Sounds like a provocative headline, but as a court reporter, you could be just that.

During the Emmanuel Gomez murder trial, I had the pleasure of getting to know the official court reporter for the Fourth Judicial District, Stephanie Morrow, and she informed me that National Court Reporting and Captioning Week is in February, highlighting the need for more well-trained court reporters.

The court reporter is the individual who sits in front the the judge's bench with a very complicated-looking device that can capture every word spoken during a trial. Why is this important?

"It's the law," Morrow said. "There needs to be an official record of every proceeding at the District Court level, for preservation of all the court testimony in case down the line someone needs to file an appeal, there's a record of everything that was said in court."

Morrow uses a special stenographic keyboard that requires it's own language, or theory.

"We break things down into syllables, kind of like a chord on a piano," she said. "On the left hand side of the chord are word beginnings, with our thumbs we do the vowels, then, on the right hand side of the keyboard is the word or syllable ending. We can write some words with a single keystroke, like 'beyond a reasonable doubt'. "

Morrow said it can take up to three years of training to become a court reporter. Most specialized schools are out of state, but there are opportunities to use distance learning. She said a court reporter can make a very good living in Montana.

"It's a pretty decent wage for living in Montana," she said. "I'm a single mom, and I support me and my family very well on my income."

Statistics say that in the next three to five years there will be a nationwide shortage of nearly 5,000 court reporters and captioners, so qualified reporters will be in high demand. Morrow said  She invites anyone interested in finding out more about a career as a court reporter, to contact her office in the Missoula County Courthouse at 258-4733.

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