COURT WATCH: Court Interpreter Shortage Highlighted – Delayed Burlington Case Exemplifies Failure to Provide Services

By Jessi Dannenberg

BURLINGTON, VT – During an arraignment hearing in Chittenden County Superior Court, presided over by Judge Martin A. Maley, the absence of a competent interpreter shed light on a significant failure to uphold the rights of the non-English speaking accused, as required by state law and public policy.

The accused required interpretation services because of limited proficiency in English. However, contacting an interpreter via phone, the court encountered immediate difficulties.

The interpreter struggled to hear the courtroom proceedings. Despite attempts to rectify the situation, including adjusting the volume and troubleshooting, the interpreter’s connection remained unreliable.

At one point, the frustration led Judge Maley to suggest, “Will it help if I pick up the receiver and yell into that?”

Compounding the issue, the court’s standard online platform, WebX, designed to facilitate remote participation, proved incompatible with the interpreter’s call-in service. This oversight rendered the interpreter unable to fully engage with the courtroom environment, further impeding the process.

In light of these challenges, the defense, prosecution and judge attempted to proceed with the accused’s arraignment. However, recognizing the inadequate interpreter situation, the judge decided to continue the arraignment, postponing it until another date when they could have an interpreter prepared.

The defense, the district attorney and the judge discussed his not-guilty plea, a $50 co-pay, and the state’s request for pretrial services, illustrating the efforts to navigate the proceedings despite the interpreter’s absence.

However, the absence of a proficient interpreter resulting in the delay, raising serious concerns regarding the rights of non-English speakers in legal proceedings, per Title 1, Chapter 5, Subchapter 5 of the Vermont Statutes, ensuring fair and meaningful participation is paramount for individuals with limited English proficiency.

About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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