The last few weeks here in South Carolina have been tragic, emotional, hopeful, and historic. It has caused us to pause and reflect upon the history that is unfolding before our eyes. Court reporters have a long and proud history that stems back thousands of years to when individuals relied upon scribes to translate the spoken word into text.
Court Reporter History
In Ancient Egypt, scribes were among the few people who were literate. Aside from personal letters, diplomatic communications and religious documents, legal documents and proclamations were also processed by scribes. Scribes have long been impartial witnesses to history in the making.
Our founding fathers entrusted scribes during the drafting process of the Declaration of Independence, just as the final of Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was penned by a government scribe.
Scribes were the progenitors to many modern professions such as typists, journalists, public servants, lawyers, and, yes, stenographers.
The development of a machine for stenographers to feasibly type shorthand notes at higher speeds than handwritten notes led to the modern-day court reporter. Machine shorthand professionals have played a prominent and invaluable role in courtrooms throughout our country and the State of South Carolina.
United States District Judge Matthew J. Perry, who started his legal career as a civil rights attorney, led several successful civil rights litigation efforts including hospital integration coming from the Gloria Blackwell case in Orangeburg, SC; Clemson University’s integration brought about by the Harvey B. Gantt lawsuit; and reapportionment of South Carolina’s voting districts. This Deep South icon had a profound respect for the courtroom record and the court reporters who reported proceedings. Many times he remarked that the only friend he had in the courtroom was the court reporter, the guardian of the record. During those tumultuous times, he knew his client was most likely going to lose at the local trial level. As a young civil rights lawyer, he was carefully crafting the record to support an appeal where he felt his client had a better chance at victory.
Aside from litigation, today court reporters are found in some of South Carolina Legislature’s committee and commission hearings, preserving Members’ words along with the testimony of witnesses and candidates being screened. Court-reporting skills are also responsible for the closed captioning that accompanies the SCETV television broadcasts from the House and Senate Chambers, as well as the internet video stream.
As we look back upon the events of the past few weeks, we at CompuScripts are humbled and honored to have had the privilege to translate the spoken word into text for the citizens of South Carolina.