State-certified sign- and foreign-language interpreters in Allegheny County assist defendants, victims, witnesses others
When Romanian-speaking immigrants appear in an Allegheny County courtroom, give a deposition or report a crime to police, Doina Francu is there to help.
Francu, 58, of Bethel Park is among 15 state-certified sign- and foreign-language interpreters in Allegheny County who assist defendants, victims, witnesses and others who speak little or no English.
“Everything that involves the legal aspect needs to have an interpreter when the person can't speak English,” said Francu, who spends most of her time traveling the world interpreting Romanian and French for businesses. “In this job, you never get bored. There is always something new.”
Allegheny County court officials have increased their reliance on interpreters in the past five years, administrators said, because of a greater awareness of the law and a growing immigrant population. Spending on foreign-language interpreters surged more than fourfold since 2008. The court paid interpreters slightly more than $78,000 through mid-September.
“It's definitely a growing need,” said Lisa Herbert, Allegheny County's deputy court administrator in charge of requests for foreign- and sign-language interpreters. “Courts across the country have become more aware of the needs of the limited English proficient population.”
Certified foreign language interpreters are paid $35 to $75 an hour, depending on their mastery of a language, or between $220 and $400 a day.
Federal laws require courts to ensure that parties in court cases can understand the proceedings, said Paul Gatto, assistant director for the Center for Interpretation at the University of Arizona.
“In this country, we have the right to be confronted by our accusers, be present at trial and effectively conference with our attorney,” Gatto said. “You can't do all of that if you have no idea what's being said. While it's always theoretically been the case, in a practical sense, it hasn't been provided.”
As recently as last month, states including Ohio and Michigan reinforced the requirement for courts to provide certified interpreters to people who don't speak English. Pennsylvania established its interpreter certification program in 2006. Pennsylvania offers protection-from- abuse forms in 12 languages, including Arabic, Chinese, Korean, Russian and Vietnamese.
There are 170 certified interpreters in the state skilled in more than two dozen languages, including Farsi, Portuguese, Mandarin and Urdu. In Allegheny County, there are 15 interpreters certified through the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania's Courts, including 11 in sign language and three in Spanish.
Francu is the only Romanian interpreter working for the county.
Pittsburgh Municipal Court uses a hotline to connect non-English speakers to translators of more than 200 languages, court administrator Angharad Stock said.
Nationwide, the translation services industry is growing about 15 percent a year, said Jiri Stejskal, spokesman for the American Translators Association.
Part of the increase is because of a 1999 executive order by President Clinton requiring programs that receive federal funding — such as courts, schools and hospitals — to provide interpreters to those who need it.
There remains a shortage of interpreters for some languages, said Tony Guerra, head of interpretation services for CETRA Language Solutions in Philadelphia.
To help meet the demand, Philadelphia Common Pleas Judge Ida K. Chen is working with the Delaware Valley Translators Association — of which Guerra is president — and Widener Law School in Harrisburg to certify more translators, which could benefit every county in the state, Guerra said.
“Every citizen is entitled to due process,” he said. “If you can't understand what's happening in court because of a language barrier, then you're not getting a fair trial.”
Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-391-0927 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Charge dropped against former Steeler Blount after community service
- Officials identify man, woman killed in apparent Oakland murder-suicide
- Beloved North Side gardener gets new truck, paid for by her neighbors
- Porch roof collapses in Pitcairn
- Overnight snow delaying schools in western Pennsylvania
- Fort Pitt Tunnel work cancelled this weekend
- Beaver County man arrested in 24-year-old Clinton County cold case
- Medical examiner identifies man in Pleasant Hills police standoff as Justin Hay
- Uber gains PUC approval to operate in most of Pa. for 2 years
- Newsmaker: Laurie Sanders
- Federal grand jury indicts man for violating poultry law while operating illegal slaughterhouse in his Jefferson Hills home