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Pacific Islands Development Program, East-West Center

With Support From Center for Pacific Islands Studies, University of Hawai‘i


Guam Judiciary Still Seeking Out Court Interpreters
Chuukese speakers currently most needed in courts

By Geraldine Castillo

HAGTA, Guam (Marianas Variety Guam, Jan. 29, 2013) – The Judiciary of Guam recently launched its Court Interpreter Project, hoping to improve much-needed interpreter services by reaching out to eligible individuals interested in translating for clients with limited English proficiency.

Outreach efforts are being made by Senior Judge Pro Tempore Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson who said the interpreting services are not only a need for the Judiciary, but for other government of Guam entities as well.

Speaking to members of the Rotary Club of Northern Guam at yesterday’s weekly membership meeting at the Hyatt Regency Guam, Barrett-Anderson explained the aspects of the project, such as the need to obtain a pool of interpreters for more than a dozen languages.

"[We’re] working with the Guam Community College (GCC) to develop an interpreter curriculum [which] is where I think we can help service government agencies at large, and anybody who wants to go to GCC and take that course and be qualified can then be part of the pool," she said.

As a sitting trial judge, Barrett-Anderson said she has seen firsthand the need to have trained, qualified, and registered court interpreters.

Sensitive rights

"If you don’t have a court interpreter, then justice is not guaranteed and the defendant’s rights are not protected," she said.

"The Civil Rights Act requires courts throughout the nation to assure that whenever anybody comes into our court system, whether for criminal cases or for civil cases, that that person has the right to the assistance of someone from his or her language," she said.

Barrett-Anderson added it’s even more important in the criminal arena because the presence of a court interpreter is sensitive to the rights of the defendant.

"Without the court interpreter, those rights and those constitutional guarantees do not exist," she said.

Chuukese

The most common and sought-after language in the courts is Chuukese, Barrett-Anderson said. When she set up the DWI court program, Barrett-Anderson said she recognized the need for a full time Chuukese interpreter because she knew that it was the one language throughout the seven courtrooms that is in most need of services.

After obtaining a grant from the Department of Public Works’ Office of Highway Safety, the Judiciary was able to receive a full-time Chuukese interpreter strictly for the DWI judge.

According to Barrett-Anderson, the Judiciary spends anywhere from $30,000 to $40,000 a fiscal year on the work of court interpreters.

"My job is to organize that, hopefully, to reduce the cost and at the same time streamline the program and compensate interpreters far better than we have previously," she said.

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