To: Superior Court Judges, District Court Judges, Clerks of Superior Court, Magistrates, Trial Court Coordinators, Trial Court Administrators, Family Court Administrators, District Attorneys, Public Defenders, Attorneys, Language Access Coordinators, and NCAOC-authorized Spanish Court Interpreters
From: Brooke B. Crozier, Manager, Office of Language Access Services, NC Administrative Office of the Courts
Date: October 13, 2015
Re: Language Access Coordinators and New Request / Scheduling Process for Court Interpreters
As you are aware, the Standards for Language Access Services in the North Carolina Court System were adopted on April 30, 2015. Pursuant to Section 8 of the Standards, each district or county shall have a designated Language Access Coordinator (LAC) who shall have the sole responsibility to schedule Spanish language court interpreters paid at NCAOC expense. We have provided the LACs with a two day training session which provided them with the information and tools they require to understand the importance of language access to our justice system, to answer general questions about language access, and to efficiently schedule Spanish court interpreters upon request. The LACs will assume their official duties, effective Monday, October 19, 2015.
Effective Monday, October 19, 2015, all requests for spoken foreign language court interpreting needs for matters for which language access services are provided at NCAOC expense must be submitted electronically to the LAC via the Request for Spoken Foreign Language Court Interpreter. This request form will be posted online on Friday, October 16, 2015, here: www.nccourts.org/LanguageAccess/Documents/InterpreterRequestForm.pdf; and will take the place of both the Request for Non-Spanish Court Interpreter and the Request for Spoken Foreign Language Court Interpreter – Staff Districts Only. These two forms will be removed from the website when the new form is posted. The Request, once completed and submitted will be delivered automatically to the LAC for the county where the case is set. LACs for each county can be contacted directly by sending an email to County.Interpreter@nccourts.org. Example: The Wake County LAC can be contacted by emailing Wake.Interpreter@nccourts.org.
The new request and scheduling process is being implemented to more efficiently and effectively provide Spanish language court interpreting to our courts. Language access for LEP individuals is essential to our justice system. We want to ensure that services are provided when needed, but are able to be utilized elsewhere if they are not. Currently, between $10,000 and $20,000 per month statewide is being spent on Spanish language services that are scheduled and not used. Some of this waste is unavoidable, but I believe we can make better use of the interpreters’ time, which will assist us in reaching our goal of full expansion of language access services provided at NCAOC expense to all case types in the future.
This reported waste is not only a monetary issue. It is also a manpower issue. While some court interpreters are reporting to courts that do not have an identified need for services and are billing session minimums of 3 hours when no interpreting services are needed, other courts are struggling to find interpreter coverage for trials involving LEP individuals. A more mindful approach to language access services is required statewide to ensure that equal access for LEP individuals is being provided in an effective and responsible manner.
What does this new request form and process mean?
Spanish language court interpreters will no longer be scheduled on a ‘just in case’ basis and should no longer be scheduling themselves. If the LAC has not received a written request for Spanish language services for an identified court matter, then a Spanish language court interpreter will not be scheduled.
Spanish language court interpreters shall only be scheduled for covered court proceedings by the LAC. If the LAC did not schedule the court interpreter, the court interpreter will not be paid by NCAOC for services rendered in covered court proceedings. The court interpreter is prohibited from seeking payment for these services elsewhere. LEP parties in interest are entitled to the services of a qualified court interpreter at no cost to the party.
Attorneys should identify the language access needs of their cases prior to the scheduled court date so they can submit the Request to the LAC with at least 10 days advance notice. Failure to provide sufficient time to secure a qualified interpreter may result in a delay or postponement of the court proceeding if a qualified interpreter is not available.
The Request can be submitted by court personnel when court personnel become aware of a language access need and no attorneys are involved.
A Request for Spoken Foreign Language Court Interpreter must be submitted for each court appearance when the LEP parties are expected to be present.
What are some actions that will assist with implementation?
Ensuring that the Interpreter Needed indicators are being utilized consistently by all authorized individuals (law enforcement, magistrates, clerks, etc.) so language access needs are identified as early as possible to avoid delays in hearing matters because services were not requested and scheduled.
If multiple cases require interpreting in the same non-English language, those cases should be grouped and scheduled on the same day, with a single interpreter assigned for all of them. The only time two interpreters are necessary is when a hearing is expected to be lengthy (longer than two hours) and team interpreting is employed to address interpreter fatigue and maintain accuracy.
Court personnel and judicial officials in criminal courts and civil courts must coordinate calendars to make the most judicious use of the interpreter’s time throughout the courthouse. Court interpreters are expected to cover the needs of the entire courthouse for all approved case types, so please expect the interpreter to be shared and communicate scheduling needs with the LAC and each other.
Make every effort to minimize the interpreter’s time in the court proceeding by hearing the cases requiring an interpreter as soon as possible after the interpreter arrives in the courtroom.
Notify the LAC as soon as the case is delayed, continued or otherwise disposed. The
interpreter is entitled to payment if the interpreter is not cancelled at least 24 hours prior to the
scheduled court proceeding.
Require compliance with submitting requests for all cases for which a Spanish language court interpreter is needed so services of an NCAOC authorized court interpreter can be scheduled.
This transition will take some time and I anticipate some bumps along the way as everyone adjusts to the new request process. I am requesting that our contract court interpreters work with our LACs to identify for what matters they are currently scheduled so the LACs can begin their Spanish interpreting needs assessments, and ensure that no pending LEP matters are overlooked.
I respectfully request the cooperation of our court officials, court personnel, and members of the bar in this effort to better utilize state resources to ensure we provide equal access to justice for LEP individuals in our court system. I am attaching a chart that provides guidance for requesting and obtaining court interpreters for court proceedings, as well as out of court needs. The chart distinguishes between Spanish and languages other than Spanish (LOTS).
The Office of Language Access Services (OLAS) continues to provide technical assistance to judicial officials and court personnel, and to develop and implement procedures for expansion and the efficient allocation of current staff and contract interpreting services. If you have any questions about this memorandum or future plans, please contact OLAS at (919) 890-1407.