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Language access coordinator joins court staff

September 19, 2022

The Mississippi Administrative Office of Courts recently employed a full-time language access coordinator to assist the courts in meeting the needs of people of limited English proficiency.

Judge Deborah Gambrell Chambers receives Judicial Excellence Award

Deenie Miller of Brandon joined the AOC staff in July. She is in charge of educating judges, court staff and attorneys about the requirements for providing court interpreters for people of limited English proficiency (LEP) as well as recruiting more foreign language interpreters. She is responsible for court interpreter training and certification and ensuring the Mississippi State Judiciary is in compliance with federal rules and regulations regarding court interpreters.

Miller’s first completed project was getting civil forms which are used in Justice Courts translated and made available in Spanish. Miller worked with the Mississippi Judicial College to provide Spanish translation of the more than 50 civil forms which are published on the Judicial College’s website. The translated forms went live on the website on Sept. 14. Here is the link: https://olemiss.app.box.com/s/fdbi69oh1pbux4tjirjmc0re2qotkrrb. The forms are being made available to Justice Courts across the state for posting on individual court websites.

The Mississippi Access to Justice Commission funded the project. “This is going to expand the ability for non-English speakers to have access to the Justice Courts,” said Access to Justice Commission Executive Director Nicole McLaughlin. “We are overjoyed and excited about the new language access coordinator and the impact this will have on access to justice for those who don’t speak English.”

Data from the National Center for Immigration Studies shows that from 1980 to 2018, the population of people who speak a language other than English at home grew by 140 percent in Mississippi. Miller said that 3.8 percent of Mississippi’s population is people of limited English proficiency; 2.6 percent of the population speak Spanish.

Miller said, “When a person of limited English proficiency is involved in a legal proceeding, it is imperative that they be provided a qualified court interpreter. A court interpreter is not only for an LEP to understand the proceedings, but also so a judge can effectively administer justice.”

The Administrative Office of Courts provides all state courts with a roster of foreign language interpreters who have demonstrated proficiency in interpretation of court proceedings. There currently are 25 credentialed interpreters available —22 Spanish speakers and one each for Arabic, Mandarin Chinese and Portuguese.

The AOC is working to recruit more foreign language interpreters. AOC will conduct an Ethics and Skill Building Seminar Nov. 2-4 at the Gartin Justice Building in Jackson. The seminar will introduce bilingual speakers to the requirements for court interpreting. The registration deadline is Oct. 24. The registration form is at this link: https://www.courts.ms.gov/aoc/courtinterpreter/forms/2022Registration Form.pdf.

Participation in the court foreign language interpreter seminar is the first step in the program which will test individuals who wish to serve as interpreters in Mississippi courtrooms. Candidates who want to be added to the court interpreters roster must already be fluent in English and a second language, and must develop an understanding of court proceedings and advanced legal terminology. The seminar will provide an introduction to court proceedings. The program will introduce participants to the role of the court language interpreter, ethical requirements, modes of interpretation and credentialing requirements.

Miller said that she hopes to be able to record the November training sessions and create an online training program in the future. “Having training available online will open the door to more interpreters who may not be able to attend an in-person seminar,” she said.

Miller earned her paralegal certification from Millsaps College in 2000. She has worked in the legal profession for 22 years, the past 10 for attorney and Senior Status Judge James D. Bell.

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