Members of the Advisory Committee
Court Interpreter Certification and
Office of the State Courts Administrator
Miami, February 26th. 2017
On behalf of the approximately 200 members of the Association of Translators and Interpreters of Florida (ATIF), a regional chapter of the American Translators Association (ATA), we would like to bring to the attention of the Court Interpreters Certification and Regulation Program (CICRP) certain difficulties that our Association has encountered in the submission for approval of continuing education courses for CIE credits.
The difficulties are two-fold: (1) the time required by the CICRP to analyze and render a decision on its approval, and (2) approval of the course content itself.
The CICRP developed guidelines (Florida Supreme Court – Office of the State Courts Administrator – Court Interpreter Certification and Regulation Program – Compliance Requirements for Certified Spoken Language Court Interpreters) to establish the parameters that—in theory—should serve to help develop these continuing education courses.
Last August, ATIF was denied a request for a course called ‘Interpreting Cultural Differences in Medical Interpreting” on the grounds set forth by section 2.3.1B.1(a) of the guidelines, which states: “The subject matter (should be) relevant to court interpreting, the work of the courts, or the judicial branch.”
In reference to the case mentioned above, medical interpreting is found in the court system in many forms: lawsuits that entail medical malpractice, slip and falls, workman’s’ compensation, competency hearings, forensic testimony, independent medical evaluations, psychiatric evaluations—the list is interminable. So we question whether the person who decides that the subject matter is relevant to court interpreting, the work of the courts, or the judicial branch, is familiar with the reality of actual court interpreting.
Court interpreting can more broadly be defined as legal interpreting and can entail the knowledge of an infinite variety of subject matters. Any seasoned court interpreter can attest to the fact that one of our greatest fears is to unexpectedly have to interpret terminology and/or subject matter with which we are unfamiliar. So whenever a person who knows much more than we do of a particular subject is willing to share his or her knowledge, it becomes a valuable opportunity for us to learn and grow as professionals.
As is true for attorneys and physicians, we interpreters prefer that continuing education courses be imparted to us by our peers, yet here again we find a stumbling block. We have had courses denied on the basis that the interpreter giving the course is not an expert in the field. This shows a lack of understanding of our profession. This interpreter may not be an expert in the field, may not want to learn all about it or even work in it; rather, he or she wants to teach how to interpret when confronted with the particular subject matter. It is not a matter of science—it is a matter of linguistics.
Professional court interpreting is not carried out in a vacuum, and if it is, it is at the peril of justice and due process. Therefore, it is important that we as interpreters be given some latitude to expand our knowledge with information that we know will be valuable for our professional development and at the same time comply with the CIE requirements set by the State.
This brings us to another related point of concern, which is the fact that when a course is denied and later appealed, it is reviewed by the same person who denied it in the first place. We have no indication—published or otherwise—to the contrary. If this is indeed the case, we believe this procedure to be in need of amendment.
With respect to the time it takes to approve a course, 30 days seems to us to be excessive.
The process of planning a continuing education course involves a number of steps:
- Research and find a presenter who is not only a good speaker but one who has valuable and interesting information to share. Presenters, especially good ones, have time constraints, and so a tentative date is agreed upon.
- Secure a venue. Since we are a non-profit organization that offers free courses, our first choice is a free venue. There is almost no possibility of securing a free venue more than 30 days in advance because the entities that offer us free space do so only when they are certain that they themselves will not require the space. And they do not offer their space more than 30 days in advance because they don’t necessarily plan their own events that far in the future – and their events always take priority.
- The course proposal is written and sent to Tallahassee. If we then have to wait 30 days for the CICRP to make a decision, often the presenter is no longer available, or the venue cannot be secured, or we have insufficient time to announce and advertise the event.
One way to circumvent this situation would be for the CICRP to wave the requirement that a venue and/or date be included in the proposal. In that case, with an approved proposal in hand, we could then coordinate with the presenter, secure a venue and properly announce and advertise the course.
Finally, we would like to point out a disparity in your own regulations. In Part 2, Section 8.0 (G) of the Florida Supreme Court – Office of the State Courts Administrator – Court Interpreter Certification and Regulation Program – Compliance Requirements for Certified Spoken Language Court Interpreters, it states:
“Pre-approved providers are identified in section 2.3.1A (the American Translators Association (ATA) being one of them). Relevant courses offered by these providers do not require a Continuing Education Activity Approval number and may be listed on the continuing education reporting form with course title, hours, and course dates. Proof of attendance or completion must be retained by the interpreter.”
The course mentioned before (Interpreting Cultural Differences in Medical Interpreting) that was denied to us is currently approved for 4.0 CE credits by the ATA. Does this mean that an interpreter can get CIE credit for it as self-study, being that the ATA is a pre-approved provider?
Our Association, ATIF, is completely voluntary and has no paid staff at all. We are providing all these courses for free to our more than 200 members, who in the most part are on the Court Interpreter Registry. It supposes a lot of work, but we are doing our utmost to facilitate court interpreters’ compliance with the CICRP requirements.
We understand that all these regulations are relatively new and therefore we believe that necessary adjustments to them should not be approached as an unusual or negative occurrence.
We recognize the effort and diligence of all those involved in the CICRP and thank you for all you do. We hope these comments will be accepted in the constructive and positive light in which they are given.
President of the Association of
Translators and Interpreters of Florida