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Courts see rise in language interpreter requests

January 22, 2017

Montgomery County courts are experiencing an uptick in requests for language interpreters, exceeding the 2015 budget for this service by $40,000 so far.
“The Court tries to go out of their way to make sure the parities are treated fairly,” said Anne Grant, assistant court administrator and Americans With Disabilities Act coordinator for the Circuit Court.
There is not much need for American Sign Language interpreters, Grant said.
“Maybe a few times a month,” she said. “Each case can have multiple hearings.”
Grant said the county currently supports only American Sign Language because there are not many requests for other types of sign language.
“We try to accommodate all requests we receive for ASL interpretation, non-English-speaking interpreters, as well as other ADA accommodations,” Grant said in an email.
She said there are 20 trials scheduled the rest of the year that require some type of language help such as ASL, hearing assistance or caption reporting.
Along with sign language, the court provides language translators for those who need the assistance.
The court has five interpreters all day for those whose first language is Spanish, said Darly Foreman, administrative assistant for Clerk of the Court Barbara Meiklejohn.
William Nicklas, circuit court judge in Fredrick County, has had many interesting experiences with ASL and foreign language interpreters.
Nicklas recounted the time when he was a lawyer and had to find a Creole interpreter for one of his cases. He had to go through the court’s assignment office and make his own arrangements with the interpreter.
“You have to trust the folks who are doing the interpreting,” Nicklas said.
Difficulties with ASL interpreters include having to stop court proceedings because the interpreter needs clarification or interpreters are switched. Interpreters switch due to using their hands during proceedings, Nicklas said.
He said the most popular language people have needed is Spanish, although he has come across others such as several African languages, German, Russian and Italian, he said.
“The courthouse employs a Spanish-speaking interpreter and share with the district court,” he said. Nicklas said he had to move a court time to a later time due to the interpreter being at the district court.
During a Spanish-speaking case, someone stood up and told Nicklas the interpreter wasn’t interpreting correctly and had to back track through the questions that were asked, he said. The person was not intentionally doing, but needed clarification, Nicklas said.
In foreign language cases, when a witness or defendant is using colloquialisms, the English-speaking person may find it difficult to understand what is being said, Nicklas said.
He found interpreters for French, Russian, Chinese and Vietnamese this week alone.
The County’s Circuit Court fiscal year 2013 reported that 47 percent of invoices submitted to the court came from Spanish interpreters, followed by Vietnamese with 7.3 percent and French with 6.2 percent, reported.
In 2012, 29 percent of people reported Spanish was their primary language in the Circuit Court.
The court’s recommended interpreter budget for fiscal year 2015 was $314,709. To date, the cost has exceeded $354,443, according to Angelita Plemmer-Williams, spokesperson for the Maryland Judiciary Office.
Foreman said he runs into trouble finding interpreters for languages other than Spanish.
“Sometimes it’s five minutes. It depends on the language,” Foreman said.
ASL interpreters are not assigned to any jurisdiction, but are a part of the statewide registry known as Court Interpreter Registry, which includes 72 foreign languages with 565 interpreters. Maryland has 19 Spanish court staff interpreters in the Circuit and District courts.
Local coordinators are those who request the assistance for people that have requested this service, Plemmer-Williams said.
Those who are in need of an American Sign Language interpreter have to send in a request to get assistance, Grant said. When she is notified, she approves the request and requests an interpreter from the deaf and hard-of-hearing interpreter company Purple Communications.
“They’re not really supposed to interpret. They are supposed to tell the person they are talking to what is being said,” Niklas said.
“If they need assistance, we need to give them assistance,” Nicklas said.



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