The lazy days of summer are winding down as the kids start back to school. It’s August in Kentucky, the temperatures are still rising, and it’s Kentucky State Fair time. Ah, the State Fair, with its novel gastronomic adventures, corn dogs, deep fried Girl Scout cookies and hamburgers served between two Krispy Kreme glazed doughnuts. It’s also time for the Trial by Jury, put on each year by the Kentucky Justice Association with the help and support of the Kentucky Court Reporters Association.
Fair-goers get the chance to get out of the heat and take a seat on a jury, where they learn the value and importance of a citizen’s right to a trial by a jury of their peers and the responsibility every citizen shares to insure that right. Once jurors are selected and seated, they listen to the case presented by attorneys. They hear testimony, objections, and rulings by the Court. They learn what it means to be on a jury.
As they listen to the proceedings and ponder the evidence, from time to time their eyes wander to the court reporter sitting behind the steno machine, fingers flying while intently listening to each word spoken. Every once in a while they notice the reporter’s eyes glace at her computer screen and they wonder, “What’s she looking at, and whatever happened to the paper that comes out of that machine?” After deliberations, their work done, the verdict is read. The jurors feel the weight of their decision and are glad to talk to the attorneys a bit about their experience. A few jurors inevitably wander over to the court reporter to see what exactly she does during the trial.
Now, with just a few people milling around, the court reporter explains the role she plays in depositions and trial. She explains that as an impartial officer of the court, she is charged with taking down verbatim notes of the proceedings and transcribing them for interested parties. She explains the changes in technology over the years, how our writing style has gone from using paper and dictating machines to using computer technology that can produce an instant readable translation of the spoken work.
Someone always asks for a demonstration and we are happy to show them how the steno machine works and how it can be connected to a computer for a realtime readout of the proceedings. We explain how that can benefit the deaf and hard-of-hearing, and how lawyers and judges use the instant translations to impeach witnesses or mark important parts of the testimony.
“How do court reporters know what keys to push if they aren’t marked? How long does it take to become a court reporter? How much money does a court reporter make?” We answer all the questions we’re asked, but can’t help adding how much we love this profession of court reporting, the freedom of a deposition reporter’s schedule, the people we meet, and the stories we hear.
Everyone walks away having learned something by participating in the Trial by Jury. If you ever find yourself looking for something to do in August, head on over to the Kentucky State Fair and get involved with the Trial by Jury. Meet a lawyer, talk to a court reporter, a judge or a bailiff. It’s fun, air conditioned and, best of all, it’s free!
Photography by Jessie Taylor