Interpreters in the Judicial System: A Handbook for Ohio Judges
Interpreter Services Program
65 South Front Street
Columbus, Ohio 43215-3431
Published February 2008
by the Supreme Court of Ohio
Over the past decade, Ohio has experienced a significant increase in the number of its residents who speak languages other than English. The 2000 census reported the use of 116 languages in the state. According to a survey by the Supreme Court of Ohio Interpreter Services Program, by 2006, approximately 73 languages (including the sign languages used by the state’s deaf and hard-ofhearing populations) were needed in Ohio courts, where non-English speakers and deaf individuals regularly appear as parties and witnesses. Due process, fundamental fairness and equal protection of the law, as guaranteed by the U.S. and Ohio Constitutions, require communication in Ohio courts to be effective and accurate. Defendants in criminal cases have the right to be meaningfully present at their trials, assist in their defense, receive effective assistance of counsel and confront witnesses. They also have the right to waive any of these rights, provided they do so knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily. State and federal law clearly hold accurate, high-quality interpretation, translations and transliteration services to be fundamental elements of due process. Ohio courts must employ highly skilled and professionally qualified judicial interpreters to ensure deaf and limited-English-proficiency people legal protections. To meaningfully participate, parties must be able to understand legal proceedings, and this cannot happen without a competent interpreter.
This handbook is designed to help judicial officials understand the role of judiciary interpreters, assess their qualifications and select and work with them effectively.