Depositions go virtual during pandemic, may remain that way

NCRA President Max Curry, RPR, CRI, President-elect Christine Phipps, RPR, and NCRF Trustee Marjorie Peters, FAPR, RMR, CRR, were quoted in an article posted May 22 by about the future of virtual depositions.

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Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association names new president

The Central Penn Business Journal reported on May 20 that NCRA member Linda C. Larson, RPR, CRI, a court reporter and owner of Premier Reporting in Harrisburg and Carlisle, Pa., has been named president of the Pennsylvania Court Reporters Association.

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Midwest Professional Reporting to close reported on May 15 that Midwest Professional Reporting in Rockford, Ill., will close June 30 after nearly 40 years.

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NCRA retired member Robert Kerr Maloney passes away reported on May 15 that lifetime retired NCRA member Robert Kerr Maloney passed away on May 11 in Worcester, Mass.

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Practice makes perfect

Everyone knows that practice makes perfect and during the stay-at-home orders caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, many NCRA members are taking advantage of this opportunity to hone their skills as they wait to go back to work.

Antonia Moy, an official court reporter from Ridgewood, N.Y., said that before the pandemic took hold, she would practice during downtime at work. “Nowadays I try and practice every day for at least three hours. Maintaining speed is very important. I want to be on top of my game when the time comes to return to work,” said the former freelance court reporter who now works as a grand jury reporter.

Moy said her typical practice routine in today’s reality is to practice to the news at 11 a.m. Later in the day, she practices again from 4 to 6 p.m., and she also returns to her machine later and practices for another two hours to Q&A dictation.  

“Practicing while being quarantined is very important to me, because not only am I trying to maintain speed for work, but I am trying to get RPR certified as well,” she noted.

Melanie Kilchenstein from Millersville, Md., graduated from the Reporting Academy of Virginia in 1996 and worked as a freelance reporter until 2007. She took some time off and started back in 2015 after completing a speed development class at her local community college.

Currently, she said, she spends 100 percent of her time practicing her writing because she wants to pass the 180 lit, 200 jury charge, and 225 Q&A tests so that she will be ready to report again once the pandemic is over.

“Because of being busy with work and just life in general, I didn’t have time to spend on my writer like I do now. I may have looked up a brief here or there, but that’s about all I had time for. Because my focus is trying to write shorter and trying to clean up some of my prefixes and suffixes, this is going to definitely cut down on editing time,” she said.

Kilchenstein said she prefers to practice before noon each day before her college-aged kids wake up and the house gets busy. “I’d say I practice five days a week now. To practice, I am using My Realtime Coach, some old StenEd DVDs that I had, and occasionally I will practice to New York Gov. Cuomo’s daily briefings,” she said, adding that practice is very important to keep your skills at the highest level possible.

“I practice approximately 45 minutes to an hour a day. This is about 50 percent more time than before the pandemic,” said Mary Long, RPR, an official state court reporter from Florissant, Mo. “I am preparing to take the RMR so I have been practicing for a while.”

Long, who is still working as an official with St. Louis County, is currently using Zoom and participating in teleconference hearings for her judge, so she says the additional practice time she has been getting has been beneficial to her all around.

“I generally practice in the afternoon once our docket for the day is finished,” added Long, who has been a court reporter for a total of 18 years: 10 as a freelancer and eight as an official.

Last chance looms to purchase the NCRA webinars at a special price

Did you miss it? Then don’t miss the chance to purchase the recorded NCRA Stenopalooza and Leadership Training webinars at the special price of $20 each for members and $25 each for nonmembers. When this special offer ends on Thursday, May 21, at midnight Eastern time, the webinars will only be available at regular pricing.

NCRA’s Stenopalooza and Leadership Training events drew hundreds of members to participate in this first online, all-day event put together by the Board of Directors. The recorded webinars capture the variety of inspiring and informative sessions, including how to succeed in today’s challenging business environment, how to shift your steno skills from court reporting to captioning, the latest in legal videography trends, and more.

The webinars are available to view for 30 days after purchase. To purchase the webinars or to learn more about the sessions, visit NCRA/Stenopalooza or NCRA Leadership Training. Purchase now and save before regular pricing goes into effect after May 21.

When Hong Kong became part of China again

By Robin Nodland

One of the most unusual jobs that I did was captioning for the International Channel as they live-broadcasted the turnover of Hong Kong back to China from Great Britain.  Because of the time zone difference, this was done in the wee hours of the morning of June 30/July 1, 1997. My friend and business partner, Carol Studenmund, FAPR, RDR, CRR, CRC, and I tag-teamed the broadcast, sleeping in between shifts. We sat in Carol’s living room with an audio feed of a team of interpreters translating from Mandarin to English, watching the live broadcast on the International Channel on cable TV. 

Carol is awesome and has many contacts in the captioning community, which led to her being contacted for this job.  Over the years she has generously shared these unusual jobs with me. Or, another way of putting it, has roped me in.

We knew from the start this would be different due to the historical significance of the event.  There was torrential rain throughout the ceremony, and Prince Charles and Prime Minister Tony Blair, playing their key parts, were getting drenched, rivulets running down their faces. The Chinese strategically placed them on the stage without a roof to protect them. 

At one point the team of interpreters must have forgot they were translating for us, the captioners, because they began to talk amongst themselves about the politics of this historic change and their suspicions that the Chinese would not honor the agreements they made with Britain. There was a moment when my hands hovered over my steno keyboard as I asked myself: “Do I actually write that?” Yep, I did. 

Robin Nodland, FAPR, RDR, CRR, is a freelance court reporter and agency owner based in Portland, Ore. She can be reached at

Making the best of quarantine time by updating your dictionary

With so many professionals waiting to go back to work, finding productive ways to fill downtime during the quarantine ranged from taking up a new hobby to tackling closet shelves and drawers that haven’t been opened in — well, in some cases, years. For two NCRA members, however, downtime has been filled with cleaning up and building their dictionaries of briefs.

“As of right now, the time I have spent building and cleaning my dictionary is somewhere around 50 hours,” Terri Hanson, RPR, a freelance court reporter from Lihue, Hawaii, recently shared with the JCR Weekly.

“I have picked up a lot of writing suggestions from the Facebook group The Brief Exchange, adding approximately 600 outlines to my dictionary. Of course, COVID-19 outlines make up 100 of those new additions. I want to emphasize that adding to my dictionary is only the beginning, a foundation. In addition to the time adding, I have spent approximately 200 hours writing and practicing all the new terms. Instead of just listening to the news broadcasts, I write them. Practice, practice, practice. As the safer-at-home continues, I look forward to increasing my speed at writing my new entries faster and faster,” she said.   

Likewise, NCRA member Lori Seiden, RPR, a freelance court reporter from Dover, Fla., has also been spending downtime working on her dictionary of briefs.

“I’ve been spending about five hours a week cleaning and building my dictionary and learning new briefs and right-hand phrase enders. I haven’t actually kept track of the number of additions and deletions, but I’ve been building a lot of job dictionaries that relate to the different types of court cases that I work on so that I can easily go back and pull up a job dictionary to refresh myself on the briefs that are specific to the type of case I’m on; i.e., homicide, family law, drugs, etc.,” she said.

“I have some really good briefs, but I don’t use them in every case, so this way I’m able to quickly glance over them or print them out and have them with me when I go into court,” she added.

Whether in quarantine or not, both Hanson and Seiden agree that working on their dictionaries is a constant task that helps keep them current with their reporting skills.

“I work on my dictionary constantly. It keeps evolving and getting better as my writing becomes shorter,” Seiden said.

“Every job I take means dictionary updates,” noted Hanson, who spent 16 years working as a freelance court reporter in Minnesota before moving to Hawaii, where she has spent the past nine years working. “It is an ongoing endeavor. There are always new proper names that I add, plus I never pass up an opportunity to write shorter, making up new briefs along the way,” she said.  

“In my opinion, my dictionary is my greatest work of art and my most valuable asset. At the completion of every job, I make sure all the entries went into the proper dictionary, be it job, case, or personal dictionary,” Hanson added.

According to Seiden, it is extremely important for reporters to keep their dictionaries current, especially as their writing evolves. Never stop updating and building, she added.  

“I’ve been a court reporter for 29 years. I’m an RPR working on my last leg of my RMR. The most part of 25 years were spent in civil depos, and the last four have been more criminal court work, which I love. For many years I avoided court work like the plague, until I found out how fascinating it is. It’s also a good way to keep your speed sharp as things move extremely quickly in a courtroom.”

New member wins $100

Shannan Olivarez

Shannan Olivarez is a freelance court reporter in Hesperia, Calif. She is also a new NCRA member and was chosen as the winner of the $100 Amazon gift card given to a new member who joined between January and April 2020.

JCR | Why did you choose this career? 

SO | I love English.  No math. 😊 Ha ha.  

JCR | What interested you about joining NCRA? 

SO | To be honest: Mercer insurance.  Peace of mind!  And I’m anxiously eager and curious to see all I can get out of being involved in this organization for our profession!

JCR | Has anything not been what you expected in your career? 

SO | It’s been far more exciting than what I imagined!  

JCR | What advice do you have for future court reporters? 

SO | You can do it if you tell yourself you can.   

Former court reporter celebrates her CLVS certification

Chandler Alvino, left, and Deborah Alvino, RPR, CRR, CRC, CLVS

Deborah Alvino, RPR, CRR, CRC — and CLVS — has been a member of NCRA for about 20 years. A former official and freelance court reporter who holds several professional certifications marking her stenographic skills, Alvino said she was motivated to earn the CLVS certification after a car accident that left her with torn cartilage in her wrist that required two surgeries to repair the damage.

Today she works as a full-time legal videographer and is owner of Coastal Legal Video Specialists, in Pismo Beach, Calif., a firm that provides an array of video services, including depositions, synchronized video with a reporter’s transcripts, day-in-the-life videos, video mediation documents, last will and testament recording, construction videos, sworn statements, and more. Her firm has clients in San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, and Ventura counties.

“I had been an official and then freelance reporter for 15 years and just got certified as a broadcast captioner, but I was not able to report after nerve damage caused by one of the wrist surgeries,” Alvino said. 

“I really missed reporting and seeing my wonderful reporter friends, so I reinvented myself, got trained and certified as a CLVS, and started Coastal Legal Video Specialists on the central coast of California in 2012,” which she notes has now become a family affair. 

“My son Dalton and my daughter Chandler have since joined me in the business. After being a videographer for a year, Chandler decided to go to court reporting school also and is now a high-speed student getting ready to take the RPR test and then the California CSR. I’m so proud of her and so happy that we will have another excellent reporter soon,” she added.

Alvino said she uses her videography skills on a daily basis, whether she’s in a deposition (or now working remotely during quarantine), at a site inspection, will signing, press release for a law firm, or a judicial awards ceremony.

She said the greatest benefit of earning her CLVS certification is being recognized as a trained, qualified professional in her field by reporting agencies and attorneys, since not all videographers know about legal video procedures, technology, ethics, or even how to act in a legal setting. 

“I would encourage others to earn the CLVS certification because you never know when you may need the skills, even if you are primarily still reporting.  I absolutely love working alongside my reporter friends and helping make their jobs a little easier by providing great audio, the best chair in the office, looking up spellings, and giving them just any support that they need.”