COURT REPORTER HALL OF FAME
Donald Correll: “Depo Marathon Man”
By Jan Ballman, FAPR-RPR-CMRS | Veritext-Minneapolis
Recently, I overheard an employee in our Litigation Support division talking about “a marathon depo” that he was assisting a court reporter with due to our software, Veritext Vision, being stymied by the fact that the assignment started on one day and ended the next. Apparently, the depo began at 9:30 AM on Thursday and ended at 1:18 AM on Friday! Now, I’ve been in the court reporting biz for a really long time (39 years, to be exact), and this was a record in my books, so my curiosity was definitely piqued. I had to know more! I decided to dig into the details: Where did this depo take place? How many pages did it final out at? Were the attorneys in antagonism mode, thus pressing on and on and on, or were all parties in agreement with proceeding until the wee hours of the morning? Was the environment toxic or convivial? Most importantly, WHO WAS THE SUPERHERO BEHIND THE STENO MACHINE and how did this reporter hold up?
Q: Don, you’ve become quite famous within the halls of Veritext as “The Reporter Who Took The 16-Hour Depo.” First of all, I’m curious how long you had been reporting prior to taking this assignment.
A: I have been a reporter for almost 25 years.
Q: You are currently a freelance reporter from Ohio?
A: Yes. I work mostly out of Dayton, but I also cover work in Columbus and Cincinnati.
Q: How long have you been working with Mobley/Veritext?
A: I met Todd Mobley in August of 2017 and I have been reporting for Mobley, now a Veritext company, ever since.
Q: Where did you work prior to that time?
A: I worked in South Bend, Indiana for 20 years in Superior Court, which consisted primarily of reporting criminal matters.
Q: So in terms of transcripts, you may have reported proceedings in court that netted a larger transcript, but was this the longest day you had ever reported?
A: Yes! I once reported a capital murder case that ended up being 2,989 pages, but that was spread out over the course of two weeks of writing.
Q: How did you find your way into court reporting?
A: There was a girl one grade ahead of me in high school who went on to take court reporting at Ferris State University, and she told me I should look into court reporting because of how well I did in typing class…so I did!
Q: I’m so curious about this marathon job! It was logged in our system as being 16 hours in length. Were the attorneys from Ohio, or had they flown in from out of town?
A: The attorneys were from three different states—two from the east coast and one from the west. They all had flights the next morning that they wanted to make. No one wanted to have to come back to finish the depo because they lived so far away.
Q: Nothing against Dayton, I’m sure! So it sounds like the parties were all in agreement relative to pressing on then? It wasn’t a case where the attorney representing the witness wouldn’t produce the witness again, making this depo the one and only shot at the witness’ testimony?
A: No, everyone was on the same page: They wanted to get it done and catch their flights the next morning.
Q: Well, that’s good. It always helps the dynamics in the room when the parties are all on the same page.
A: For sure. The attorneys were actually very nice and checked with both me and the witness, and we both said we had no problem staying. I told them “I can even stay until midnight, if needed.” I could see that they were both happy and relieved that I could stay. They said, “Great, we appreciate that! But we won’t be here THAT long!” As it turns out, they went well past midnight. We adjourned at 1:18 in the morning!
Q: Famous last words, right? Certainly not the first time an attorney misjudged the famous “How much longer? question.
Q: So, how many pages did you end up getting, Don?
A: I reported 683 pages in total.
Q: That is one long depo! I’m guessing you marked a few exhibits as well?
A: Sixty-two in total.
Q: Wow! I hope you didn’t have a depo the next day!
A: Gratefully, Mobley’s scheduler, Candace, is fantastic to work with, and when she found out my depo was going to go late (little did she know at that time HOW late), she went ahead and took me off my job for the next day. But… I had gotten two back-orders totaling 250 pages that I had been working on late into the night the day before this job. But that’s just the way it goes sometimes in this business.
Q: Oh, my. You must have been exhausted.
A: Sometimes when it rains, it pours.
Q: Describe the working conditions or the dynamics in the room for this marathon. Was it one of those totally grueling depos? Was it unduly fast? Was the testimony technical? How would you rate the overall difficulty level?
A: As far as difficulty, I’d rate it at “medium.” But the attorneys were really good. We took five- to ten-minute breaks every hour and a half or so, which helped.
Q: It also helps when the attorneys are kind and respectful, not just to each other but to the reporter as well. Had the dynamics been different, perhaps you wouldn’t have offered to stay until midnight!
Q: Did you get a chance to eat throughout the job? That’s always a key component to a reporter’s stamina.
A: Yes. We broke for 45 minutes for lunch and for an hour for dinner. And luckily for me, a videographer friend, Rob Miller, who was also working late in that office that night (not quite as late as I did) offered me a few energy bars, which really helped, so I was actually able to make it through just fine.
Q: Even with the luxury of working with considerate professionals, being afforded regular breaks, and having the ability to take in nourishment throughout, this marathon had to have drained your battery. Did there come a point where you wondered if it would ever end and whether you’d be able to hold on and finish?
A: I did start feeling all-over fatigue at about midnight. But I knew the job was almost over at that point, so I was able to hang in there.
Q: Well, Don, on behalf of everyone at Veritext, thank you so much for representing the profession in such stellar fashion. Anyone who has any experience behind a steno machine—even those who don’t—can appreciate your iconic effort and the level of heroism that was required to take care of the client that day. You are a real Marathon Man and an exemplary court reporter. We need to hang your picture in the Veritext Reporter Hall of Fame!
A: Well, I wouldn’t want to do jobs like that every week, but I actually enjoy doing crazy-long depos every now and then. It’s jobs like these that you remember for life….and that land you in “The Veritext Reporter!”