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Court system in need of interpreters

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Legalese is tough enough for those of us without law degrees, and understanding the judicial system and court proceedings can be even more daunting for those who don't speak English as their primary language. That's why the Judiciary of Guam is working to not only grow the court's pool of interpreters, but expand the program to include more languages.

If you're multilingual, the Judiciary wants you. "When you're not comfortable with English, in order to have access to justice, we should provide and everyone is required to have an interpreter if they request for one," explained June Bells Carino, language assistance manager.

The Court Interpreter Registry Program started two years ago under then-chief justice F. Phillip Carbullido and present attorney general Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson. According to Carino, the program today is 50 interpreters strong and represents 16 languages.

"We have an upcoming scheduled training. So with this recruitment process, when we send interpreters into the courtroom with their client and attorney meetings, they're prepared, they're trained, and it's not just interpreting anywhere, it's legal type of interpreting," she said.

The hope is to grow not only the pool of interpreters, but the available languages to include Thai, Greek, Samoan, and Russian. Although families who are fluent in the needed languages often try to step up to assist translation of proceedings, Judiciary of Guam's director of policy, planning, and community relations Dana Gutierrez explains that's not in the best interest of the client. She told KUAM News, "We're looking for people who can be impartial and of course interpret accurately. And we do have a qualification process, that's why we have the court interpreter registry program. Because interpreters do go through a qualification process - we do provide them with training. They are required to take an oath of interpreter. And we also require them to go through an examination process."

Failure to provide the needed languages can be a strain to the court and even to the client's constitutional rights. "So we have to go back into the community. We have to contact embassies. We're trying to contact people we know in the community to try and come forward with someone who can be qualified to be an interpreter," said Gutierrez.

Interpreters work on an on-call basis and are not employees of the court. The court also shares the registry with other agencies, which may also lead to other job opportunities. Carino said, "Interpreting can keep you busy. If you're not at the court, because we share our list, you can be working at the hospital, Mental Health, or the Department of Education. You can help out in the community."

Applications are available online at http://www.guamcourts.org, with Carino saying, "You must be 18 or older, authorized to work in the United States and pass a background check. So please submit the applications before August 21."

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