Category Archives: Court Interpreters

Governor Martinez Again Vetoes Bill to Improve Court Interpreter Services –via KRWG


Commentary:  For the second time in as many years, Governor Susana Martinez on Wednesday vetoed an uncontroversial measure to improve court interpreter services in New Mexico, putting into focus her past efforts as a District Attorney to keep Spanish-speakers from serving on juries.  Sponsored by Senator Mimi Stewart (D-17-Bernalillo), Senate Bill 210, “Create Court Language Access Fund”, was a measure without fiscal impact that would set up a new fund to be administered by the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) for paying court interpreters and related expenses.  It removed court translators from being paid through the Jury and Witness Fee Fund.  The bill drew the Governor’s veto despite being passed without opposition in both the Senate and House.

“Respect for all languages is part of New Mexico’s culture since its inception, and the New Mexico Constitution gave Spanish speakers unique protections when it was adopted,” said Senator Stewart. “Therefore, it is vital that everyone, regardless of language spoken, has equal access to the courts.”

In 2000, then-DA Susana Martinez took vigorous legal action to disqualify people who do not speak English from serving as jurors, taking her case all the way to the state Supreme Court.  The Constitution of New Mexico protects people who speak and read either English or Spanish, however.  The New Mexico Supreme Court rejected Martinez’s push to keep Spanish-speaking people from serving on juries in Dona Ana County, or anywhere in the state.

In her veto message, the Governor states that it is unnecessary to create a new fund to be managed by the AOC. She either does not understand or does not want to understand that this legislation only segregates funds for interpreter and jury services, which are constitutionally separated, and does not have a fiscal impact on the state. Therefore, signing the bill would have led to better transparency for interpreter and jury expenditure.

To read more of this article courtesy of KRWG—>click here


Arizona courts begin certification of language interpreters –via AP

KNXV Arizona court_1455285379826_31808087_ver1.0_900_675.jpg

(Picture courtesy of Getty.)

PHOENIX – Arizona’s state court system is moving to require certification of foreign-language interpreters used by courts.

Under Arizona’s program, courts that employ full-time language interpreters will be required to have their interpreters credentialed by mid-2019, or within 24 months of hiring of interpreters hired in mid-2017 or later.

The Administrative Office of the Courts says 45 other states already have credentialing programs for court interpreters to help ensure equal justice under the law.

To read more of this article courtesy of the AP —>click here

As need for interpreters grows, Alaska courts look to technology to save money –via Alaska Dispatch News

Written by: Hope Miller
Court-certified interpreter Yolanda Martinez-Ley poses in front of the Nesbett Courthouse in downtown Anchorage on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016. Bob Hallinen / ADN

The Alaska Court System will see hundreds of requests for interpreting services this year, and that volume has staff looking to technology to streamline what can become a complex and costly process.

When a qualified interpreter of a language requested isn’t in Alaska, the court system looks Outside, sometimes flying people up for events like trials.

“The reason for that is because many of the courtroom proceedings are really complicated and it takes a really high-level skill to interpret,” said Brenda Aiken, Language Services director for the Alaska Court System.

Certified interpreters

Yolanda Martinez-Ley, 52, is one of two court-certified interpreters in Alaska — a tier above the roughly 20 registered interpreters available to the court system through the Alaska Institute for Justice’s Language Interpreter Center. Certified interpreters must pass a rigorous exam and are the preferred people to handle major happenings like criminal trials “that are potentially going to take away someone’s liberty,” said Stacey Marz, director of the Alaska Court System’s Family Law Self-Help Center.

Early on in her life, Martinez-Ley — who interprets for Spanish speakers — realized she had a knack for languages. She picked up Bulgarian before studying in the Balkan country, took French and Italian classes and eventually learned English. Originally from Cuba, she lived in Canada before coming to Alaska in 2008. It was in Anchorage that she began her journey to becoming a professional interpreter with help from the Language Interpreter Center. When the court system isn’t requesting her services, she works as a freelance interpreter and is also a certified medical interpreter.

Some court events are more grisly than others, Martinez-Ley says. An attempted-murder trial where the defendant made threats in the courtroom sticks out in her mind. She thinks court interpreting has made her more perceptive to when people are lying, but her job requires her to stay neutral and simply interpret what people are saying.

For her, court interpreting is a way to level the playing field for the parties involved in a case. Citing Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, Barb Jacobs — program manager of the Language Interpreter Center — says the community also has a responsibility to provide language services. Aiken says the court system has been responsive to “increasing language diversity needs.”

“We want to ensure that anyone coming into the court understands to the fullest of their ability what’s happening to them, or for them, however you look at that,” Aiken said.

To read more of this article courtesy of Alaska Dispatch News —–> click here

Interpreter hits back at armchair critics –via iol news


Johannesburg – They sit in their offices translating their work with the help of a dictionary, and if there’s a word they are battling with, they can easily Google it or call around.

Yet “they have the audacity to criticise court interpreters who work in a highly pressured environment without the luxury of referring to a dictionary or the internet when a word they have never heard of before crops up during a trial”.

William Mnisi, a high court interpreter with over 30 years’ experience, said the criticism that had been levelled at them, especially from translators and linguistics professors, was unwarranted and wrong.

Mnisi, whose speciality is Afrikaans but also interprets Tswana, Zulu, English, Sotho and Swati, is the secretary of the National Interpreters Association of South Africa.

Since the start of Oscar Pistorius’s murder trial, court interpreters’ ability to do their job properly has been questioned. The South African Translators’ Institute (Sati) has been vocal in this regard.

However, Mnisi said the institute had no authority to attack them.

“They think they know what we are doing, but they don’t. They are translators. They have the luxury of dictionaries, they have the luxury of sitting in the office phoning around if they have a word they don’t understand.

“For an interpreter, there and then on his feet, he must put across what the person is saying. Off the cuff, you have to tell the court what the person is saying. People who don’t understand the field will come up with these kinds of attacks,” he said.

The criticism started on the first day of Pistorius’s trial when the interpreter abandoned her job. She had only six months’ experience.

This is despite the fact interpreters need about seven years’ experience in the lower courts before being sent to interpret in the more complex cases in the high court.

Mnisi conceded that she should not have been selected as she was inexperienced.

“The department (of Justice and Constitutional Development) solely depends on us to find suitable people for a case. They are doing a lot and pump money into this, and we are actually failing them,” he said.

However, Sati’s Johan Blaauw said they had “the fullest right” to comment on the quality and did not need to stand in court to say something was correct or not.

Blaauw said although he had never done court interpreting, he normally interpreted at conferences, and also did simultaneous interpreting at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings.

To read more of this article courtesy of IOL news, click the link below.

Tagged ,

Madame Justice, con permiso –via NY City Lens


Due to the city’s diverse population, court interpreters face challenges of dialects and cultural differences


Hussean Hassan is not a lawyer. Nor is he a court officer or a law clerk. Yet, when Mohammed Hassan, no relation, accused of groping a woman in a subway car, appears at his hearing, Hussean Hassan is by his side.

As Mohammed, the accused, stands in front of the judge in Part E courtroom on the second floor of New York City’s Criminal Courts building in Downtown Manhattan, Hassan stands to his right and constantly whispers in his ear in classical Arabic. No one stops him. Hassan, after all, is the court interpreter.

In a city as diverse as New York, quite often the people who stand accused of committing a crime do not speak English, said Sandra Bryan, the statewide coordinator of Court Interpreters. It’s the job of the court interpreter to bridge this gap between the justice system and the litigant. “Interpreters play an incredibly crucial role in the justice system,” said Bryan.

According to Bryan, the court system employs a total of 217 court interpreters representing 27 languages and dialects, that are appointed to the New York State courts within the five boroughs of New York city. Of these, 16 are employed in a supervisory capacity, but they also interpret in courtrooms.

“We are the people’s voice,” said Madhu Mishra, who translates Hindi, Punjabi, Urdu and Bengali into English. The 51-year-old immigrant of Indian origin began as a freelancer but has been a permanent member of the staff since 2001. “We have to be unbiased and invisible, not get emotionally involved. We have to interpret what they say, verbatim, and not give our own opinions.”

Intrepreters have to intrepret what the judge and lawyer are telling each other so that the defendant is aware of what’s going on. Sometimes, during a trial, when a lawyer or a judge asks the accused a question in English, the interpreter translates it for the defendant in their preferred language, and then translates his or her reply into English for the court. It is not restricted to the accused – many a time, witnesses or victims are also in need of an interpreter. But most of the time, it’s for the defendants.

It is not easy to become a court interpreter. The process involves a written exam to judge language proficiency in both English and the foreign language, extensive background checks and an ethics training seminar.  Only 30 percent pass the the written exam and move to the oral exam. Only one out of four clear it.

“The language of criminal courts includes the whole range from forensic terms to street slang,” said Bryan. “People can be bilingual but not necessarily capable interpreters. It is a specific skill.”

The challenges are manifold. Arabic has many dialacts, and even someone like Hassan, who is from Egypt and has been an interpreter in the city’s courts for the past 19 years, does not know all of them. He interprets in classical Arabic, a language that most people in Arabic-speaking nations can understand.

Angela Chin, a resident of Bayside, Queens, and a court interpreter for Mandarin Chinese, says interpreting demands more than fluency. You have to “be impartial, be accurate and fast, have excellent short term memory, and a broad knowledge of the sciences,” she said.

Then there is grammar.. “If they ask you, ‘Didn’t you go to the park?’, in English, you will say ‘No’, to mean ‘No, I didn’t go to the park’ but in Mandarin, you will say ‘Yes’ to mean ‘Yes, I didn’t go to the park’,” said Chin. An incorrect interpretation in such a matter can be the difference between a defendant being found innocent or guilty of a crime and even call the credibility of the witness into question.

Then, same words can have different meanings in the same language, depending on which country the speaker is from, said Belinda Benavides, 52, a Spanish interpreter from Westchester County.  In Spanish, she explained the word for ‘balloon’ is ‘globo’ and ‘vejiga’ means ‘bladder’. But in the Dominican Republic, ‘vejiga’ is street slang for a balloon. In a case involving immigrants from the Dominican Republic, she interpreted the statement, ‘the balloon popped,’ as ‘my bladder popped’. “The courtroom burst out laughing,” she said.

To read more of this article courtesy of NY City Lens, click the link below.



Tagged , ,
%d bloggers like this: