Saturday, October 06, 2007

Nota Bene

Someone has commented on another thread about note taking in court; a query that often arises. I am not an expert, but it works something like this:-
Individual magistrates make notes as they see fit. Some take detailed notes, others summarise what they see as key points. The legal adviser takes a longhand note, but this is not verbatim, and is used where there is a dispute over just what was said. Quite often, in a trial, the three magistrates and the clerk will all look up their notes to settle a point. As an aside, advocates ought to know that when all three justices have stopped taking notes they have probably been speaking for long enough!
In the higher courts the proceedings are taped or recorded by an official stenographer or writer. In addition there is usually a clerk from those instructing them sitting behind each Counsel taking notes. The Judge's notebook is a red square bound book with numbered pages. I have no idea if there is a standard practice for note taking, but I have seen different judges using varying combinations of writing instruments - the standard Bic, pencils, fountain pens, highlighters and different coloured pens of all kinds. Most judges seem to carry a schoolboy-type pencil case. The notebooks are important records and the judge will keep them filed. I have in mind one circuit judge with whom I sometimes sit whose room has one wall completely taken up by shelves of red notebooks.
The official reporters who appear on most judgments are Smith Bernal, and transcripts are available from them, but these are costly because of the work involved in producing them.
If anyone who works in the higher courts wants to correct any of this, feel free.

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