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Courts have long provided interpreters in criminal cases, but a growing number of states are now offering their services in civil cases as well. Colorado and Wisconsin recently expanded the use of interpreters in civil cases, while Ohio and Hawaii are among the states moving in that direction. There is also nationwide momentum behind the effort, with the Conference of State Court Administrators now recommending that interpreting services be available for all court proceedings. “The states are moving toward making interpreters available in all civil cases, said Wanda Romberger, manager of court interpreting services for the National Center for State Courts in Williamsburg, Va. “But it’s the whole idea of who’s going to pay for it now and states aren’t terribly consistent.” In Wisconsin, the state Legislature passed a law in October 2007 requiring interpreters to be provided in all civil cases. Before, interpretation services were only offered in some civil cases, such as those involving child abuse or neglect, or juvenile cases, said Carmel Capati, the court interpreter program manager for the Wisconsin Supreme Court. “This is a change we’ve been trying to see happen in our statutes for probably six or seven years,” Capati said. “Our demographics have changed drastically.” In 2006, the state provided interpreter services in 27 languages, she said. The costs were only covered for people who could prove they were indigent, but that provision was eliminated in the new law, she said. Now, one does not need to prove financial hardship to get the courts to pay for the service. Momentum in Hawaii In Colorado, the chief justice issued a directive in November 2006, requiring courts to provide interpreters in civil cases for those who prove they are indigent. Before that, such services were only provided in criminal cases, said Emy Lopez, court interpreter program administrator for Colorado’s state courts. “We’re hoping over the next few years to expand it even more,” Lopez said. In Hawaii, the state judiciary is asking the Legislature this year for more money in order to expand interpreter services to cover civil cases, said Debi Tulang-De Silva, project director of the Office on Equality and Access to the Courts at the state judiciary. There has been a lot of momentum behind the issue, she said, with the state’s first training and certification program for interpreters starting last July and a bill pending in the state Legislature about expanding court interpretation services. In Ohio, an advisory committee proposed to the state Supreme Court in September that courts be required to cover interpretation costs in all civil cases, said Bruno Romero, program manager of the interpreter services program at the Ohio Supreme Court. Currently, some courts pay for interpreters in civil cases, while others assess costs on the nonprevailing party, he said. A commission is expected to take up the issue in the coming months before it goes to the state’s justices, Romero said. “This issue has been on the minds of legal professionals and judges and court systems in Ohio simply because of the influx of immigrants,” Romero said. Changing demographics Nearly one in five U.S. residents older than 5, or 47 million people, spoke a language other than English at home in 2000, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The use of Spanish, the most popular language after English, jumped by 62% from 1990 to 2000. In November, the Conference of State Court Administrators endorsed a white paper on court interpretation, which discusses the growing need for interpreters. The first of the paper’s 19 recommendations � which also address issues such as training and funding � says everyone who needs an interpreter should have access to one in all court proceedings. Lee Suskin, Vermont’s court administrator and the group’s president, said he hopes the Conference of Chief Justices will endorse the document at its meeting later this month. Either way, the Conference of State Court Administrations will work to implement the recommendations soon, he said.

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