Today's feel-good story comes from a rural Nevada court, where Judy witnessed the following:
I was interpreting for a witness during a short trial at this particular court, and before my witness took the witness stand, I quietly waited, seated behind the prosecution and the defense. After a few minutes and because of references made by all parties, it became evident to me that the victim in this case, who was seated behind me, was a deaf person who needed assistance with the proceedings. She had a young girl next to her who was signing quite fast, but who did not look like a certified interpreter with the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, as she looked like a teenager. I immediately thought: this isn't right! The victim is entitled to have all proceedings properly interpreted for her into American Sign Language (ALS) by a certified interpreter. I was thinking about how to communicate this to the court without being disruptive, when the judge seemed to read my mind and said:
Judge: Ms. X, who is this young lady who is sitting next to you and who's interpreting for you?
Victim, speaking through self-appointed interpreter: That's my niece.
Judge to niece: Are you a certified interpreter?
Niece: No, I am not. But I am really good at this.
Judge: Well, be that as it may, I will not allow you to interpret in my courtroom. I just attended a workshop on this, and we are to only have properly certified and trained interpreters at these proceedings. The victim has a right to a certified interpreter if one is available. We will continue these proceedings tomorrow once we have found a certified interpreter in our town. Thanks for trying to assist, but I must follow the law and I must ensure that the interpreter is certified. For example, we have our certified Spanish interpreter here (pointing at me), and ASL interpreters must also be certified.
It was wonderful to see that a judge in a small town had recently attended a workshop on this important issue and was making sure all rules were being followed. Judges have a lot of things on their plates and on their minds, and many times, ensuring proper language access is not high on their list. How refreshing to see that this court is making efforts to include those who have a language barrier!
What about you, dear colleagues? Have you witnessed something similar before? We bet it's probably more likely that you've witnessed the flip side: ad hoc interpreters being appointed. We would love to hear your experiences!