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HAWAII INTERPRETER ACTION NETWORK

P.O. Box 236024 Honolulu, Hawaii 96823-3519

November 25, 2013 CERTIFIED MAIL, RETURN RECIEPT REQUESTED The Honorable Mark Recktenwald Chief Justice, Hawaii Supreme Court Ali`iolani Hale 417 South King Street Honolulu, Hawai`i 96813-2943 Re: Appropriate standards for court interpreting trainers To the Honorable Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald: It was a genuine pleasure for two Hawaii Interpreter Action Network (HIAN) members to meet and talk with you at the first Access to Justice Conference that you attended after becoming Chief Justice. We thank you for your invitation to the Hawaii Interpreter Action Network to send you a letter with our concerns. In this letter, written by a committee, for the most part we focus on only one of our concerns. More than any other governmental institution, a court system must have integrity and credibility. To achieve this, it must have a clear message and must convey that message at all times. Judiciary programs must be aligned with that message. Unfortunately, if the Judiciarys court interpreter certification program is truly intended to support and spread certification, then the program is currently off message, and has been since its inception. The Judiciary is doing a number of things to undermine the court interpreter certification program. The Judiciary needs to hire experienced, certified spoken language court

interpreters to conduct all trainings. That includes all trainings on A&P, Domestic Violence, and all other workshops. All of our letters regarding the court interpreting program wind up being send to the Office on Equality and Access to the Courts (OEAC). Here we would like to recognize and express our deep appreciation and respect for Debi Tulang-DeSilva and Melody Kubo. Their dedication and hard work are exemplary. We hope that all OEAC staff will take good care of their health. We also wish to express our deep appreciation and aloha for Phil Liu, our brother and fallen warrior, who fought on the front lines for language access until he could fight no more. Ana Lisa Vidad also did her sincere, hard-working best, and we appreciate all her efforts. We send our heartfelt wishes for Phil Lius good health and long life. To both of them, we extend our best wishes and good hopes for their respective futures. We hope to see them both again. However, this letter is about policy and practice, not persons or personalities. (In fact, it is the unfortunate tendency of the Judiciary to get lost in issues about personalities.) 1. The position of the OEAC within the Judiciarys structure is such that the OEAC has no power. [This was made glaringly obvious when the Judiciary ignored the advice of both the OEAC and the Hawaii Supreme Court Committee on Court Interpreters and Language Access (CILA), and proceeded last year to seriously weaken the standard previously set forth in Hawaii Supreme Court Rule 14.1, instead of strengthening it, thus further undermining the court interpreter certification program.] 2. We cannot always tell when policy is coming from within the OEAC, or from others. 3. The OEAC is severely hampered by not knowing what they dont know. The lack of a certified, experienced supervisory spoken language court interpreter within the
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OEAC leaves that office without the knowledge and experience that are essential to the proper operation of a court interpreter program. Hawaiis program is virtually alone in the nation in lacking this crucial expertise. Please see the attached job description for a Chief Interpreter or Supervising Interpreter. [Court Interpretation: Model Guides for Policy and Practice in the State Courts (Model Guides), p. 4647.] Such a person should be hired immediately. Once hired, that person would conduct all or the majority of court interpreter trainings. Until a Supervisory Interpreter is hired, and afterwards as well, only experienced, certified spoken language court interpreters should be giving trainings to spoken language interpreters, except under exceptional circumstances. (Within a training, the component which deals with explanations of law and legal process would continue to be taught by licensed attorneys.) The circumstances under which an uncertified bilingual could be used as a teacher are limited. Circumstances, Category 1 a) The state lacks any experienced, certified spoken language court interpreter who is willing to teach, and b) There are no funds to bring an experienced, certified, spoken language court interpreter in from outside the state, and c) No court interpreter certification exists in that persons language combination, but the person is an experienced spoken language court interpreter and has a credential such as one of the two highest certifications from the U. S. Dept. of
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State, has worked at the UN or European Parliament, or is a member of the International Association of Conference Interpreters (AIIC) and/or The American Association of Language Specialists (TAALS). (These standards are from the AOUSCs Guide to Judiciary Policy Vol. 5, Court Interpreting, 320 Qualifications of Interpreters, attached, and were previously set forth in the AOUSC Interim Regulations Implementing the Court Interpreters Act of 1988, attached in electronic form.) OR Circumstances, Category 2 The person works in a Language of Lesser Diffusion (LLD) for which there are few or no government credentials, is an experienced spoken language court interpreter, and has a professional record that shows the ability to interpret in that language. The circumstances in Hawaii do not fall into either of the categories above. We urge the Judiciary to hire only experienced, spoken language certified court interpreters to teach the Basic Orientation Workshop (BOW) and all other training and educational events. At present, most of the time it is being taught on Oahu, where the bulk of attendees take the BOW, by an uncertified bilingual and by ASL interpreters. This undermines the entire program. The Judiciary is giving a ha ha, wink wink message: We say we support standards, and we say wed like you to meet thembut not reallywe give the big, important teaching positions to
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someone who has not met the standards. By obvious implication, BOW attendees do not have to meet the standards, either. The end result is what we see today. Most of the bilinguals working in court on a regular basis are either Tier 1 or Transitional. (Transitional refers to bilinguals who failed the Written English test, but scored at least 60% correct. The cut mark is 70% correct for entry into Tier 1.) Unsupervised by any certified court interpreter, their problems and failings in delivery of services are blatant to any knowledgeable observer. After six years of certification testing in Hawaii, only seven people have passed their professional exams. Three more people passed a certification test given elsewhere, prior to 2007. We await the results of this years test cycle. BOW students need to be taught by experienced, certified spoken language court interpreters. These are the people who have proven their ability to interpret at the certified level, who know how to study for and pass the written and oral examinations. They know where the rubber meets the road both in the test room and in court. Only those who can walk the talk have the depth of knowledge and experience needed to train and help interpreter examination candidates and answer their questions. Only they have the credibility which is essential for teaching. Qualifications for Trainers (Model Guides, p. 68, attached): Workshops, also, are designed to provide practical education, not theory. Workshop instructors need to be credible to students: they must be able to defend what they teach on the basis of being there and having a substantial amount of practical experience in the field. . The workshop instructor must be thoroughly familiar with the realities of

practice and be able to offer workable suggestions for what to do in difficult situations. The instructor should be a role model as well as a teacher. (Emphasis in the original.) Qualifications for Trainers (Model Guides, p. 69, attached): Thorough familiarity with the subject matter, drawn from experiencethe instructor should be a practitioner. Court interpreting is not a theoretical, academic discipline, to be learned from books and taught by inexperienced and uncertified academics. It is a practical, hands-on profession exercised by experienced practitioners. Students need to be able to see and recognize teachers who model correct interpreting practices in court and who can help with questions and problems after the end of training. Students need role models and mentors who are certified practitioners. ASL interpreters interpret through a different medium than spoken language interpreters. Their codes of ethics (COEs) and standards of practice (SOPs) differ from those for spoken language interpreting. They seldom work in court. The BOW is being taught according to a series of PowerPoints originally created in 2007 by Agustn de la Mora, a federally certified court interpreter. Perhaps this leads the OEAC to think that all that is needed is an actor to play the part of a teacher. Real teachers are neither puppets nor ventriloquists dummies. A real teacher knows her material in depth, can convey it to students, and has the ability to answer questions based on the teachers work experience, study, and research. A good teacher knows her own limitations and has the honesty and humility to say so. She also has the contacts within the profession so that other professionals can be consulted when necessary.

Hawaii now has ten (10) certified spoken language court interpreters (Tier 4 and up). Nine (9) have been certified since at least 2008. Currently only four (4) of them are being used as trainers, largely for BOWs held on the Neighbor Islands. None of them has been used as trainers for the workshops given on more specialized subjects. How much credibility would a law school or a bar exam preparation course have if its instructors had not graduated law school, passed the bar or ever practiced law? After the first round of oral examinations in 2007, only those who had passed their certification test should have been used as trainers. Instead, year after year goes by with the bulk of Judiciary trainings being conducted by an uncertified bilingual. This is as dysfunctional and counterproductive as it is disgracefulif the Judiciary would in fact like to have a successful certification program. The program is off-message in its hiring. No invitation has been extended to even audition to teach the BOW to most of the certified court interpretersand it took pressure to get that opportunity to be offered to a few last year. Everyone who has passed an oral certification test should be offered the opportunity to audition as a trainer. The decisions should be made by a committee composed only of the two OEAC staff who work on the trainings, together with an equal or greater number of certified spoken language court interpreters. If a candidate cannot audition during one year because of scheduling conflicts, they should be offered the opportunity again, repeatedly if necessary. If the intention of the Judiciary is to produce and contract certified spoken language court interpreters, then the court interpreter training program needs to align its hiring decisions with that message. This will significantly increase the integrity and credibility of the program. It will

also function to better train both those who are candidates for the Court Interpreter Registry (BOW attendees), and those who are either Transitionals or already on the Registry of court interpreters and who attend specialized trainings. In sum, in this as in other contracting of court interpreters:

Choose objective, test-based competence.

We thank you in advance for your thoughtful consideration of this letter. It is our hope that by heeding this letter and implementing these simple and necessary changes, the Judiciary will improve its court interpreter training program and bring it into better alignment with the Judiciarys stated objective of providing meaningful language access. Sincerely,

Mindy Emmons, M. A. AOUSC, California, and Hawaii Certified Court Interpreter American Translators Association Certified Spanish-to-English Translator President, Hawaii Interpreter Action Network Contact information: 808/634-6447 mobile, mindyemmons@hawaii.rr.com

Enclosures: State Justice Institute, Court Interpretation: Model Guides for Policy and Practice in the State Courts, p. 46-47, p. 68-69. (http://cdm16501.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ref/collection/accessfair/id/162, accessed 11/19/2013) AOUSC, Guide to Judiciary Policy Vol. 5, Court Interpreting, 320. (http://www.uscourts.gov/FederalCourts/UnderstandingtheFederalCourts/DistrictCourts/CourtInt erpreters.aspx , last link on page, accessed 11/19/2013) AOUSC, Interim Regulations Implementing the Court Interpreters Act of 1988. (Provided in electronic form on CD. Also in Fundamentals of Court Interpretation, 2nd Edition, by Gonzlez, Vsquez, and Mikkelson, Appendix B.)

cc:

Kevonne Small, Christine Stoneman; Civil Rights Division, U. S. DOJ Vickie Viotti, Honolulu Star-Advertiser Rob Cruz, Tennessee Certified Court Interpreter; President, National Association of Judiciary Interpreters & Translators Caitilin Walsh, ATA Certified, French-to-English; President, American Translators Association (ATA)