The lack of court interpreters issue

Posted on November 27, 2012


Not all that long ago laws were changed that indicated that legal documents in a language other than english cannot be interpreted by just any old interpreter but they must be interpreted by a court certified interpreter. On the face of things, this wouldn’t be so bad except that cuts in court certified interpreter services are causing those court certified interpreters to leave the profession altogether. The domino effect is that many previously interpreted languages and local dialects have no certified court interpreters whatsoever. No certified court interpreters exist to interpret legal documents either.  Now this law requiring a certified court interpretation made sense at a time when the courts were flush with money and could afford to retain interpreter services and interpreters. However, with budget cuts it is becoming increasingly difficult to find people to translate international legal documents which is causing California business to grind to a halt in numerous sectors where a California Certified Court interpreter is mandated.

No interpreter needed for this prank. 

Recently one of JCW’s own tried to find a certified court interpreter to execute a real estate transaction and found out that no certified court interpreter exists for a particular Malaysian dialect here in California. The individual that recognized that dialect was a certified court interpreter, yet not certified for that particular language. That real estate transaction includes a will written in this Malaysian dialect that transfers the property from the deceased to the deceased persons wife. The wife sold the land but the buyer was unable to complete the real estate transaction because the will could not be interpreted by any certified court interpreter as none exists.

The county recorder continues to insist on a certified court interpreter to translate the documents in accordance with state law and the catch-22 is that no certified court interpreter exists, so it appears both our buyer and seller is screwed, having the real estate transaction lie in limbo. And in limbo is where it will likely stay as the seller has since passed away as well.

Out of the 38 million people in California there exists many people that can translate these documents. None of them is interested in becoming a certified court interpreter as that career path for most languages other than Spanish and some of the more prevalent Asian languages is becoming a dead end. Further cuts and certain RFP’s that are soliciting these services on a telephonic basis isn’t helping the profession at all. What it is doing is centralizing interpreting services for the purpose of conducting limited court business while abandoning a raft of languages that are not all that common in California. Business has been suffering as a result. Transactions cannot be executed. Documents cannot be interpreted as required by state law and certain defendants probably aren’t getting the day in court that they’re entitled to.

Since it appears that we as a people are unwilling to fund robust certified court interpreter services that cover all languages, perhaps the law must be changed to reflect reality for many of these languages. It makes some sense to require certified court interpreters where they exist and to permit exceptions to be submitted where no certified court interpreter exists. Since the AOC runs the certified court interpreters program, it should be incumbent upon the AOC to post those certified court interpreters by language and also identify those languages where no certified court interpreters exist. Legislators, if they are unwilling to fund a robust certified court interpreter program that serves all people in all languages should lift the certified court interpretation requirements for those languages where certified court interpreters do not exist. To do anything less is an injustice to all of the people.

What are your thoughts?