Court reporters shine on film

The new AMC-TV developed series, “Better Call Saul,” is a prequel to its acclaimed “Breaking Bad” drama that ended its run 2013. Slurping a Big Gulp drink and working on an early 2000s stenographic machine, real-life Albuquerque court reporter Jennifer Bean shines on camera during a courtroom scene during the show’s premiere. Bean accepted the role only after confirming that her character wasn’t an unethical “sleazeball.” Her slurp produced laughs, but not in a way that denigrated the serious role that court reporters play.

Bean isn’t the only court reporter to have appeared on film, but she may be one of the few who do the job in real life. Actors playing court reporters are part of the landscape in countless television and movie courtroom scenes. Some court reporters have speaking roles and others sit quietly in the background. Do you remember seeing the court reporter in the following films and television shows?

How do you spell Pinky?

One of the most acclaimed films during Hollywood’s golden age was Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn’s “Adam’s Rib.” Tracy and Hepburn portray married attorneys who find themselves on the opposite side of a courtroom battle of the sexes. One of the funniest moments in the film is when Tracy, losing his cool, inadvertently calls his wife Pinky, a private pet name, during the trial. The court reporter, played by character actor Marvin Kaplan, stops the proceedings and calmly asks, “How do you spell Pinky?”

To speak or not to speak

The Emmy Award winning comedy show “The Office” depicted the everyday life of office workers in a Pennsylvania paper manufacturing company. In the first season’s eighth episode, entitled “The Deposition,” the scene’s court reporter gets a laugh as she reads aloud utterly ridiculous previous testimony in a deadpan completely serious way.

Court reporters often appear in films and television shows without speaking a word. In the Academy Award winning film “Kramer vs Kramer,” the court reporter silently does her job during an emotional child custody scene. Other appearances by court reporters include Jim Carrey’s film “Liar Liar” and an episode of television’s “Arrested Development.” A digital camera court reporter appears in the 2011 film “The Social Network.”

Charles Dickens and court reporters

Court reporters and celebrities don’t seem to have much in common, but there are some famous names with ties to court reporting that may surprise you.

    • Charles Dickens became a court reporter when he was 16 years old. He learned shorthand during his four-year tenure as a court reporter and law clerk. He used his firsthand knowledge of the Victorian courtroom to set the stage for the dramatic trial scenes in “David Copperfield.”
    • Harvey Keitel was a New York City court reporter before he became a film star. He used the job as a way to make a living between acting jobs.


  • Michelle Pfeiffer never worked as a court reporter, but she studied to become one before fame and fortune stepped in.

Leave a Reply