July 12 2002

One Law, Many Language

California Courts Enlist Ethnic Media to Help Recruit Interpreters; Thousands Needed to Ensure Equal Justice

San Francisco-The Judicial Council of California today announced the launch of a new phase of its ongoing campaign to recruit qualified interpreters through the state’s increasingly influential multilingual ethnic media.

California courts, where more than 8 million cases are filed annually, have a legal mandate to retain specially trained interpreters for witnesses, victims, and defendants who understand little or no English. Court interpreters interpret during both court and noncourt proceedings. In criminal proceedings, the cost of interpreter services is borne by the state.

As the policymaking body of the California courts, the Judicial Council is responsible for ensuring the consistent, independent, impartial, and accessible administration of justice. This includes responsibility to certify and register court interpreters and to develop a comprehensive program to ensure an available and competent pool of qualified interpreters. The Administrative Office of the Courts carries out the council’s official actions.

“More than 224 languages are spoken in California and some 32 percent of the state’s residents speak a language other than English,” said Associate Justice Eileen C. Moore of the Court of Appeal, Fourth Appellate District, who chairs the Judicial Council’s Court Interpreters Advisory Panel. “To ensure equal justice in California courts for this growing demographic group, we need to recruit thousands of court interpreters fluent in one of these many languages, including sign language interpreting.”

Today California has less than 1,500 certified and registered court interpreters to handle the needs of hundreds of thousands of witnesses, victims and defendants who appear state courts. For the first time, AOC is partnering with 13 ethnic media organizations to use both advertisements and editorial messages to reach the audiences most impacted by this shortage of interpreters.

Currently, court interpreters can be certified in 14 languages designated by the Judicial Council: Arabic, Armenian, Cambodian, Cantonese, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, Vietnamese, and American Sign Language. Interpreters also can be registered in other “nondesignated” languages. There are now registered interpreters in 62 other languages.

“We’re seeking highly qualified professionals who are fluent not only in one of these languages but in the specialized language of the courts,” explains Justice Moore. “California’s ethnic media are staffed by people who understand the vital role interpreters play in the administration of justice and who themselves use the same multilingual skills to perform their jobs.”

For more information about becoming a court interpreter, visit the California Courts Web site at www.courtinfo.ca.gov/programs/courtinterpreters/ or call toll free 866-310-0689.

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