Since the late ‘90s, Georgia has been a member of the Consortium for State Court Interpreter Certification (Consortium). Consortium member states paid an initial fee to join plus annual dues to have access to an ever increasing number of tests in a number of diverse languages. The Consortium’s business model became unsustainable, so the Council of State Court Administrators (COSCA) formed an advisory group to work with the Consortium’s leadership to develop a new model that would ensure continuation of the test development and associated services. Additionally, the advisory group recognized the need for additional services related to cultural competency, continuing education and training for bilingual and monolingual court staffs to deal with the increasing number of Limited English Proficiency (LEP) individuals using our courts.
For the past two years, I have served on COSCA’s Language Access Advisory Committee. During that time the Consortium has transitioned into the Council for Language Accesss Coordinators (Council). The National Center for State Courts (NCSC) is now the administrator of the program within its newly formed Language Access Services Section. Funding for the work of the Council and the NCSC support comes from a charge to states based on a formula, which includes a base amount and increased by a percentage proportional to the percentage of LEP individuals identified by the latest census numbers for each state.
I have just returned from the first annual meeting of the newly formed Council. Also in attendance from Georgia were Linda Smith who staffs the Commission on Interpereters and administers our certification testing, and Maggie Reeves with Court Services who has been serving as project manager for reengineering our new certification and licensing processes. She has also been overseeing the Remote Interpreter Pilot Project.
I would like to give you a brief highlight of developments that I think have positive benefits for Georgia. First, the NCSC website for langauge services has been greatly enhanced making it easier to use and includes much relevant information. Also, an expansion on the use of technology for testing will make it possible for all testing materials to be exchanged via a secure internet site, which will eliminate slow and costly mailings and sometimes lost or missent tests. This will allow coordinators, raters and NCSC staff to more closely monitor activities and ensure there are no clostly delays.
By the end of the year we should have access through the NCSC to an online training module for bilingual and monolingual court staff to help themdeal with LEP individuals as they come to the clerk’s office or other court programs. This program is being developed by the AOC in New Mexico with a grant from the State Justice Institute.
Interest in remote Interpreting is so strong that the NCSC is devoting one of its six educational tracks at the upcoming Court Technology Conference to remote interpreting technology. Related to that the remote interpreting issue, the NCSC will be maintaining a national database of all certified interpreters in languages for which we have tests and will include interpreters for other languages. All interpreters will be identified by the certification they hold, the state in which it was obtained and the specific requirements of that state which have been met. For other interpreters there will be information as to formal training or other certified qualifications. We are working on an easy way to determine if the interpreter has the skills and qualifications needed by the requesting court.
Finally, one of our speakers at the conference, Chief Judge Eric Washington of the DC Court of Appeals (its highest court) spoke very eloquently about the respect our courts hold around the world because of our adherence to the rule of law. He referenced a COSCA white paper adopted in 2007. I am attaching it here and would recommend that you read at least the introduction, as it reminds us why this issue is so important to the success of our courts.