Last week, we posted a Saturday Night Live skit that, at its first airing, proved a bit controversial for some court reporters. Well, wait’ll ya see this one! We dug deeper into the TV archives and unearthed a true gem (posted below).
If you’re a seasoned court reporter, or a court reporter in training, you’ll likely be laughing too hard to be offended at the antics of Carol Burnett. Of course, many of you court reporting students are too young to remember the classic Carol Burnett Show, which ran from 1967 through 1978. But trust us when we tell you that she was a pioneer in her field and remains one of the most enduringly funny female comediennes.
The hour-long variety show racked up 23 Emmy Awards and won or was nominated for multiple Emmy Awards and Golden Globe every season that it aired. This skit, in which Burnett plays a brazen court reporter, John Byner a bumbling-yet-conniving defendant and Harvey Korman a frustrated attorney, is a testament to that award-nabbing quality comedy. And it teaches court reporting students a thing or two about what not to do on the job.
- Don’t use words that might be perceived as a bias. Burnett’s “Would you ask the killer to speak up?” is funny on TV but would cause major trouble in the court room. It’s an exaggerated reminder that you must be mindful of any words or comments you make while working any trial.
- Don’t allow any party to sway your emotions. Burnett’s character nearly gets taken in by the defendant’s sad story and sweet compliments. And you’d be surprised how often defendants, plaintiffs or even their attorneys attempt to use subtle but suggestive looks and gestures in an attempt to sway opinions. Google the name of Chicago mob boss Joey Lombardo and you’ll see multiple mentions of his blatantly flirting with a court reporter at his 2007 trial for the murder of Daniel Seifert.
- Keep your thoughts about the outcome of the case to yourself. Burnett’s character made it hysterically clear that she didn’t buy the defendant’s “the butler did it” story and didn’t think much of the attorney’s legal prowess – “Where did you learn to practice law – In the Whitehouse?” No matter what’s going on in your mind about innocence, guilt, credibility, etc., keep quiet and avoid facial expressions or body language that would belie your opinions.
Comments from real court reporters who viewed the video on YouTube confirm that it’s simply a comedic magnification of what really goes on in court rooms nationwide.
“Who of us hasn’t wanted to stand up and scream, ‘The butler did it!” says one.
“She says what all court reporters are thinking during a typical workday,” posts another.
So what do you think of Burnett’s court reporter portrayal? Post your thoughts on our Facebook fan page. And if you haven’t already, contact the Stenotype Institute, Florida’s top court reporting school, to begin your own interesting and lucrative career.