The function of a judge is to ensure that the law is upheld, and justice is carried out. When any party or witness before the judge has limited English proficiency, a competent interpreter is necessary to ensure the due process rights of the party and/or proceeding.
Are all court interpreters in the South Carolina Court Interpreter Directory Certified? The short answer is no. Why you may ask? Certification is an expensive process for the state judiciary (as well as for the certification candidate). Not all languages pairs (English + foreign language) have certification examinations available. For your information:
New York offers certification in Albanian, Arabic, BCS (Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian), Bengali, Cantonese, French, Greek, Haitian Creole, Hebrew, Hindi, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Punjabi, Russian, Urdu, Vietnamese, and Wolof.
Minnesota offers certification in Spanish, Hmong, Somali, Russian, Vietnamese, Mandarin, French, Portuguese, and Lao.
Georgia offers certification in Arabic, Cantonese, French, Haitian-Creole, Hmong, Ilocano, Khmer, Korean, Laotian, Mandarin, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.
South Carolina does not indicate in what languages certification is available. However, according to the 2015 South Carolina Court Interpreter Directory, five Spanish interpreters and one Russian interpreter have been certified by South Carolina’s Judicial Branch. South Carolina is a member of the National Center for State Courts’(NCSC) Council for Language Access in the Courts (CLAC). CLAC member states often reciprocate certification. Page 17 of the NCSC State Court Interpreter Testing Desk Reference Manual and page 1 of the NCS Court Interpreter Oral Examination: Test Construction Manual clearly state that only certified court interpreters demonstrate the minimum standards of proficiency.
The directory has two sections: Foreign Language listing which includes American Sign Language (starting on page 6) and Spanish County listing (page 24). There is one certified interpreter for Haitian Creole (GA-C) and one for Russian (SC-C). Listing by language has seven columns: Name, Phone, Counties (served), Orientation (Phase I), Written (exam, Phase II), Certified (if blank, the person is NOT certified), and Dialects. Once you determine the language, you want to look at the Certified column.
If you know that you will need a Spanish interpreter, you can turn or click to page 24 to locate your county. If you need a Spanish interpreter in Anderson County, all the certified interpreters are listed first (along with their certification state). There are fourteen certified court interpreters who accept assignments in said county. They all possess the minimum standards of proficiency to practice court interpreting. This is akin to passing the bar. Some lawyers are AV rated, some are CV rated. However, they are all licensed to practice law. Next listed are Otherwise Qualified interpreters. These individuals have not passed the state court interpreter certification oral examination or have never taken said oral examination. Although South Carolina considers them “qualified,” these individuals have not demonstrated the minimum standards of court interpreter proficiency. Similarly, any individual who has not passed the bar exam or has never taken the bar exam is not licensed to practice law. Any attempt to practice law without a license is a felony in South Carolina.
It is to your client’s benefit that you obtain a copy of the most recent directory (by contacting your county clerk’s office or SCCA’s Interpreter Manager), read pages 3 and 4, and familiarize yourself with SCACR §511 so you can fulfill your professional responsibilities.