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Ethics First

Ethics First Policies & Procedures

Ethics  First is a voluntary, no-cost public awareness program that seeks to positively educate court reporters, colleagues, firms, and in particular, their clients and consumers about how and why the impartiality and neutrality of the court reporter is of the utmost importance in maintaining an unbiased legal system.

Ethics First is an NCRA member benefit program. Participation is restricted to NCRA members and the firms who employ them¹.

Ethics First categories

Ethics First Participant

The Ethics First Participant category includes only NCRA members who make the record. To qualify to be classified as an Ethics First Participant, you must meet two qualifications:

  • You must be an NCRA member eligible to use the NCRA member logo.
  • You must make the record.

This includes all NCRA members who are stenographic court reporters or Certified Legal Video Specialists (CLVS). This does not include nonmember steno reporters, voice writers, DAR/ER monitors, or CLVSs.

Ethics First Participant benefits

As an Ethics First Participant, individuals can:

  • Market their adherence to the principles of Ethics First to clients and colleague
  • Use the Ethics First logo in advertising, on their website, on business cards, etc.

Ethics First Participant requirements

Participants agree to:

  • Abide by the requirements of the NCRA Code of Professional Ethics and to be subject to its sanctions for any violations.
  • Positively affirm the Ethics First principles and agree to promote the Ethics First educational program.
  • Renew their eligibility to participant on an annual basis concurrently with member dues renewal.

Ethics First Participant eligibility

To be eligible to be an Ethics First Participant, you must be:

  • An NCRA member; and
  • Involved in making the judicial/impartial record. (This includes NCRA-member stenographic reporters and NCRA-member legal videographers.)

Ethics First Supporter

The Ethics First Supporter category is reserved for individuals and associations that support the tenets and precepts of Ethics First but are not involved in the actual making of the record. This category represents a wide array of individuals and organizations, including: state court reporting associations, state bar associations, CART and broadcast captioners, attorneys, law firms, judges, judicial associations, insurance companies, vendors, scopists, transcriptionists, businesses, etc. The key difference between the Supporter category and the Participant category is that Supporters are not directly involved in making the record.

Ethics First encourages the involvement and support of those who, although not judicial court reporters or court reporting firms themselves, agree with and stand behind the principles that the program represents. Ethics First Supporters are entitled to promote their affiliation through use of the Ethics First Supporter logo.

Ethics First Supporter eligibility

The  Ethics  First  Supporter  category  encompasses  all  individuals  and  organizations  who, although not themselves directly involved in creating the record in judicial court proceedings or depositions, support the principles espoused by the Ethics First program.

This includes:

  • Attorneys;
  • Law firms;
  • State and local bar associations;
  • Judges;
  • State and local court reporter associations;
  • Insurance Companies;
  • Court reporting students
  • Captioners and CART providers;
  • Vendors;*
  • Scopists;*
  • Transcriptionists.*

*An individual must be in the appropriate classification of NCRA membership (i.e., associate, retired, student) to be eligible for the Ethics First Supporter category. The Supporter category is not intended to allow nonmembers the opportunity to skirt the membership requirement for Ethics First Participants.²

NCRA reserves the right to determine the eligibility of any individual, firm or association seeking to become an Ethics First Supporter in order to maintain the integrity of the program as an NCRA member benefit.

Ethics First Firm

Ethics First Firms eligibility

To be eligible as an Ethics First Firm, the firm in question must have at least one owner or manager who is an NCRA member.

A firm may sign up for Ethics First if at least one firm owner or firm manager is an NCRA member in good standing. Only an individual who is legally able to sign on behalf of a firm will be able to register their firm as an Ethics First Firm.

Note: once a firm owner/manager registers his/her firm for Ethics First, that  individual  him/herself  will  automatically be registered as an individual  Ethics First Participant or Supporter, depending on eligibility.

Sign up for ethics first- button

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. A firm is owned by one NCRA member and one non-NCRA member. The firm is signed up for Ethics First but is found to be giving incentive gifts. Can that firm remain an Ethics First Firm?

    No. The firm would be sent a cease and desist letter from NCRA to stop using the Ethics First logo.

  2. A court reporting firm is owned by one NCRA member steno reporter and a nonmember voicewriter. Is the firm eligible to be an Ethics First Firm?

    Yes. Since one of the firm’s owners is an NCRA member, the firm would be eligible to be an Ethics First Firm, and the NCRA-member owner would become an Ethics First Participant as an individual. However, the voicewriter owner is not eligible to promote him or herself, individually, as an Ethics First Participant or to use the Ethics First Participant logo.

  3. When is a manager eligible to sign their firm up for Ethics First?

    As long as the manager is a person responsible for the day-to-day operations of their firm and holds sufficient authority within the firm to commit that firm to participation, they are eligible (provided they themselves are an NCRA member).

  4. Are CLVS candidates who are NCRA members eligible to be an Ethics First Participant?

    Yes. As long as their NCRA membership is current, they are eligible to be an Ethics First Participant because they “make the record.”

  5. Why are closed captioners and CART providers not eligible to be Ethics First Participants?

    The gift giving restriction is an intervention in commercial practices that are perfectly acceptable in most customer/provider relationships. For example, airlines give frequent flyer points and other financial incentives to reward customer loyalty. The Department of Justice and antitrust enforcement looks on any effort to interfere or discourage such actions that are financially beneficial to the customer with suspicion and hostility.

    That same circumstance that justifies NCRA’s stance against incentive gift-giving – the unique duty of impartiality in the middle of an adversarial proceeding – does not exist in the relationship between a CART provider or a captioner and the consumer utilizing those services. So CART providers and closed captioners, like others with an interest in the program, are free to take part as an Ethics First Supporter, but it would be legally insupportable to encourage them to join the program and swear not to gift themselves.

    However, if closed captioners and CART providers DO take depositions on occasion, they are more than welcome to register as an Ethics First Participant.

  6. What happens if a firm has an NCRA member owner or manager who signs the firm up, but that individual later leaves or drops his or her membership? No other owner or manager in the firm is an NCRA member. Can that firm remain an Ethics First Firm?

    No.  Ethics First Firms are required to annually recertify (renew) their participation in the program in January.  If there is no longer an NCRA member owner or manager able to execute that renewal agreement, the firm is not eligible for renewal.

  7. What will happen to the individuals who are currently signed up for Ethics First but are no longer eligible to join based on the new, NCRA member-only restrictions?

    They are grandfathered into the program until the routine annual renewal in January, at which time they will NOT be eligible to continue.

  8. What happens if an individual participant drops their NCRA membership or the NCRA member leaves their membership? Do they lose eligibility to continue in Ethics First immediately, or are they dropped at their next annual renewal?

    They are grandfathered into the program until the routine annual renewal in January, at which time they will NOT be eligible to continue.

  9. Can non-program participants distribute Ethics First materials and reference Ethics First without use of the logo? For example: can a non-NCRA-member firm or individual reporter distribute pamphlets from the Ethics First website, copy and distribute Ethics First articles and letters to the editor, circulate links to Ethics First  web videos to their clients because they support the principles, even though they are not able to participate in the program or advertise using the Ethics First logos?

    Yes they can. There is no practical manner for NCRA to regulate such activities. NCRA will, however, vigorously protect the restriction on use of the Ethics First logo or name by actual program Participants/Supporters only.


1  Firm  and  individual participation is  subject to the specific terms and conditions explained further below.

2  Although CART providers and captioners are NCRA members, they do not “make the judicial record” and therefore are not designated as Ethics First Participants and welcomed, instead, as Ethics First Supporters.