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Thursday, July 2, 2009

Wherein the Court Reporter is Used as a Hammer

Following a tradition hundreds and hundreds of minutes old, I bring to you the iPod Weekend Predictor.

Normally found on Fridays but brought to you now on Thursdays courtesy of a horse-shit economy and a small and wrinkled workweek (ie., I no longer work five days a week but four), the morning's commute lets me know what to expect over the weekend.

Or I could just determine my own fate.


Let’s see what the iPod says, shall we?

Saturday Fantastic by Diamond Nights
Get Up (Sex Machine) by James Brown
Pushin’ Too Hard by The Seeds
The Wizard by Black Sabbath
Wind Up by Foo Fighters
Fame by David Bowie
Convenient Parking by Modest Mouse

Hot damn! Good sex, dance music and convenient parking? Wait’ll my husband hears!

He’s going to be so excited.

So! You have time for a quick story?

A number of years ago, I worked as a court reporter in central Wisconsin.

Have you spent any amount of time in court? One develops a sense for who is lying, which lawyers don't know what they're doing, and which judges should’ve left the bench long ago.

In only my second case gone to trial, it quickly became apparent to me that my judge was, if not entirely deaf, nearly so. The defendants, a pair of second generation Poles with a last name sorely lacking in vowels were on trial for animal abuse. Photos of skinny, filthy cows knee-deep in muck abounded, and I learned enough about cow’s stomachs to make me mighty handy should the trivia game ever veer off in that direction.

Both Pole One and Pole Two were thin, dirty individuals – think “Ed Gein (another Wisconsinite)” without the fashion sense. They both seemed to have misplaced their teeth (or at least the front ones) and they both chewed tobacco – but didn’t spit.

My first clue to the judge’s deafness came when the veterinarian took the stand.

“She’s a liar,” Pole One said.

“She can **** my ****,” said Pole Two, “and when she’s done with that she can cook my dinner.”

As a quick aside, I’m not “asterisking” out the words here because they were dirty, but because I suspect they were in Polish. Whatever P2 said, however, it was not a compliment, never mind the fact that it was said during testimony – a big no-no in court.

What the court reporter can hear, the court reporter writes. I pounded furiously on my machine to capture the questions from the attorneys, the testimony of the vet, and the defendants’ remarks.

The second comment came just minutes later, after the vet stated that several of the cows would have to be put down.

“She’s a got-dam liar,” said Pole One.

My hands flew as I struggled to properly identify the speaker and enter his words into the record.

I looked up to see if the judge was catching any of this.

He was not, but a quick look at the jury told me that they were.

I began to cough and would not stop, something most judges know to be a sign for a break.

He called the break.

I cornered him as politely as I could.

“Judge Wapner,” I said (not his real name), “I don’t know if you’re aware of this, but both defendants have been talking during testimony, loudly enough that not only have I written it into the record but I believe the jury is hearing it as well.”

“Is that so?” he says.

“Yes,” I said. “The next time they do it, I’ll start coughing, then you ask me to read the record back, and you can catch them at it and reprimand them.”

“Good idea,” he says.

So we go back into the courtroom, and as I settle into my chair, the judge says, “My court reporter informs me that the two defendants have been talking during testimony and that she has written their words into the record.”

I was, of course, writing all this down, and looked up from my machine in time to see P1 and P2 glaring at me.

I looked up at the judge, who beamed benevolently down on me.

He winked.

“If she is forced to continue to write your comments,” he went on, “I shall have you taken out of this courtroom. Do you understand me?”

The defendants, who had grinned at me flirtatiously all morning, now scowled openly.

The trial went on for three days; and at the end of the lunch break on the third day – and you gotta admire the lung power on this guy – Pole Two managed to blow a full marijuana hit in my face – in the courtroom!

I don’t miss being a court reporter.


ICKY said...


Poor poles.
Betrayed by the stenographer !

MJenks said...

Apparently, in Ancient Rome, one of the ways ascribed to getting out of punishment was to try and make the judge laugh. If one was successful, the judge might be more lenient on the sentence. You know, lifting it from death to a sound beating.

Apparently, sometimes, a lawyer was so funny that the judge dismissed the suit altogether.

That really has no application here; I read about it last night and so I thought this was as good a place as any to force my knowledge on the rest of the world.

Amber Star said...

That was really funny! The last part about the Poles and all espcially.

I didn't know about the iPod thing, either. It has been an informative visit :)

darsden said...

before I continue reading..what WTF no MJ for the weekendaaaa..LOL

De Campo said...

Must….not…make….insensitive…yet funny…Pollock…joke…..

darsden said...

ROTFLMFAO-Oh my ... sounds like you were down in these neck of the woods Pearl..LOL ONLY YOU! I worked for an attorney, there were some shockers out there for me too.

Douglas said...

And just how is it that a court reporter, a quasi officer of the court, knew what a hit of marijuana smelled like? Could you have been mistaken and were just blasted with a toke of kielbasa?

Joanna Jenkins said...

Oh Pearl, you are the greatest storyteller!!!!! That was fabulous!

@eloh said...

Ya got to admit it had to be interesting.

Chris said...

Great story! And a hit of weed? Is that what's known as taking the case to a higher court?

Pearl said...

Icky, ah, yes, the poor Poles! Morons…

Mjenks, I personally love that kind of information!

Amber, it’s amazing the kind of stuff I make up (the predictions around the iPod, particularly). :-D

Dar, I did love me some MJ back when I was a teenager, and that’s no lie. My very first concert was the JACKSON FIVE!! at 13. :-D I was so in love, based solely on the dance moves.
And aren’t people liars?! I’ve run into my fair share of backwoods types (tomorrow’s blog will be an example of some!), that’s for sure.

De Campo, small-town Central Wisconsin is a hotbed of clique-y, inbred-style activity, which reminds me of another story I’ll have to tell some day…

Douglas, my attorney advises me not to answer this question. :-D

Joanna, thank you! :-D

@eloh, it was quite interesting, actually, all of it. I learned a lot during my time as a court reporter, including the fact that, left to my own devices, when I have a lot of work to do catching up on transcripts that I will sit ALL DAMN DAY in my underwear and a tee-shirt typing like an insane person…

mapstew said...

I could see all that!

(But it was the judge from the Simpsons, not Wapner!)

Have a great weekend.

Pearl said...

Chris, nicely done. :-)

Pearl said...

mapstew, right back at ya, baby.

Red Squirrel said...

Too funny :)

At least they moved on from the tobacco to some green - the first would rot their teeth but the second wouldn't have much to harm....

troutay said...

Yep. But that breath just might take the interest out of the case. You would be all laid back and "someone have some chips?"

anon said...

Are you not allowed to play 'smack a Pole' in Wisconsin?
Thats a bad rule.

Jeanne Estridge said...

Wow! You can run one of those little machines?!

Pop and Ice said...

God, I wish the multiple times I've been in court could have been funny, but they've just been horrendous like my Mom saying my ex was the better parent of my kids (I still won) and then my ex's soon-to-be-ex-wife challenging me for guardianship of said mother (who is now demented - and, yes, I won). I should not know the court system so well for someone who is not PAID to know it.

Housewife Savant said...

I love your wit and writing style. I'm FROM central Wisconsin and you captured it. Perfectly.
Makes me a little homesick on a Sunday morning.

Warty Mammal said...

So very nice of the judge to set you up that, instead of doing what you'd suggested. Otherwise, wonderful story!