Cool beans! I got to shadow a court reporter today at a Federal Court trial. 😀 This doesn’t happen very often since special permission needs to be asked; students from our school typically sit in on cases at the reporting agency or the Law Society of Upper Canada.
I got out of the door early, and luckily I did because due to a personal injuiry on the track level of the subway, tons of people were piled up on the subway platform at St. George Station in order to get to the south part of downtown. Subway delays happen often on the TTC, but they’re usually minor enough that it doesn’t disrupt commuter time too much. The platform was literally crammed shoulder to shoulder of people as well as in the subway car itself. I got there at 9:30 am. It was my first time in the 180 Queen Street West building. As I got onto the 6th floor, I saw Nancy Lowrey, the court reporter I would be shadowing. I had shadowed her two times previously, once in April 2012 and once in November 2012. She is actually the first CR I’ve ever shadowed and she set me on a good path in terms of what to do and look out for during a case. The case was slated to start at 10 am, but we didn’t actually start until around 10:10. The first thing I noticed about this job shadowing was that it was in an actual courtroom. The court reporter sat right between the witness and the judge and next to the registrar and usher. All of the tables were equipped with a computer screen so that everyone could follow along with the exhibits on the screen. There was also a big screen that showed this, so I was able to follow along too. This reminded me of my time shadowing Jade King in Hong Kong recently where there was a simliar set up. I set up next to the window behind the witness, and so I was right in the middle of the action by facing the court reporter and the lawyers. It was pretty awesome. Unlike in HK though, where each speaker had a microphone, it looked like only the witness’ table had one in this courtroom. Nancy set up her microphone in front of her for her audio.
When the usher went to get the judge, that’s when you know you need to be ready. Once the door is knocked, the usher brings the judge in. Everyone stood up and bowed and the trial started.
Nancy told me that this trial had been going for a year already and it’s going to go on for another year. She works with 2 other reporters (one of whom is Teresa) and they take turns on this trial.
One of the things I liked about this case was that the dialogue betwwen the questioning lawyer and witness was continuous. A lot of the time in examination for discoveries, there are a lot of pauses between each question and answer — the parties have to look for certain documents and spend time flipping through pages and pages. It’s nice since it’s not fast in those situations, but it doesn’t really help me build speed. Today, since the lawyer had a statement prepared up front, he mostly read from this prepared notes and it meant that I was stenoing consistently. However, this is also a double-edged sword because he was talking super fast. He went upwards to 240 wpm at least sometimes! The first hour until the first break at 11:15 am was manageable, but after that until lunchtime, I wasn’t able to keep up and I felt kind of discouraged.
During the lunch break, (yay, an hour and 15 minutes) Nancy admitted she was having a rough time too because the lawyer was speaking so fast. Right before the trial started again at 2:15 pm, she spoke to the lawyer to ask him to turn down the speed a bit. He did, and I was very happily able to steno to a lot of what he was saying. Yay! I think I got down around 90% of it as realtime/clean notes. Not too bad. I found myself daydreaming while I was writing. That’s unusual. I hope it happens more though because that should mean my stenoing is becoming automatic and I’m not consciously thinking about every stroke I make. Speedbuilding is all about training your fingers to stroke the words you hear automatically without thinking, so I hope this is a sign of progress :).
I’m on this trial for the next two days. Really excited still to see what happens and to further train my fingers. 😀 I learned a bit of Canadian history in today’s trial. Some key wordsthat kept coming up and this gives you an idea of what the trial was about: War of 1812, Algonquin (this translated! :D), Mississauga, some Aboriginal tribe names and languages :O, Ontario, Ottawa. This is the first purely Canadian context trial I’ve sat in. Neat! 😀 They were referring to old maps that dated back to the 1700 and 1800s! Talk about a long time ago!