Creole Language Interpreter Lacking, Highlighting Shortage of Superior Court Interpreters

By Mansour-Taleb-Ahmed

OAKLAND, CA – A case was continued here last week in Alameda County Superior Court after a judge admitted a “Creole” interpreter wasn’t available—if there ever was one available in the superior court.

Courts are required to provide free interpretation services under law, but increasingly reports suggest courts are having difficulty obtaining or paying for the interpreters.

After he researched the issue of a Creole interpreter in the Alameda court, Judge Thomas Nixon disclosed that the court did not find a Creole interpreter, noting, “The biggest problem I’m running into is that I need to find when and if we will be able to get one.”

The court staff then confirmed the courthouse has never had Creole interpreters.

A visibly concerned Judge Nixon stated that if no interpreter could be found, the court must find another solution.

Court critics have noted a particular language to be interpreted in a case is far from predictable, and the number of court interpreters who speak languages other than English and Spanish in California is not enough to meet the need.

Vice President of the California Federation of Interpreters, Janet Hudec, has noted there is no fair access to justice within the judicial system without interpreters.

“Interpreters are the ones who actually are the bridges that help the courts uphold the rights and dignity of those who are accused of any crime or anybody who wants to use the justice system,” said Hudec.

The California Federation of Interpreters attributes the shortage to the level of education required and low salary. According to Hudec in a new interview last year, interpreters aren’t paid enough to make it an attractive profession and she said, since 2017, they’ve been denied a salary increase.

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