Something bad is happening with the federal courts in some states.

July 17, 2012 § 6 Comments

Dear Colleagues,

Not long ago I had dinner with some colleagues that work in the federal court system.  As it always happens with interpreters, we ended up talking shop.  Of course, as you all know, this is pretty standard in our profession; however, I was shocked by some of the comments I heard. I learned that despite the fact that the state has over 20 court certified interpreters, the federal courts in Colorado are now hiring non-certified interpreters for all services with the exception of court hearings; and that is not all, I also heard that the CJA attorneys are only approving vouchers for the time “actually worked” by the interpreter. Forget about the full day and half a day rates.  I also found out that, ignoring the fact that Chicago has around 15 certified court interpreters, the state of Indiana is hiring non-certified interpreters for hearings, and they are even pairing them with certified interpreters.  We all know that each district is its own world, and they set their own policy, but somebody told me that this is happening with the blessing of higher authorities.  This is worrisome.  I support the idea that if you want to like our profession for a long time, and if you want to make a good living, you need to diversify and interpret conferences, legal, medical, and everything else you can think of.

I oppose the position of some independent contractor colleagues who only see themselves as court interpreters and refuse to step outside the box; however, I am very fortunate to live in a place where the court only allows certified court interpreters,  but if what I heard is true, I am saddened and frustrated by this information because the certification exam is not easy, because there is a huge quality gap between the interpretation level of certified and non-certified court interpreters, and because the attorneys and judges are going along with the budget guys, giving up the quality of a certified court interpreter in order to save a few bucks.  I ask you to tell me if this is what is happening in your area, and if so, what in your opinion can be done to educate the defense bar, the federal bench, and the U.S. Department of Justice so they stop calling all these non-certified interpreters, and let me be very clear that when I say non-certified I am including the consortium certified interpreters because there is no distinction between them and those with another certification or without any certification, they are not certified to work in the federal system.  It is that simple.

The personal benefit of being a certified court interpreter in a State that is not a member of the Consortium. You better read!

May 7, 2012 § 2 Comments

Dear Colleagues:

You probably think the title of this article is wrong, but it is not.  During my career, I have worked and lived in States of this country, the United States, where there is no consortium interpreter court certification, and in States that are members of the consortium.   Of course, at first sight, the comment by most colleagues is:  You are better-off working in a State where they have and enforce court certification, and that is true as far as continuing education, certain quality-control of the services provided by those interpreters hired by the courts, and the fact that most, not all, of these consortium certified court interpreters are better than those who are not certified.

You would say, at least they approved the certification exam that the other interpreter failed, and you would be right. The thing is, I am not writing about that type of benefit. The benefit I am referring to is the benefit that you, as an individual, professional federally certified court interpreter have when you work with clients, in and out of the judicial system, who cannot tell apart those court interpreters that they see working at the courthouses every day.  In a State where there is no consortium certification you can go to the client and point out that the other interpreter has no certification whatsoever, that your federal certification is not easy to obtain, and that from the start, that puts you in a better position to provide a better-quality interpretation service.  It also gives you an argument to negotiate a higher fee.  In Consortium States we often run into the problem of having to explain the difference between the two certifications, and even when we succeed, some clients may be tempted to retain the services of somebody less qualified because after all, a certification is a certification, and “how much different can it be?”  Of course the problem is greater when you factor in the “grandfathered” interpreters who did not have to pass the consortium certification exam.

Of course, you are now going to tell me that once the client sees you in action she will fall in love with your work and will hire you again; surely, you will now say that some State certified interpreters are good, and some federally certified are not that great, no doubt some of you could mention that the quality level of those State interpreters in non-consortium States is even worse… I agree with all those observations, all I am saying is that if you are a federally certified court interpreter living in a non-consortium State, look for this added benefit and exploit it. It has worked for me.   Please tell me what you think of this perspective, and please do not write about how State certified interpreters are good, or bad, that is not the topic of this piece.

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