Court reporter can't tell you secret recipe, because then she'd have to kill you

In an intriguing little corner that few people know about, the court reporter perches behind her steno machine, the power of 225 words a minute resting at her fingertips.

Court reporting is far different from its pedestrian portrayal on popular TV shows like "CSI," where the stenographers stare into the middle distance, their hands hardly scrambling on the keyboard.

Jill Scheib can tell you this herself.

After 30 years in the court reporting business, Scheib, 61, can type a legal argument faster than most people can process it.

And she can bake one heck of a strawberry cake.

Since 2006, Scheib has cooked up a reputation in Hamilton County for bringing in delicious baked goods whenever she works a case. Getting "Scheib'd," her colleagues put it.

Smoked-ham biscuits. Pumpkin-pie bread. Chocolate fudge pies. Cream cheese pound cakes. Stuffed cornbread.

Her dishes have the ability to unite all sides of the courtroom. On Wednesday, opposing attorneys hobnobbed over Coca-Cola cake in the Division Two offices of Circuit Court before the day's docket began.

"There are times when I suspect she has a life insurance policy on me," Circuit Court Judge Jeff Hollingsworth said as he emerged from his chambers. "She keeps encouraging me to eat all this stuff."

William McGuffee, the bailiff in Judge Neil Thomas's courtroom, joked to everyone that once upon a time he was skinny. But that was 10 years ago, "before I met Jill."

Combining ingredients is Scheib's specialty. She said she learned from her granny, Grace Wilson.

"It's my hobby, my outlet," Scheib said. "It relaxes me."

Slap together half a stick of butter, a package of cream cheese, a handful of mashed strawberries, a box of confectionary sugar and voila! You have the icing recipe for Sheib's famous strawberry cake, which is as rich and delicious as it sounds.

But life isn't always as simple as the recipe.

Stand by your husband's side when the doctors remove his cancerous bladder, when they say the disease has metastasized to his lungs, that it's Stage IV, that he needs hospice care. Stand by his side when he dies three weeks later.

That's not such a treat.

Jerry Scheib loved yellow cake with chocolate icing, always made with six thin layers. He and Jill met in 1995, in a hotel bar in Nashville, on the way to a wedding, and fell in love at first sight. So maybe the TV shows got that part right.

He moved down to Florida, where Scheib was living at the time, and they married in 1998. He ran a carpet store, she worked in the courthouse. He died Sept. 10, 2001, hours before the day of terror. They never had a child together.

Scheib said one of her nephews had the perfect explanation for Jerry's death: "God needed Uncle Jerry up in heaven because he knew 9/11 was coming."

And when Jerry died, Scheib spent three years working on the grief in Florida.

Then she moved back to Tennessee, back to the neighborhood where she grew up in a family of four girls; back to her grandmother's domain, where she learned to make fried chicken and fried okra and fried squash casserole; back to her hometown, where she went to court reporting school in 1983 because if her goofy high school classmate could do it, so could she. Back to the present, where she's working now, in the Hamilton County Circuit Court, on a sunny Wednesday morning, walking past the Coca-Cola cake leftovers that attorney Hal North brings home because Cracker Barrel just can't make it like Jill, the cake with a secret ingredient that she never reveals because, well, then she'd have to kill you.

And even though Scheib's feet are moving to a different room, even though her fingers are itching to get back to work, her eyes are fixed on the icing.

Contact Zack Peterson at or 423-757-6347 with story ideas or tips. Follow @zackpeterson918.