called my boyfriend who navigated me and stayed on the phone with me till I reached my destination, and thankfully with several minutes to spare. (I really need to buy a GPS system when I can afford one! It's a MUST for me!) I was really nervous and intimated about everything! This was my very first time in a courthouse doing shadow work, and I did not know what to expect. I think if my school allowed observation hours of freelance reporters at depositions, I would be more than OK since I work at a Workers' Compensation law office; we see depositions (and therefore court reporters!) all the time! No biggie! But now I was in the "big leagues" with JUDGES and BAILIFFS and DISTRICT ATTORNEYS... oh my! To be honest, I was very scared! The anticipation of anything "new" and "important" always gets to me! I become a bumbling idiot! :P I fumbled along with my new luggage carrier where I store my steno machine, laptop, cables, books, and some school supplies. The darn thing kept falling every time I would set it down. It would just tip over! :P I think I overstocked for sure; the thing was so heavy! I was embarrassed that I had to pick it up every time it fell, which was quite often! :P All my anxiety diminished, thankfully, when I saw Kathy's smiling face! Ahh! :) Kathy is super nice, smiling all the time, knows what she's doing, and challenges you to always be "on top of it." She helped me set up and encouraged me to do realtime even though I hadn't done so in months (I thought something was wrong with my realtime connection, so just stopped in school. However, I always read my notes manually and transcribed them, which helped me in tests). For the afternoon session, Kathy reported (and I practiced!) two cases. They involved a gypsy court, child custody battles, a restraining order, and backlogged child support payments. It was very hard to hear the nastiness of the parties suing each other. I ached for the children caught in the crossfires of their parents' battles. It was super hard to watch one father choke up with tears on the witness stand when he talked about his four-year-old son, the love of his life. I personally thought that it wasn't fair that the judge ruled too much in favor of the son's mother when it was clear (to me at least) that the dad was more attached to the boy since he was a stay-at-home dad and the primary caretaker of the boy for several months. That's just my opinion anyway. But I know that we as court reporters can't have opinions on the cases we hear and should not get attached to the parties involved. We're just to be the flies on the wall taking the testimony down, period. I know this will be difficult to do, but I guess I should start training myself now. Kathy told me that the testimony just has to come in one ear and out the other. We can't retain anything, or else who would be able to function after hearing story after story that demands justice? How would judge's or cops or coroners be able to sleep, right? Same with the court reporting profession, I believe. Gotta just zone out and write, write, write without getting emotionally involved. Gotta be automatic! Like a machine! (Do you agree?) I know this post is getting pretty long already (Sorry! I like to write!), so here are the highlights in bullet form of my sit-in time with Kathy:
  • I was able to go "behind the scenes" and peek at the judge's chambers. That was pretty cool!
  • I was able to sit inside Kathy's very cute and functional court reporting office. Can't wait to get one myself one day!
  • I loved how Kathy shot her hands in the air and said out loud, "One at a time, please," when the attorney and witness were talking over each other! Yeah, she controlled that courtroom! She rocked! ;)
  • I loved how Kathy glared at the attorney for continuing to speak way too fast and over the witness on the stand. The attorney even said, "Sorry." Hahaha!
  • I was happily surprised to know that everyone who spoke in that courtroom didn't speak too, too fast. I was able to get most of it down! That totally boosted my confidence! I KNOW I CAN GET OUT OF SCHOOL SOMETIME NEXT YEAR!!! I'm almost there... :D
  • I was really shocked that one party (the ex-wife/mother) was TEXTING ON HER CELL PHONE WHILE HER CASE WAS BEING TRIED! Right in front of the judge, too! WHO DOES THAT??? So inappropriate! :P
  • I loved the ease and rapport Kathy had with the fellow members of her courtroom -- from the judge, the clerk, assistant clerk, and bailiff. They all seemed to genuinely enjoy working in each other's company. Definitely looking forward to that! :)
  • It was more than nice to have the assistant clerk of the courtroom be very welcoming to me and ask "So how's it going?" since she knew full well that I'm a court reporting student.
The four hours of observation were an awesome new learning experience! I'm looking forward to the other two times I get to sit in with official court reporters in Murietta and Monterey Park later this month. Thank you, Kathy, for taking me under your wing and showing me the ropes! I really appreciate it! :)

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