US: Interpreting Services Not Always Provided in Civil Courts


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Interpreting Services Not Always Provided in Civil Courts

A study by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law has found that the availability of interpreting services in civil courts has not kept pace with the increasing demand. Although interpreters are commonly provided in criminal cases, many state court systems do not require interpreting services in civil cases. "If a person cannot understand what is happening in the courtroom proceeding, an unfair result might occur," says Wisconsin Judge Richard S. Brown. "And that is contradictory to what we want our courts to do: administer justice, fairly and impartially." The Brennan Center study examined courts in the 35 states with the highest immigrant populations. They found that 37 percent of the states studied do not require interpreters to have appropriate credentials, while 46 percent do not require interpreters to be available in civil cases. Eighty percent of the states neglect to ensure that the courts pay for interpreting services. Failing to provide interpreters in civil court cases is a violation of federal law, says report author Laura Abel. Wanda Romberger of the National Center for State Courts argues that finding sufficient numbers of qualified interpreters has proven to be difficult and expensive. In New York, the state court system is required to provide interpreters in all civil and criminal cases. Costs have increased from $18 million in the 2004-2005 fiscal year to more than $24 million in the 2008-2009 fiscal year, when 282,000 hours of interpreting services were provided in 90 languages. Senator Herb Kohl (D-Wisconsin) recently introduced legislation to allocate $15 million in annual seed money for states to develop or enhance their court interpreter programs.

From "Study Finds Gaps in Aid for Non-English Speakers in State Civil Courts"
New York Times (NY) (07/04/09) Schwartz, John

Source: ATA Newsbriefs - July 2009


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