After a 2007 criminal case in Maryland was dismissed for lack of an interpreter and widely covered in the news media, The National Association of Judiciary Interpreters & Translators and The American Translators Association issued a joint statement:
In our organizations’ view, this case is an unfortunate symbol of a systemic problem that affects our entire country, a problem for which we all share responsibility: the need for language professionals to be identified and readily available to serve our courts and justice partners.
We represent two national organizations, the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators (NAJIT) and the American Translators Association (ATA), that have made great efforts to network with community and government entities to make them aware of our extensive networks of language professionals. On occasion our advocacy efforts have been successful but our overtures have also sometimes been dismissed.
When a language barrier exists and a person’s liberty or a victim’s life is at stake, it is always best to err on the side of caution by appointing a competent interpreter. When state or federal authorities are unprepared, uninformed or unwilling to find a way to resolve a language barrier, the courts are poorly served, defendants’ rights are unprotected, victims are doubly victimized, and our justice system suffers.
Our organizations consist not only of certified and qualified interpreters and translators but also Ph.D. linguists, expert consultants, trainers and expert witnesses. These interpreter experts are available to help the justice entities develop policies and procedures for training bilinguals of less common languages in a relatively short period of time to adequately interpret court proceedings. The ability to comprehend a court proceeding is not an immigration issue or an English-only issue; it is a matter of fundamental fairness and due process.