Doing my job

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July 26, 2004 // UPDATED 2:44 pm - April 25, 2007
By: tt Russell
tt Russell

Nathan Peck Court reporter

Nathan Peck has worked as a court reporter for 18 years, the last four in Hennepin County.

What's a typical day?

I'm not sure there is a typical day. We each have our own individual judge that we work for. That judge can handle any case there is. My judge [Judge Patricia Kerr Karisov] is assigned to civil and criminal cases. It runs the gamut from a no-stopping-for-a-stop-sign ticket to first-degree murder cases to complex civil litigation involving millions of dollars to a rear-end car accident. We sit in court all day; I record everything that is said in court.

Can you type fast enough to get it verbatim?

Yep. To graduate from reporting school usually requires a minimum typing speed, on the stenographic machine, of 225 words a minute.

What happens if you can't spell a word?

It's phonetic. We don't have to know how to spell the word at the time. That comes up constantly. People are always throwing out stuff that, later on, you get to try to figure out how to spell. Like, someone will say, "he went kaboop, kaboop, kaboop all the way home." It's like, how do you spell that? ...

We have had medical malpractice, legal malpractice -- extremely highly technical terms. Quite frankly, one of the best things that ever happened for court reporters is the Internet. It is the ultimate source of information.

I am working on one now -- the Chubb Insurance Corporation just came up. I wasn't sure on the spelling of "Chubb." I just plugged it in and I have it in front of me right now, "C-h-u-b-b."...

Do you use shorthand?

It is a form of machine shorthand. There are 24 [keys]. And then combinations of letters make up other letters. This is a weird example -- for the letter "j," you do "s-k-w-r," when you hit that letter combination it indicates "j."

Why do it that way?

It is like trying to explain to someone how to speak Spanish. It is a written language of its own. ...

The name "Nathan" I would type, instead of doing "N-a-t-h-a-n," you go by the sound, so it would be Na-than, so even though I am pushing multiple keys at the same time, it is only two keystrokes. There are "brief forms" -- a combination of multiple keys that we know -- like "What is your occupation?" is one keystroke and "What is your name?" is one keystroke and "How old are you?" is one keystroke. ... You go to school to learn it, just like anything.

What gets printed out when you type?

It prints only exactly what you push down. It looks like garbage on paper. Everyone says, "That doesn't make sense." Now most machines are computerized, so as you are typing it, the computer translates it into English.

Any particularly memorable experiences in court?

(Laughs.) I was working in Miami. I

had to mark a skull as an exhibit. That was memorable.

You mark exhibits?

It depends on which judge you work for; sometimes we will swear in the witnesses and mark exhibits. I don't do it for the judge I work for now.

How many hours do you spend in court?

Typing on our stenographic machine? It varies. I would say [I spend] on average 60 percent of the time in court.

The other 40 percent?

We have to do filing of our notes. We have to do certificates for appeals, lots of correspondence with attorneys concerning transcripts, logging all of our information.