Vol. 80, No. 12, December 2007
The state budget ushered in significant changes in how courts provide interpreters. Effective Oct. 27, Wis. Stat. section 885.38 now requires circuit courts to appoint spoken language interpreters at public expense in any kind of case after a determination that the plaintiff or defendant has limited English proficiency.
In the past, courts were only required to appoint interpreters for criminal, juvenile, CHIPS, guardianship, and commitment cases. Appointment of interpreters in other cases was inconsistent, which sometimes resulted in unqualified family members or friends acting as interpreters and general confusion as to whose responsibility it was to provide interpreters.
"The greatest impact of the change is expected to be in family and traffic cases," says attorney Carmel A. Capati, Wisconsin Court Interpreter Program manager, Director of State Courts Office of Court Operations. "The new law also allows the court to appoint an interpreter at public expense regardless of indigency. This provision is good news for counties, which now will receive state reimbursement for more interpreter expenses."
The change in law reflects an eight-year effort to ensure equal access to the courts, led by Chief Justice Shirley Abrahamson and the Committee to Improve Interpretation and Translation in Wisconsin Courts. The Director of State Courts Office maintains a roster of trained and certified interpreters searchable by language at http://wicourts.gov/services/interpreter/search.htm.