New experience for California court reporter

An example of Columbini’s work from the trial.

Joan Columbini, RPR, a freelance court reporter from Walnut Creek, Calif., recently had a first-time reporting experience.

She was working with a trial witness who could only communicate with her eyes. The woman’s aide would hold something showing rows of letters. The aide would say each letter until the woman signaled by looking up that it was the correct letter. In this way, they put words together.

Columbini said some answers took three pages for her to put a sentence together.

No one in the court had experienced this before either, Columbini said. She had to decide the best way to write what was happening.

She asked herself how to proceed since this process was different than the usual way to work with an interpreter. She decided to report everything verbatim.

Columbini said once she figured out how she was going to write, “it was not hard at all to report, I briefed everything.”

“If I was a new reporter, I would have freaked out,” she said. “Having been a reporter for so long, I just handled it.”

Columbini was a freelance reporter for more than 20 years before she became a reporter in Federal Court for 13 years. After retiring from there, she is now freelancing again.

If she was in this situation again, Columbini said she would probably try to sit down with the judge and other parties and explain what it would look like in a transcript. Possibly they could have treated the aide like an interpreter and just put the finished product in the transcript.