New York Meets Challenge of Providing Interpreter Services
Schair, Fern, Judicature
The very important, if economically challenging, effort to provide access to justice for all, may be stymied in some state courts by their inability to provide interpreters to those in need of such services. New York is one of the states taking very important steps to meet that challenge.
New Yorkers speak more than 150 languages and dialects - and perhaps more relevant is that over 30 percent of New Yorkers speak a language other than English at home. Prior to 2006, New York's Office of Court Administration did a fairly good job of providing interpreters to most of those in rteed - beyond those mandated in criminal proceedings. But that year then Chief Administrative Judge (now Chief Judge) Jonathan Lippman issued An Action Plan for Court Interpreting. Its goal was to improve those services for all non-English proficient and hearing-impaired users of New York courts. It provided for enhanced testing and assessment of interpreters; improved training for interpreters, judges, and court personnel; strengthened administration and oversight of the program; and expanded community outreach and recruitment.
In the last five years a great deal of progress has been made. All interpreters are now required to take and pass a written English proficiency examination, and die number of foreign languages for which oral examinations are required has increased from 12 to 22 (which covers 90 percent of court users). …