Staff Court Interpreter for a Day

Most people take vacation. It is necessary for one to relax, rejuvenate, and recharge oneself to return to duty. When someone capable will cover the vacationing individual, the person leaves with a sense of relief. Staff interpreters also take vacation, but court dockets continue to be heard in their absence. The solution? Contract court interpreter to the rescue.


Recently, I covered a Western North Carolina courthouse for the day. My first order of business is to scan the available court dockets for all courtrooms (the main courtroom dockets are available online). This particular courthouse has seven main courtrooms and a few minor ones. After I note all parties who may need an interpreter, I begin the rounds. If calendar call has not begun, I approach the assistant district attorney (ADA) and inform her that I am covering the staff interpreter for the day. Once I confirm that the ADA has my mobile number, I proceed to the next courtroom. If the calendar is being called or a hearing is in progress, I inform the bailiff and ensure that he has my contact information.


At times, the Public Defender or Assigned Counsel is unable to communicate with the defendant client.  The court interpreter assists with out-of-court communication at the courthouse.


Regardless of which defendants need interpreting, I review the docket for unfamiliar offenses. Afterward, I research with monolingual and bilingual dictionaries for the translation. Additionally, a number of state court websites have decent glossaries to peruse. Soon, I receive a text that I am needed in a certain courtroom. It almost never fails that there will be 30 minutes of silence, and then three texts from three different courtrooms. Prioritizing is a delicate task for the staff interpreter.


By 10:30 a.m., the add-on calendar should be available. I make my way to the clerk’s office to fetch the printed copies. Also, contract interpreters must complete a daily log. So as I interpret, I complete my log with case numbers and judges’ signatures. When the morning is busy (or insane), lunch is a welcome respite.


In the afternoon, there may be a mix of domestic violence, juvenile adjudication, or felony probable cause hearings. Indeed, a short DWI or child custody trial could occur. Between criminal, civil, family and small claims court, the interpreter is occupied, ensuring that justice provides for the due process rights for limited English proficient individuals. There are other administrative duties that only staff interpreters perform.  At the end of the day, the interpreter’s brain feels like scrambled eggs, and her vocal cords and throat are spent. A good dinner, some herbal tea, and rest is a wonderful way for an interpreter to conclude the workday.

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