Court Interpreting From Afar

I have recently stumbled upon a Washington Post Article about how the courts in West Virginia are providing interpretation services.

Instead of having the interpreter at the court they are now providing a remote broadcast from North Carolina. The interpreters will be available for all types of settings, such as hearings and trials. The reason this new method has been implemented is because West Virginia has been struggling with budget cuts.

Next week mock trials will be held to try out the new system.

I think that the most positive aspect of this new method is that no one at the courts will be left without an interpreter. There will always be an interpreter available, even if it is from afar.

Nonetheless, I believe that many court interpreters in West Virginia will be jobless, since the ones that will be providing interpretation services will be located in North Carolina.

What about the real-life presence of an interpreter in a court setting? As all interpreters know, it is of the utmost importance to be present to offer your services. As a lawyer or judge in the court setting, if someone’s liberty were at stake I would want the interpreter at the same location. I also believe no one will actually allow a live feed of a lawyer defending the accused from another state. But, of course, this doesn’t apply to the translation/interpretation field.

Any thoughts?

Victoria Alicia

8 comments

  1. There are, in my opinion, several different considerations to be made.

    Whereas there is the alleged claim that interpreting services will be available to all, will that really be the case? And by that I mean that I wholeheartedly believe that when the cost of providing a service becomes too much of a consideration, quality is inevitably bound to suffer. As I understand, such is the current case in England right now.

    Then, as a professional class, are we on the verge of being outsourced, too? I think that a “remote” translation inevitably affects the legalities of the process. I’m referring to that fact that we are normally legally liable for our work, which guarantees a given standard of quality which is congruent to the regional reality where the process is taking place, and the fact that when the interpreter is at a different jurisdiction, different standards may apply which may be inferior to what one is used to or expects; directly affecting the liability issue. So, what is the next step? Eventually move the work to a call center abroad, like everything seems to be doing?

    All in all, I do not like the proposed situation as I think that our colleagues in West Virginia are at a professional loss.

    Márcio Padilha
    Court Interpreter in Idaho

    1. Márcio,

      I think you are definitely right. I would think twice if I were the interpreter in North Carolina. Like you wrote, they are in a completely different jurisdiction.

      If I were a professional court interpreter in West Virginia I would not see this new system as favorable to me in any way.

      On a certain level, I feel like court interpreters are being taken for granted. A judge or attorney wouldn’t dare (or be allowed to) participate via remote broadcast. Why is it ok for interpreters to? We are in a continuous struggle with society so that our services can one day be taken seriously.

      You would think that due to the extenuating circumstances that non-English speakers are faced with during a trial, the courts would ensure the interpreter’s presence no matter what.

      As we see here, this isn’t the case.

  2. Hi. West Virginia courts don’t allow video or teleconferenced court interpreters where anyone’s civil or parental rights are at stake. We only use it for administrative hearings such as status conferences. No one would ever hold a trial over videoconferencing. When necessary, interpreters are flown in from out of state to intepret in person. The court system provides interpretation services free of charge to all limited English proficiency people, regardless of ability or perceived ability to pay, including parents of non-LEP minors.

    Second, West Virginia has a Limited English Proficiency population of fewer than 40,000 individuals total, amounting to less than 2.5% of the entire state’s population. The need for foreign language court interpreters in the state is implicated on average, 20 times a year. The state has exactly two certified court interpreters – one for Spanish and one for Mandarin. The paucity of interpreters is precisely why we have to bring people in remotely. I can assure you no one is out of a job or being taken for granted.

  3. Hi. I work with this program in West Virginia, and I can’t help noticing my prior submission remains “awaiting moderation” or has otherwise been disapproved. It’s very important that you and your readers have the facts about West Virginia’s program before you draw flawed conclusions and make faulty assumptions.

    1. West Virginia provides in-person interpreters at all trials. Moreover, interpreters are provided by video only in administrative matters during which no one’s rights of any sort are implicated.

    2. There is no such thing as a jobless West Virginia court interpreter. We utilize exclusively in-state resources, except where they just don’t exist. Which is most cases in West Virginia. West Virginia currently has exactly two certified court interpreters: one Spanish, one Mandarin.

    3. Lawyers and judges actually do conduct hearings (example: arraignments) by video all the time. Every day in most states. This isn’t something exclusive for interpretation services.

    4. Regarding the legalities and jurisdictional differences, only court certified interpreters who have been credentialed via the standards set forth by the National Consortium for Language Access in the Courts are able to interpret. And the company that contracts the interpreters is in North Carolina — NOT THE INTERPRETERS. Example: at the end of this month, this same company is providing in-person interpreters from New York and Tennessee. That’s the whole point of their appearing via video. There isn’t a pool of interpreters located in North Carolina — they’re all over the place. Nothing has been “outsourced.” Any of you could provide this same service, from anywhere.

    I’m at least glad this is being discussed within the profession, but I wish you’d do more research before so negatively publishing uninformed conclusions.

    1. Hello,

      First of all, I’d like to thank you for taking some time out to comment on my blog.

      Second of all, I’ve stated my opinions just like you are entitled to yours. You can see I put a link of the original article I read, which has now been taken down by the Washington Post. These are other articles on the same topic:
      http://www.journal-news.net/page/content.detail/id/577742/Jefferson-hosts-court-demonstration.html?nav=5006
      http://sundaygazettemail.com/News/201203300120

      They say the following:
      • “The system, showcased Thursday, was later adapted for foreign language interpretive services. As a result, West Virginia, one of the most rural states in the nation, is able to provides interpretation services in all criminal and civil settings during all hearings, trials and motions and in important interactions with court personnel.”
      • “Interpreters in North Carolina will appear via live remote broadcast while actors portray witnesses and attorneys in the mock civil and criminal cases.”
      • The system has been implemented due to budget cuts.

      I suggest you write the exact same response to the aforementioned newspapers and clear up certain information. You stated: “And the company that contracts the interpreters is in North Carolina — NOT THE INTERPRETERS”. Nonetheless, the article states that the interpreters ARE located in North Carolina. You stated: “No one would ever hold a trial over videoconferencing”. This is great information! Nevertheless, the news articles also say that trials ARE held through this system.

      I believe (just like I indicated in my original post) that while there are positive aspects about this system, there are also negative ones. I’m entitled to my opinion and I have based them on the aforementioned news articles I read. These are not online blogs, which means that they are official sources of information. I thank you for clearing up info I wasn’t aware of and that wasn’t available in the articles by offering first-hand information about this particular program.

      Nonetheless, if I like this system, and how I believe it will influence fellow colleagues, is clearly stated as my opinion.

      I’m sorry that I didn’t previously approve your comments. I wrote in another post that I’m currently working on my thesis. This hasn’t allowed me the time to post anything or even to moderate comments. I had no intention of omitting your comments to the readers and have since been approved.

      1. Hey, thanks for the posts. I understand and I only provided the supplemental response when I didn’t think you were going to post the original one. And I understand the time consumed with thesis-writing. I’m glad I finished mine eleven years ago and don’t ever have to work on one again. 🙂

        My only “opinion” statement was the part about wishing more research had been done before drawing conclusions, and I now see the conclusions were drawn only on the basis of the articles. Your opinions, as you stated, you’re perfectly entitled to and are valid, only some of the conclusions are still faulty even on the face of the articles.

        I hope the following clears up some of the confusion caused by the articles you mentioned:

        1. >>“Interpreters in North Carolina will appear via live remote broadcast while actors portray witnesses and attorneys in the mock civil and criminal cases.”<>“The system, showcased Thursday, was later adapted for foreign language interpretive services. As a result, West Virginia, one of the most rural states in the nation, is able to provides interpretation services in all criminal and civil settings during all hearings, trials and motions and in important interactions with court personnel.”<>The system has been implemented due to budget cuts.<<

        Now this one just comes out of the blue, lol. There haven't been any budget cuts, and I have to say I don't know where they got this. Completely inaccurate.

        4. "These are not online blogs, which means that they are official sources of information."

        I totally agree. Just don't make the mistake of thinking "official," meaning you can trace it back to a legitimage news source, necessarily means "accurate." These reporters operate on less than a day's deadline, and as they've exemplified here, cobble together sources, and sometimes just conclude inaccurate things as well.

        And I totally agree that videoconferenced interpretation isn't ideal.

        I enjoy meeting and communicating with people who are passionate about their work as I am. Good luck on your thesis!

  4. Oh wow. I don’t know what happened, but starting with paragraph # 1, above, my reply got completely jacked up and number 2 – 3 are missing! It doesn’t make any sense as it’s written above. I’ll try to fix it later – I’ve tired myself out for now, lol.

  5. Hi, I talked to my boss about the misinformation getting out there and how I jacked up my response. I was using these < things instead of quotation marks when I blocked off quotes, and apparently those < things are some type of computer command that cuts and pastes or does something. Anyway, a lot of my previous response was missing and the whole thing made no sense as a result. I haven't forgotten to come back and clear my response up when I can figure out how not to inadvertently insert computer programming language! Take care, J

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