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CLOSE-UP : Reporter in the Court

July 11, 1993|Rochelle Levy Lazar

No one listened more intently to the Rodney G. King federal civil rights trial than Robert Cipolloni. As one of two court reporters capturing the proceedings during the 36-day trial, Cipolloni recorded every "um," "ahem" and "uh-uh" on a stenotype machine at speeds reaching 260 words a minute. At the end of each day, he and his colleague, Beverly Casares, turned their shorthand notes into a 250-300 page transcript of the day's proceedings.

A deposition and court reporter for 14 years, Cipolloni, 34, has covered it all, from Southern California's first big S&L case, a 1990 trial involving Ramona Savings and Loan and dealing with property in Palm Springs, to a 1990 case involving Traci Lords, who was a minor at the time she made some pornographic films. He likes entertainment law the best. "I worked on the case where Tom Waits sued Frito-Lay (for impersonating the singer's voice in a commercial), and Waits won. Having a star in your courtroom suing a big company was sort of interesting."

He was brought into the King case by Casares, who works for U.S. District Judge John G. Davies, who presided over the case. The intensity of the case made two reporters necessary. "Emotionally, (the King trial) was difficult," says Cipolloni, a 1979 graduate of Temple University's court reporter program. "I had the same anxiety that everyone else felt who lives in the city."

Court reporters in the L.A. area typically earn $35,000 to more than $100,000 a year, which includes payment for organizing trial transcripts for the legal community and the media. Cipolloni says that in addition to his regular courtroom duties, he'll be busy fulfilling requests--at a rate of $3-9 a page, depending on how quickly they're needed--for the approximately 10,000-page King trial transcripts for the next two years.

As for the trial's outcome, he says: "The verdicts went exactly how I thought they would go."

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