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Humor in the Court
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Humor in the Court
by Sharona Shapiro, CET

When I began working in legal transcription nearly a decade ago, one thing was clear from the start. This is serious business.

Every morning I sit down in front of my computer and prepare to spend the next several hours by myself, just me and my keyboard. I enter the world of transcription virtually hopping from one courtroom to the next, eavesdropping on anything from salacious testimony in criminal proceedings to heart-wrenching disputes in family court.

In reality, despite the occasional exciting legal proceeding, the transcribing work I do is mostly mundane and routine, which is why I especially appreciate interjections of humor in the courtroom, whether advertent or inadvertent. In this article I will share with you some choice humorous moments that actually occurred in proceedings transcribed by myself or my colleagues at eScribers.

One of my favorite lines was when a judge, exasperated by voluminous amounts of paperwork received just prior to the hearing, stated, "I was told in Baby Judge School that I could wrap up these pleadings in the form of a telescope, put it up to my eye and tell the parties: 'I've looked through your pleadings and we're now going to proceed without them.'" Nothing like sharp wit to get the point across!

Other humorous episodes occur when people don't hear things correctly, such as the following exchange:

JUDGE: Are you an attorney?
CLAIMANT: No, I am not.
JUDGE: Okay. You don't need to be.
CLAIMANT: Although it was suggested by a few judges that I should become one.
JUDGE: Oh, are you litigious?
CLAIMANT: Am I what?
JUDGE: Never mind.
CLAIMANT: No, I'm not religious.

Or when a lawyer just can’t resist:

WITNESS: The dining staff, Dinah, who is in charge of the kitchen, said --
LAWYER: Dinah?
WITNESS: Dinah, yeah.
LAWYER: You mean someone's in the kitchen with Dinah?
WITNESS: Exactly.
LAWYER: I had to say that; I'm sorry.

Or the witness who outsmarts the lawyer:

LAWYER: And was your vehicle parked where that rectangular circle is?
WITNESS: I think that's called an oval.

Or the lawyer who is brought to task for his inept usage of a word:

LAWYER: We believe that will give a fulsome investigation to the committee.
JUDGE: Does anyone ever use a dictionary and see what the word "fulsome" means?
LAWYER: Complete.
JUDGE: No. Absolutely not. I charge you to look it up and you'll probably never use it in a courtroom again.
The judge then reads the definition from the dictionary:

JUDGE: "Fulsome. Offensive to good taste." That's the first one. "Disgusting, sickening, repulsive. A table heaped with fulsome bounds of greasy foods." Fulsome.
And as they're going to break, the judge chides the lawyer:
JUDGE: Do you want to have a fulsome discussion of that outside?
And then later in the hearing:
JUDGE: You can either do it on a second call or you can come back after the holiday when you've had a fulsome meal.

I also appreciate touching moments when a judge makes a point by citing a made-up case, i.e., "There's an unwritten rule of law, a case called In re: Rachmanus" -- ( pity in Yiddish) -- "which would apply here." Or when another judge let her feelings known by simply citing, "In re: Hope Springs Eternal."

Although courtroom proceedings are indeed serious business, these light, humorous moments certainly are an added perk to the work of a transcriber!

Sharona Shapiro is an AAERT Certified Electronic Court Transcriber. She has been working for eScribers since 2006 and loves to hear about funny transcription moments from other transcribers!

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