By Robert L. Mues   |   February 21st, 2016

The Use of Qualified Court Interpreters in Ohio And Their Interpreter Certification Requirements

court interpreters interpreter ohioOn November 14, 2015, an article entitled, “Ohio Domestic Relations and Juvenile Forms Translated in Five Languages” was posted to this blog.  In it, I discussed how recently the Ohio Supreme Court made key juvenile and domestic relations forms available in the most used languages in Ohio including: Spanish, Russian, French, Chinese and Arabic.  To read the full text of that article click here.

While these documents are a huge step toward litigants being able to engage in “meaningful participation” in the proceedings in which they are involved, the fact of the matter is, the understanding and filing of these forms is only one hurdle that must be overcome for deaf and non-English speaking parties. Despite the fact that the party was able to understand the paperwork leading up to the court proceeding or hearing, the litigant must still be fully involved and be aware of what is going on at the time of the actual proceeding.  As a result, the use of an interpreter is often necessary to ensure this occurs.

Ohio Rules of Superintendence, Sup.R. 88(A) requires a foreign language interpreter be appointed where a party or witness who is limited English proficient requests one, or the court determines that one is needed absent a request. In addition, similar rules apply for a party, witness or juror who is deaf, hard of hearing or deaf blind under Sup.R. 88(B). While the Supreme Court recognizes different categories of interpreters, Sup.R. 88(D) requires the use of an Ohio Supreme Court certified interpreter in a “court or case function,” such as a hearing, trial, or pre-trial conference, whenever possible.

Currently, the Supreme Court offers certification in 20 different languages pursuant to Sup.R. 81 and 82. In order to become a certified interpreter endorsed by the Court, an applicant must pass a written and oral examination. The written exam covers English language proficiency, court-related terminology and interpreter ethics.  To pass, the applicant must score at least an 80%.  The oral examination focuses on sight-translation, consecutive interpretation and simultaneous interpretation.  To pass this section a person must score at least a 70%.

While Sup.R. 88(D)(1) requires the use of a Supreme Court certified interpreter, the rules also provide that other interpreters may be used if a certified one does not exist or is not readily available. Sup.R. 88(D)(2) states that a “provisionally qualified foreign language interpreter” may be appointed, as long as the court summarizes on the record its efforts to obtain a Supreme Court certified interpreter and the reasons for using a provisionally qualified foreign language interpreter instead.

A “provisionally qualified foreign language interpreter” differs from a Supreme Court certified interpreter in that a certified interpreter must score at least a 70% on their oral exam, while a provisionally qualified interpreter only scores between a 60% and 70%. The Court views these interpreters as candidates who are within reach to fulfill all the certification requirements, and therefore gives them 3 years to obtain their certification.  If they don’t, their credentials expire.

If neither a Supreme Court certified interpreter, nor a provisionally qualified interpreter are available, Sup.R. 88(D)(3) allows the court to appoint a, “language-skilled foreign language interpreter” in their place.  Such interpreter is one “who demonstrates to the court proficiency in the target language and sufficient preparation to properly interpret the proceedings to participate in-person at the case or court function.”  If the court chooses to use this type of interpreter it must summarize on the record its efforts to obtain a Supreme Court certified interpreter or a provisionally qualified foreign language interpreter.  In addition, the interpreter’s experience, knowledge and training should be stated on the record.  The interpreter must also take an oath stating that they know, understand and will act in accordance with the Code of Professional Conduct for Court Interpreters and Translators.

Finally, if the above 3 categories of interpreters do not exist or are not readily available, Sup.R. 88(D)(4) gives the court the power to appoint an interpreter to participate via telephonic interpretation. If the court chooses to use an interpreter via telephone, the same certification procedures must be followed for the other types of interpreters under Sup.R. 88(D)(1) through (3), and the court must comply with the Standards for the Use of Telephonic Interpretation.

Even though the Supreme Court certifies interpreters in 20 different languages, it also realizes that there are languages outside the 20 provided for that may arise.  Therefore, court interpreters of languages where no certification is available may be listed on the official Supreme Court of Ohio “non-certified” roster pursuant to Sup.R. 87.  To get on this list, candidates must pass the written exam with a 70% and complete an oral proficiency assessment.  In addition, they must attend 3 courses designated by the program.

The Role of Court Interpreters in Ohio is to Provide Complete and Accurate Foreign Language Interpretation Services in Legal Proceedings. Let The Attorneys At HCM&M Help Find You A Proper Interpreter Today!

In a world where English is slowly becoming less and less prevalent, it is important that qualified court interpreters be present and be utilized to ensure that every person has a fair shot in court.  As Bruno Romero, manager of the Supreme Court Language Services Program stated, “the role of the interpreter is to provide complete and accurate interpretation services in legal proceedings and/or court functions.”  Contact one of our knowledgeable attorneys to find out how we can help you obtain a proper interpreter today!

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Robert L. MuesAbout The Author: Robert L. Mues
Robert Mues is the managing partner of Dayton, Ohio, law firm, Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues, and has received the highest rating from the Martindale-Hubbell Peer Review for Ethical Standards and Legal Ability. Mr. Mues is also a founding member of the "International Academy of Attorneys for Divorce over 50" blog.

Court Interpreters in Ohio Provide Accuracy In Legal Proceedings

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