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Jax Daily Record Thursday, Feb. 20, 202005:10 AM EST

The Marbut Report: Don’t speak English? There’s help in court

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4th Judicial Circuit provides qualified spoken language court interpreters.
by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

Imagine having to appear at a hearing or in court and not being able to understand what was being said by the judge, the attorneys or other people in the room.

That happens regularly at the Duval County Courthouse, but it’s not a hindrance to justice because the 4th Judicial Circuit provides qualified spoken language court interpreters.

They are trained to help people with limited English proficiency understand and participate in the proceedings.

“We have interpreters in court every day,” said Martha Pintado, court interpreter coordinator.

The language most often interpreted is Spanish, but people fluent in Arabic, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian and other Eastern European languages also are available.

“We’re a melting pot in Jacksonville, a refugee city,” Pintado said.

The court works with 12 agencies that provide spoken language interpreters.

The service is provided by the state in accordance with Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Florida law and the Florida Rules of Judicial Administration.

Under rules adopted by the state Supreme Court, interpreters must ensure that the proceedings in English reflect precisely what is said by a non-English speaking person and they must place the non-English speaking person on an equal footing with those who speak English.

The confidentiality of privileged information must be upheld and interpreters are required to understand and uphold attorney-client privilege.

Interpreters are assigned most often in proceedings such as circuit and county criminal court, juvenile delinquency and dependency, paternity, domestic violence injunctions and mental health and incapacity hearings.

Interpreters also may help people understand documents.

“We can read the form to them, but we don’t give legal advice,” said Adriana Gonzalez, owner of Language Connections LLC interpreting and translating services.

Under the rules, an interpreter may convey legal advice from an attorney to a person only while that attorney is giving it.

An interpreter should not explain the purpose of forms, services, or otherwise act as counselors or advisers unless they are interpreting for someone who is acting in that official capacity. 

The interpreter may translate language on a form for a person who is filling out the form, but may not explain the form or its purpose.

Interpreting in court can involve translating documents, helping an attorney communicate with a client and interpreting a judge’s instructions to the jury, said Davor Zidovec, who is certified to interpret Spanish, Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian.

Becoming a registered interpreter, a candidate is evaluated by a board of judges, court administrators and federally and state-certified court interpreters.

To become registered with the state, prospective court interpreters must attend a two-day orientation session and then pass written and oral tests, as well as a background check.

To become certified, an interpreter must complete 20 court-appointed interpreting assignments of no less than 40 hours total, complete 16 hours of continuing education within two years of being registered and also pass additional tests for proficiency.

Gonzalez and Zidovec agree that “you won’t get rich being a court interpreter,” but it’s important work to help people as they interact with the legal system.

“Every day is different and we learn a lot about life experiences. It can be a hard job, but it’s rewarding,” Gonzalez said.

The court also provides, with at least five days notice before a scheduled event, interpreter services for deaf people in accordance with the federal Americans with Disabilities Act and state law.

Email [email protected] to arrange for an interpreter or for more information.

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