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Senator Kohl Introduces Court Interpreter Services Legislation

Senator Herb Kohl (D-WI) unveiled legislation Monday to create a federal grant program to ensure high quality interpreter services are made available to non-English speakers appearing in court.

The legislation addresses the shortage of qualified court interpreters by authorizing $15 million per year, over five years, for a State Court Interpreter Grant Program.

It would provide states with assistance to develop, implement and improve state court interpreter certification programs in order to ensure fair trials for individuals with limited English proficiency.

Those states that apply would be eligible for a $100,000 base grant allotment. In addition, $5 million would be set aside for states that demonstrate extraordinary need.

The remainder of the money would be distributed on a formula basis, determined by the percentage of persons in that state over the age of five who speak a language other than English at home.

"The shortage of qualified interpreters has become a national problem, and it has serious consequences," Kohl said.

"When interpreters are unqualified, or untrained, mistakes are made. The result is that the fundamental right to due process is too often lost in translation, and because the lawyers and judges are not interpreters, these mistakes often go unnoticed."

Wisconsin launched its own state court interpreter program in 2004, using state money and a $250,000 federal grant. At the time, certified interpreters were scarce, but after making use of the funds, the state now has 48 certified interpreters.

by RTT Staff Writer

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