Resource for Interpreters

March 18, 2019 § Leave a comment

When you need an interpreter for court, it’s a critical need, indeed. Without one key testimony might be entirely inaccessible.

The AOC is responsible for training and certifying interpreters. As the AOC website explains:

Many people living in Mississippi readily read, speak, and understand English. There are many others living in Mississippi for whom English is not their primary language and for whom English is not readily understood. For those limited English proficiency (LEP) individuals, understanding and exercising their legal rights may be difficult and could result in the denial of any meaningful access to the justice system.

Court interpreters must possess specialized skills that very few bilingual individuals possess. The Mississippi Administrative Office of Courts (AOC) became a member of the Consortium for Language Access in the Courts of the National Center for State Courts in order to gain access to other professionals in the field of Court interpreting. The Administrative Office of Courts has developed the Mississippi Court Interpreter Credentialing Program, based on model policies promulgated by the Consortium, in order to assist the courts in Mississippi in their endeavor to provide equal access to justice for limited English proficiency individuals. This program will train, certify, and test individuals who wish to serve as interpreters in the courtrooms of Mississippi. The AOC adopted the Code of Ethics for Court Interpreters and the Rules on Standards for Court Interpreters on October 17, 2011.

The AOC court interpreter web site is at this link. Or, you clan click the AOC tab on the Mississippi Judiciary website.

Whom to appoint as interpreter is within the discretion of the trial court. AOC suggests that candidates be considered in this order: (1) Certified, meaning that the person has been found to have the requisite skills, has undergone training in courtroom techniques and ethics, and has been certified; (2) Registered, meaning that the person has applied for certification but has not completed the process; and Non-credentialed, meaning that the person is neither certified nor registered.


May 10, 2011 § 2 Comments

If you’ve ever tried a case with a LEP, you know just how excruciatingly difficult it can be without the right help.  Excuse me?  You don’t know what a LEP is?  Well, a LEP is neither contagious nor a Biblical outcast.  LEP is jargon for a person who has Limited English Proficiency.  That is, they have trouble speaking and understanding English, which, naturally, is quite an impediment in a Mississippi court.

In my experience practicing law, I tried a number of cases in Choctaw Tribal Court where every case involved one LEP, and sometimes a full cast of LEP’s.  You would ask a question and the designated interpreter would repeat the question in Choctaw to the witness.  The interpreter would listen studiously as the witness droned on in reply for several minutes, whereupon the interpreter would say earnestly, “He said no.”  I have always suspected that something had been lost in the translation.

I tried a memorably hilarious case once against a local attorney who later gave up the law to become rich as a stockbroker, probably in no small part due to this case.  My client was a more or less LEP European-trained, ethnic Chinese physician from Indonesia, and the opposing party was a completely LEP Chinese PhD student from Beijing who was studying at the University of X___g__n__c__ao (I never got that one straight, which I guess makes me a LCP).  She had come to this country to attempt a reconciliation with her husband, my client, but the attempted reconciliation unhappily failed, propelling them to court that day for a temporary hearing.  Our “translator” spoke and understood one particular strain of Chinese, and neither party spoke or understood the same strain.  To compound the comedy, it was the court reporter’s first, nervous day on the job — straight out of the Ole Miss court reporting school.  She almost broke down in tears when my client was asked where he graduated from medical school, and in his proudest Chinese-flavored German, he responded “Heinrich Heine Universität, Universitätsklinikum, Düsseldorf, Chermany.”  Who wouldn’t be proud of that?  We stumbled along until the trial’s dramatic crescendo, which occurred when the opposing party futiley tried repeatedly to describe how her piece-of-junk car would not work.  She finally blurted out in LEP exasperation, “Cah no vroom,” while twisting her right hand in a key-in-ignition fashion.  We all pretty much understood that, LEP or no LEP.  In fact, it was the most understandable thing any witness or interpreter said that day.

All of which brings me at last to my point. The Administrative Office of Courts (AOC) is seeking comments on proposed rules for use of interpreters in the courts.  The goal is state-wide credentialing of certified interpreters, with a roster available for all chancery, circuit, county, youth, municipal and justice courts, as well as grand juries.  You can access the announcement and links here.  As for the philosophy behind it, AOC said:

      “It is essential that any communication barrier be removed, as far as possible, so that these limited English proficiency (LEP) individuals are placed on equal footing with similarly situated persons for whom there is no such barrier. Interpreters are highly skilled professionals who fulfill an essential role in the administration of justice. As officers of the court, interpreters help assure that LEP individuals enjoy equal access to justice and that court proceedings and court support services function efficiently and effectively.”

Translation:  “We need qualified interpreters when we have persons in court who do not speak or understand English well.”

Based on my years in chancery court, I am wondering whether we need also to have interpreters for our own fellow citizens who do not speak any recognized foreign tongue, but are LEP’ed in their ability to speak or understand plain English.  But I guess that’s a project further down the road, to be tackled after we have dealt with the aliens in our midst.

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