Make plans to mosey on over to the 2020 NCRA Business Summit

The Hyatt Regency Lost Pines Resort & Spa in Austin, Texas, is the setting for the 2020 NCRA Business Summit taking place Feb. 9-11. No matter what size firm you own, operate, or manage, this event is NCRA’s premier gathering for anyone looking to grow their business, expand their markets, and boost their overall success. Register by Nov. 30, 2019 to take advantage of discounted pricing.

“Intense, energizing, inspiring, educational, and fun, that’s what the 2020 NCRA Business Summit promises attendees no matter what size their firm is. Plan to expand your sphere of colleagues while networking in beautiful Austin, as well as hear from a variety of experts in the areas of successful customer base building, honing effective leadership skills, and more,” said NCRA President Max Curry, RPR, CRI, a freelance court reporter and firm owner from Franklin, Tenn. “If building your business in 2020 and beyond is important to you, then attending the 2020 should be a priority.”

Karim R. Ellis, Keynote Speaker

In the lineup this year is keynote speaker Karim R. Ellis, founder of Empowered Education, a company devoted to developing both organizations and individuals. Ellis is a dynamic motivational speaker with 10 years of experience in the arena of speaking, training, and coaching, He takes great pride in cultivating leaders and champions, and his sole desire is to unlock an atmosphere of greatness in the lives of the people he connects with on a daily basis. Ellis will share with attendees his insights into successful leadership creation and development.

Also on the program is Chris Williams, co-founder of Wide Awake Business, established in 2004 to help companies grow. She is also the co-author, along with Martha Hanlon, also co-founder of Wide Awake Business, Customers Are the Answer to Everything, and most recently of Customertopia. Williams and Hanlon have been called one of the foremost authorities on in how to get and keep customers.

Chris Williams, Speaker

Williams will provide a two-part presentation, which will focus on how to create an easier, simpler, more profitable business. The sessions will cover how to:

  • Spend less time second-guessing yourself and seize the right opportunities
  • Ooze authority and confidence when you speak with prospects
  • Feel fulfilled because your “Big Why” engages more people
  • Enjoy your bank account statements
  • Lead more, build team, and personally do less of the “do”
  • Head out on your vacation without taking calls and putting out fires every day

The 2020 NCRA Business Summit program also offers a number of networking opportunities throughout the three-day event to provide attendees with the chance to expand their networks, engage with old friends, and build relationships with new ones. The event kicks off with a fun and exciting team-building activity followed by an opening reception and dinner.

Registration is now open and those who register by Nov. 30, 2019, can take advantage of discounted pricing:

  • Early Access Registration: Oct. 15 – Nov. 30, 2019
    Member: $975; Nonmember: $1,150; Additional Firm Employee: $850; Spouse/Guest: $200
  • Regular Registration: Dec. 1, 2019 – Jan. 31, 2020
    Member: $1,075; Nonmember: $1,250; Additional Firm Employee: $950; Spouse/Guest: $250
  • Last Minute Registration: Feb. 1 – 9, 2020
    Member: $1,125; Nonmember: $1,300; Additional Firm Employee: $1,000; Spouse/Guest: $300

A special hotel room rate for single/double occupancy for attendees is $209 per night plus tax ($237.73) and the resort fee is waived. Hurry, these special hotel rates end on Jan. 8, 2020. Deadline to register to attend is Jan. 31, 2020.

For more information and to register for the 2020 NCRA Business Summit, visit

Learn more about leading A to Z online on Oct. 17

NCRA needs facilitators to lead the NCRA A to Z™ Intro to Steno Machine Shorthand online program. The NCRA A to Z program has been going since April 2018.  It started with four online facilitators and programs as small as 10 to 20 participants.  Today, there are five facilitators, but the program registrations are much larger.  More facilitators are needed to offer more sections. 

NCRA is hosting a training webinar to give step-by-step instructions and answer questions about leading A to Z online. If you are interested in becoming an online facilitator, please complete the registration form and we will send you information on how to access the training webinar.

The training will be conducted on Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. ET by Cynthia Bruce Andrews, M.S.Ed., Senior Director, Education and Certification; Dr. Jen Krueger, RMR, CRI, CPE; and Stacy Drohosky, RPR, CRR, CRI.

Registration will close Oct. 16.

Questions should be directed to

NCRA PAC fundraiser doubles last year’s draw

Greta Duckett, RPR, CRR, won the Ohio basket.

The second Gift Basket Extravaganza sponsored by NCRA’s Government Relations Department to benefit the Association’s PAC (Political Action Committee) drew nearly double the number of participants and raised more than $4,000. Twenty unique baskets in total were donated to support the fundraising event held at the Association’s 2019 Convention & Expo that took place in Denver, Colo., Aug. 15-18.

Baskets were donated by the following:

  • Alabama Court Reporters Association
  • Arizona Court Reporters Association
  • California Court Reporters Association
  • California Deposition Reporters Association
  • California Official Court Reporters Association
  • Colorado Court Reporters Association
  • Depo International (had a Minnesota basket)
  • Florida Court Reporters Association
  • Maryland Court Reporters Association
  • Mississippi Court Reporters Association
  • NCRA
  • New York State Court Reporters Association
  • Ohio Court Reporters Association
  • Oklahoma Court Reporters Association
  • South Dakota Court Reporters Association
  • Tennessee Court Reporters Association
  • Utah Court Reporters Association
  • Virginia Court Reporters Association
  • West Virginia Shorthand Reporters Association
  • Wisconsin Court Reporters Association

Items ranged from bottles of wine, cheeses, various snacks, baked goods, Fiestaware, beach items, and more. NCRA’s basket featured Washington, D.C., memorabilia.

According to Jocelynn Moore, NCRA’s Director of State Government Relations, the basket donated by the Maryland Court Reporters Association included a gift certificate for fresh blue crabs to be shipped to the winner’s home, while the Ohio state association participated with a large and a small basket worth about $700 total that included boxes for the winners to use to ship the contents home. In addition, the Florida association’s basket included a $300 gift certificate for a new case from Stenograph.

Other notable baskets include the one from Tennessee which included bottles of Jack Daniel’s whiskey, the California basket which featured Stags’ Leap wine, a Los Angeles Lakers basketball, and a Los Angeles Dodgers baseball. NCRA’s basket had items that were all purchased from inside the U.S. Senate.

“I was very impressed with the dedication and effort put forth by the many state associations that donated baskets for our annual NCRA PAC Basket Extravaganza. With the help of the state associations and donors, we were able to raise more than double the amount of funds we raised last year,” Moore said. “This is a huge success for NCRA PAC, and I’m hoping we take this momentum into next year’s NCRA PAC fundraiser.”

Court reporters cruise together

By Charisse Kitt

The African American Court Reporters set sail this summer aboard the Carnival Sensation, leaving out of Miami, Fla., sailing to the Bahamas, Half Moon Cay, and Grand Turk.

Planning began after the NCRA Convention in New Orleans in 2018. So much fun was had that we decided the time was now; that in 2019 we were going to go on vacation together, whether there were two of us or 100. 

Members of the AACR are Kirstie Anderson; Charisse Kitt, RMR, CRI; Lori Kidd-Ceasar; Angie Murphy-Grant; Irony Senegal; Shaunise Day; Mekailah McChriston; Shelley Duhon, RPR; Kairisa Magee; Susan Watts, RPR; Nataly Bermejo; Diane Cuttino Salters, RPR; Jeaninn Alexis; Erica Jones; Janyce Booth, RMR, CRR, CRC; Shacara Mapp; and Margary Rogers, RPR, CRI.

After the convention, Kidd-Ceasar took the bull by its horns and began looking into cruises. We thought a cruise would be a great first-time vacation for all of us to do together. You have the best of both worlds, all you can eat – especially pizza – entertainment, and island hopping, for an affordable price.

In September 2018, we had the itinerary available, and in October the first deposit was due. This gave everyone an opportunity to make payments over the next eight months. When May rolled around, we had a total of 21 people: Sixteen court reporters – two of them brought their brave husbands along – two students, and a close friend. We even had mother and daughter court reporters. One couple was celebrating their seven-year anniversary; the other couple was celebrating their recent nuptials.

Everyone came from different states: New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Washington, D.C, Virginia, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, Illinois, Texas, and California. There were veteran court reporters, new-to-the-field court reporters, officials, freelancers, CART providers, and software trainers. We had it all!

Every night we had dinner together, even the poor husbands! Can you imagine what the discussion for those poor men was like at the dinner table with 18 court reporters! We let them chime in a time or two. Some of us were longtime friends, having met over the years at NCRA conventions, and some of us met for the first time on the cruise. How awesome is that!

Different themes for different days were planned for the cruise, and hashtags were created for posting to social media. We had T-shirts made for when we boarded the ship that said: “AACRs Rock the Boat.” We had an all-white night, where everyone dressed in white. We even did a swimsuit photo shoot at Half Moon Cay. For the Captain’s dinner, we dressed up and took a professional picture, which everyone received on the last night, thanks to Lori. We danced, sang, gambled, laughed, even shed a few tears together. No stone was left unturned.

Although we were on vacation, is there ever a time where so many court reporters can be together for that long, six days and five nights, without learning something? Well, this trip was no different.  That’s right, you guessed it! Carnival was kind enough to let us use one of their rooms to have a seminar. So for four hours, on our only sea day, we did just that. I held a punctuation seminar, along with tips for passing the RPR Written Knowledge Test for all, and then we split up for Case Catalyst and Eclipse Training. The great Roz DiBartolo was the Case Catalyst trainer, and I was the Eclipse trainer. Everyone walked away thankful, having more knowledge than when they boarded the ship – an added bonus to our first of many vacations.

This vacation far exceeded everyone’s expectation. None of us could have ever imagined how insightful, spiritual, and inspirational it would be. Everyone played an intricate part in making this vacation a success. We all were very thankful that we could come together, learn together, and have a great time together. We were brought together through court reporting, but the bond and sisterhood created from this trip will last each and every one of us a lifetime. We truly rocked the boat.

Charisse Kitt, RMR, CRI, is an official court reporter from Somerset, N.J.

Weigl, Zweizig return as national champs

NCRA 2019 Speed Contest winner Jeff Weigl
NCRA 2019 Speed Contest winner Jeff Weigl

Jeffrey Weigl, RMR, CRR, CRC, from Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, won the 2019 Speed Contest, held on Aug. 14, during the NCRA 2019 Convention & Expo in Denver, Colo. His overall accuracy rate was 97.54 percent, or 87 errors total. This is Weigl’s third win in the Speed Contest. In second place overall for Speed was Patricia Nilsen, RMR, CRR, CRC, CRI, of Nashville, Tenn., and in third was Traci Mertens, RDR, CRR, CRC, of Belleville, Ill.

Doug Zweizig, RDR, CRR, of Baltimore, Md., is the new Realtime Contest champion. Zweizig previously won the contest in 2006 and 2015. Mark Kislingbury, FAPR, RDR, CRR, of Houston, Texas, earned second place overall in the competition, and Weigl placed third overall.

NCRA 2019 Realtime Contest Champion Doug Zweizig
NCRA 2019 Realtime Contest Champion Doug Zweizig

The Speed Contest consists of three legs: literary at 220 wpm, legal opinion at 230 wpm, and testimony at 280 wpm. Contestants have a total of 90 minutes per leg for transcription.

The Realtime Contest consists of two legs: literary at 200 wpm and testimony at 225 wpm. Contestants must turn in an ASCII file immediately following the end of dictation.

In both contests, contestants must receive 95 percent accuracy to qualify; accuracy also determines the winners.

Educator of the Year awarded

Margaret (Peg) Sokalski-Dorchack, RMR, a court reporting program director for MacCormac College in Chicago, Ill., was given the 2019 CASE Award of Excellence. The announcement was made at NCRA’s Convention & Expo being held in Denver, Colo., Aug. 15-18.

NCRA’s CASE (Council on Approved Student Education) Award of Excellence recognizes the important role student education plays in the court reporting profession and honors educators for their dedication and outstanding achievement and leadership. Recipients are nominated by an NCRA member.

Sokalski-Dorchack has been a member of NCRA for almost 40 years. She is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force. After being honorably discharged, she began the court reporting program at Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) in Cuyahoga, Ohio, under the leadership of Dr. Angela Hergenröeder, the first recipient of NCRA’s outstanding educator award. 

Sokalski-Dorchack earned the Registered Professional Reporter (RPR) certification while still in school and completed her associate’s degree. She worked as an official reporter in one of Ohio’s courts. Dr. Hergenröeder asked her to teach an evening class at Tri-C during her first year as a reporter, and it was clear that this was where Sokalski-Dorchack’s passion lay. She went back to school and finished her bachelor’s degree in technical education and earned her master’s degree in business education. While working as a reporter, she also earned her Registered Merit Reporter (RMR) certification.

Sokalski-Dorchack moved to the Chicago area with her family and taught at Triton College; Career Colleges of Chicago; and MacCormac College full-time, where she has spent a total of 22 years, the last being in her current position as the program director of the court reporting program. She has published Speed Advantage Q&A, two volumes of Q&A tests for speeds of 80 to 130 words per minute. She is currently collaborating with colleagues on an updated version of a theory text.

Sokalski-Dorchack is also a recipient of the Illinois Outstanding Educator Award awarded by the Illinois Court Reporters Association.

NCRF recognizes Mervin Vaughn with altruism award

NCRF Chair Tami Smith presents 2019 Altruism Award to recipient Mervin Vaungh
NCRF Chair Tami Smith presents 2019 Altruism Award to recipient Mervin Vaughn

The National Court Reporters Foundation (NCRF) presented the 2019 Santo J. Aurelio Award to Mervin E. Vaughn, RPR, from Runnels, Iowa. The announcement was made at a special Awards Luncheon held at NCRA’s Convention & Expo Aug. 15-18, in Denver, Colo.

The Aurelio Award is given to a working court reporter with more than 25 years of experience who has given back to the profession and to the court reporting community with no expectation of any reward. 

Vaughn has worked as a freelance and an official court reporter and currently serves as president of Huney-Vaughn Court Reporters in Des Moines, Iowa. He graduated in 1965 from the American Institute of Business in Des Moines before serving in the U.S. Army in Vietnam from 1966 to 1968.

He has been a long-time supporter of NCRF and has served in numerous volunteer positions for NCRA at the national level. He is a lifetime retired member and holds the nationally recognized professional certification of Registered Professional Reporter (RPR). At the state level, his volunteer service to the Iowa Court Reporters Association (ICRA) spans more than 50 years.

He has also been a long-time advocate for young reporters entering the profession and is known for hosting student interns or recruiting working court reporters to attend marketing events for a local court reporting school. 

For his military service, Vaughn was awarded the U.S. Army Commendation Medal for “distinguishing themselves by exceptionally meritorious service in support of allied counterinsurgency operations in the Republic of Vietnam.”

His community involvement has included volunteering for a local non-profit that assists families with a child or an adult impacted by Down Syndrome and has served for more than 20 years in various positions to support his local church.

His selflessness when giving back to others has clearly been recognized by such acts as having a scholarship established in his name, which support students entering a trade school. He has also received letters of recommendations from judges, attorneys, instructors, former students, friends, and family, for having this honor bestowed on him.

In the words of one of his children: “My dad has given his whole life to his career and strongly believes in helping others. From leaving his fiancée to go serve his country, to encouraging any student he counters, he has always put court reporting as his top priority. He has done so while rebuilding his company after a devastating fire and saying goodbye to his best friend and business partner. He’s the only person who encouraged me to pursue my CLVS and the reason we are planning our own VHP day, because he saw a need for our community.”

Highlights from some Convention sessions

Attendees have had great choices this year with learning sessions. Here are some highlights of a few of them.

Student steno speed dating

Students attending the NCRA 2019 Convention & Expo got to try out a twist on speed dating with a session that let them talk to a variety of court reporting professionals.

Student Shaunise Day organized the steno speed dating for her fourth year.

“My concept was to have not just a power point seminar,” she said. She wanted to give people time to interact.

“It’s always great to meet more reporters and get different perspectives,” said Rachel Helm, a student at Green River College from Poulsbo, Wash.

Day said students got the opportunity to network and ask questions that they maybe couldn’t ask in an online conversation.

Emily Deutsch from Bloomington Mn., who Anoka Technical College, also attended the steno speed dating.

“Speed dating was a great way to meet such a variety of opportunities that this profession has to offer,” Deutsch said. “I really liked it. I loved it because it involved everyone from CART providers to federal officials, and they were so open about letting us ask whatever we wanted. As a student you don’t always to get those ask those questions.”


From left to right: Lisa Black, Phyllis Craver-Lykken, RPR, and Liz Harvey, RPR

The NCRA STRONG Task Force shared the work they are doing to promote the profession in a session on Friday, Aug. 16.

Task force members NCRA STRONG Phyllis Craver-Lykken, RPR, and Liz Harvey, RPR, talked about how the group was formed and the mission of the task force.

“When you say someone should do something,” Harvey said, “that someone is us.”

The team wanted to put together a tool box of materials and tools to help promote the profession. Those tools include fliers, Power Point presentations, letters, and more.

They also encouraged attendees to use the tools. They said making the tools available isn’t enough, if no one uses them it won’t help.

According to Craver-Lykken and Harvey, NCRA STRONG is looking for volunteers from each state to represent their state and be a liaison to the task force.

Optimal Recording Formats – Creating the Best Video Record for Depositions

John Jensen, CLVS

John Jensen, CLVS, highlighted the optimal formats for recording a video deposition. He addressed a wide range of issues from camera needs to audio needs to working with court reporters.

A Guide to Social Media for Post-Millennials

Lauren Lawrence, RPR, and Matthew Moss, RPR, led a session meant to help participants navigate the benefits and pitfalls of using social media.

They pointed out that social media can be used to promote a business or promote the profession of court reporting. They cautioned the need to avoid misrepresenting the profession and being careful about being negative.

Matthew Moss, RPR, Lauren Lawrence, RPR

They gave an overview of each social media platform and gave examples of some people doing a great job at sending out positive posts about the career of court reporting.

NCRA keynote speaker Erin Brockovich shares insights into “stick-to-itiveness”

NCRA 2019 Keynote Speaker Erin Brockovich
NCRA 2019 Keynote Speaker Erin Brockovich

Attendees at NCRA’s 2019 Convention & Expo in Denver, Colo., heard firsthand the stories behind the movie Erin Brockovich from its namesake during the packed Premier Session. Brockovich, the renowned consumer advocate and environmental activist, shared bits of her life story, how she learned to persevere, and who her major influencers were. She attributes those influencers to helping her later in life go from unknown legal researcher to 20th-century icon as the persistent force behind the largest medical settlement lawsuit in history.

Brockovich began her address at the Convention by acknowledging the importance of the human court reporter’s presence and role in the courtroom to ensure an accurate record of the proceedings and added that she was always amazed when she had the chance to watch what they did.

She also shared what it has been like since the making of the movie some 20 years ago and entertained attendees with stories about how she is recognized as Erin Brockovich when traveling but is also often confused with Julia Roberts, the actress who portrayed her in the film.

Raised in Kansas, Brockovich said her mother, a journalist, was always there for her. She attributed much of her ability to overcome personal obstacles such as being dyslexic to her mother who taught her the term “stick-to-itiveness.”

“I don’t like being told I cannot do this or do that. Because of being dyslexic, I was often teased. Today that is referred to as bullying. My self-esteem started to tumble. It took my mom to teach me that just because you are different doesn’t mean you are inferior,” Brockovich said.

“That word altered my life. Life requires us to have it. We are not born with it. We need to develop the habit of perseverance.”

She said a teacher of hers was also one of the most influential people in her life because she thought outside of the box. She realized that Brockovich was smart and that she listened — and that Brockovich knew the matter that was being taught in the classroom. She just couldn’t pass a written test. Her teacher figured out that if she gave the same test to Brockovich as an oral test, she would pass with flying colors. That she said was another life-changing event that boosted her esteem.

“My dad was the other most influential person in my life. He was an environmental engineer. He taught me that health, family, water, and land to grow our food on, and air were the most important things. All of them are our moral compass.”

Brockovich said she is a fan of disruption because disruption causes change. She said that disruption causes people to rise up, look around, become aware, and oftentimes wonder how they can become involved in something bigger.

“Logic is common sense. When you follow it, you will logically do the right thing.”

She also said it is important to recognize how leverage can be used to build a community in both life and work and that it is important to be loyal to a mission, your neighbor, and your community. By doing so you can make a huge difference in your own life and the lives of others.

Finally, Brockovich urged Convention attendees to understand what motivates them to get up each day such as their families, their jobs, their ability to earn a living, to vacation, and to have homes.

“We love our country, clean water, and our freedom, and that is our motivator,” she said.

Brockovich told the audience that the film that carries her name and tells her story is accurate and that it was not about her but rather the community that used leverage together, motivated each other, and never lost their stick-to-itiveness to successfully win their law suit.

“What happened to those people is real, and it continues to be a problem throughout the country still,” she said.

As for questions unanswered by the film, Brockovich said she did not end up marrying the biker dude in real life, but teasingly reveled that she would have if he had looked like the actor who played him.

As president of Brockovich Research & Consulting, she is currently involved in numerous environmental projects worldwide. She has requests for her help in groundwater contamination complaints in every state of the United States, in Australia, and other international hotspots. She is currently working on cases in California, Texas, Florida, Michigan, Illinois, and Missouri.

2019 Speed Contest results


Place Percentage
1Jeffrey Weigl, RMR, CRR, CRC 97.54%
2Patricia Nilsen, RMR, CRR, CRC, CRI 97.15%
3Traci Mertens, RDR, CRR, CRC 96.86%


1Jeffrey Weigl1998.27%
2Kathy Cortopassi, RMR, CRR, CRC 3197.18%
3Traci Mertens 3796.63%
4Karen Tyler, RDR, CRR, CRC3996.45%
5Donna Urlaub, RMR, CRR 4396.09%
6Diane Kraynak, RMR, CRR, CRC 4795.72%
6Kathryn Thomas, RDR, CRR, CRC4795.72%
7Patricia Nilsen4995.54%
8John Wissenbach, RDR, CRR, CRC 5295.27%
8Doug Zweizig, RDR, CRR5295.27%


1Patricia Nilsen1598.69%
2Traci Mertens4596.08%
3Jeffrey Weigl5195.56%


1Jeff Weigl1798.78%
2Traci Mertens3097.85%
3John Wissenbach3797.35%
4Patricia Nilsen3997.21%
5Diane Kraynak5696%
6Donna Urlaub6095.71%

* Contest results are preliminary.