Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Many state and local court systems fail to use properly certified interpreters

Many state and local courts fail to use qualified translators and ignore federal rules for when interpreters are required, Rebecca Beitsch reports for Stateline. The result is that "many criminal defendants and civil litigants with limited English skills are not equipped to navigate the complex legal system, jeopardizing their constitutional rights."

"The lack of skilled interpreters is less of a problem in federal courts, where interpreters must pass a competitive test," Beitsch writes. "Most states certify court interpreters, requiring that they pass a test to demonstrate their language skills. But many state certification tests aren’t as rigorous as the federal one, and many state and local courts allow uncertified interpreters to serve even if they haven’t passed the test. Many states also ignore the federal mandate that they provide free interpreters in both criminal and civil courts." (Stateline graphic: Interpreter certification policies by state)
Since 2010 the U.S. Department of Justice "has investigated courts in Colorado, Hawaii, Kentucky, New Jersey, North Carolina and Rhode Island for failing to comply with federal rules.eight states don’t certify court interpreters," Beitsch writes. Eight states don't certify court interpreters and in 32 of the states that do, interpreters say those states don't follow policies giving preferential treatment to those who are certified.

The problem with using an uncertified translator is that they might not be as skilled in translation as they think they are, Beitsch writes. Certification tests require "not only language skills, including legal vocabulary, but the ability to interpret 'simultaneously' so as not to delay court proceedings. Certified interpreters must remain no more than six words behind a speaker—listening to a torrent of words in English while translating what was just said into another language—for minutes at a time." (Read more)

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