The Third Branch
Team attends language access summit
A five-member team from Wisconsin recently attended the National Summit on Language Access in the Courts. Wisconsin's team consisted of (from left) Deputy Director, Court Operations, Sara Ward-Cassady; Director of State Courts A. John Voelker; Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson; Trempeauleau County Circuit Court Judge John A. Damon; and Court Interpreter Program Manager Carmel Capati.
A five-member team from Wisconsin traveled to Houston, Texas on Oct. 1-3 to attend a National Summit on Language Access in the Courts sponsored by the National Center for State Courts (NCSC). Nearly 300 court leaders from 49 states, three territories and the District of Columbia discussed solutions to improving and ensuring access to justice for litigants with limited-english proficiency (LEP).
Wisconsin's team consisted of Supreme Court Chief Justice Shirley S. Abrahamson; Director of State Courts A. John Voelker; Trempealeau County Circuit Court Judge John A. Damon; Deputy Director, Court Operations, Sara Ward-Cassady; and Interpreter Program Manager Carmel Capati.
Damon is the new chair of the Committee to Improve Interpreting and Translation in the Courts, recently replacing Judge Ralph M. Ramirez, Waukesha County Circuit Court, who served as committee chair since 2007.
Funded by a grant from the State Justice Institute (SJI), this first-of-its-kind summit allowed state court leaders to share successful strategies and evidence-based practices, plan system improvements, and discuss approaches to pursue greater consistency across jurisdictions on policies related to interpretation in the state courts.
Major themes of the conference included training for judges and court personnel; translation issues and best practices; establishing and enhancing credentialing programs for interpreters; funding and authorization for interpreter programs; use of technology to increase efficiency; collaboration models to increase available resources; and outreach efforts.
Damon and Capati presented two sessions with Nevada District Court Judge Valerie Vega and Nevada Supreme Court Services Analyst Andrea Krlickova on "Training Judges and Court Personnel." It was standing-room only during both sessions, which demonstrated the high level of interest and need for judicial training around the country. During their portion of the talk, Capati and Damon showed short videos on "Judicial Mannerisms which Make Interpreting Difficult," which had been presented as part of a larger training on interpreters offered to seasoned judges at the 2012 Wisconsin Judicial College. Because of the great interest in the training videos from several states at the summit, the videos have been posted on the court's public website under the link for judges on "Practical Tips for Working with Interpreters."
Conference attendees included Chief Justices of 14 jurisdictions and state court administrators of 32. Each state team was required to identify priorities related to language access in their court system and to develop an action plan to address them. Members of Wisconsin's team identified the following items as priorities: 1) create judicial efficiencies when using interpreters; 2) expand availability of non-Spanish language interpreters; 3) measure effective use of interpreters; 4) research different remote interpreting options; 5) evaluate data collection needs and methods; and 6) recognize new languages. Over the next 15 months, the Director of State Courts' office, primarily through the court interpreter program, will work on addressing these priorities.
"It's inspiring to see so many judicial leaders from around the country come together to forge a clear vision for how state courts can proactively develop common solutions to common problems," said Mary C. McQueen, president of NCSC, a nonprofit organization committed to improving the administration of justice in state courts and courts around the world.