Inaudible Testimony: Trouble Hearing Attorneys & Witnesses Is a Major Cause of Court Reporter Error

Hearing is a vital part of your job. That’s why you had a checkup with your doctor, confirmed it with an audiologist, and were given a clean bill of health. You’re not really surprised, but it confirms your suspicions: it’s not you, it’s them.

Why Court Reporters Have Problems Hearing Witnesses in Court

There are many reasons court reporters have trouble hearing witnesses on the stand. The majority of witnesses are not used to appearing in court, and nervousness is likely to making their responses:

  • Too fast. Witnesses will often speed through their answers in an attempt to get off the stand as quickly as possible.
  • Too quiet. It can be intimidating for people to sit in front of a judge and answer questions under oath. They may be concentrating on the words they use and how they appear, not the volume at which they give their answers.
  • Mumbled. Gestures and body language play a significant role in language, and can easily inhibit a witness’ response. A cough, a hand in front of the face, even turning the head to the side can affect the volume and inflection of words.
  • Overlap. Attorneys will often attempt to “throw off” a witness by asking a probing question. This can provoke an emotional response, objections, defenses, and eventually a full-blown argument—all in the space of a few seconds. Court reporters may not be able to separate the words from overlapping speakers in the time it takes for the judge to “break up” the discord.

Court Reporters Can Maintain Professionalism and Speak Up

No matter what’s causing the issue, always speak up. Better to cause a momentary interruption than produce a worthless or garbled transcript (which is of much greater importance than the flow of the questioning).

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