Court translators working in pairs halt court proceedings - Boston News, Weather, Sports | FOX 25 | MyFoxBoston

Frustrated judge exposes government waste

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FOX UNDERCOVER – FOX Undercover was inside a Massachusetts courtroom as a frustrated judge lashed out at some court employees.

Judge Jeffrey Locke is now being hailed a hero for helping identify what some are calling another example of government waste.

Interpreters work in courtrooms all over the state tens of thousands of times a year, translating dozens of languages into English to "ensure access to justice."

But some interpreters are refusing to work alone, insisting they need two interpreters on hand.
FOX Undercover saw the team interpreting approach in action during the trial of reputed mobster Mark Rossetti in June.

It became an issue during that trial, when an interpreter was needed in another courtroom.

Both interpreters wanted to leave together for the other matter.

And so the trial grinded to a halt, much to the annoyance of Judge Locke.

"You are both certified are you not?" asked Judge Locke.

"Yes," replied one of the interpreters.

"One is not the intern of the other?" asked Locke.

"No," said the interpreter.

"One is not being trained by the other?" asked Locke.

"No your honor," replied the interpreter. "These are the best practices and we are waiting for..."

"Alright, well the best practice means that 14 people are now going to sit up there until both of you are then available," a frustrated Locke responded. "You're needed in another courtroom for a very brief matter. I don't know that it will take two of you, but if your so called best practice requires you to travel as a couple. Go on. We're in recess."

Retired Superior Court Judge Robert Barton was on the bench for more than 20 years and says he never once saw a team of interpreters working in a courtroom.

"Sure he's frustrated. He was a good lawyer. He's a good judge," said Barton. But times have changed since Barton retired.

According to the 2009 standards and procedures of the Office of Court Interpreter Services, "court interpreters should recommend and encourage the use of team interpreting whenever necessary, and when resources allow."

"There's no need for a backup. That's a waste of time, effort, money. That's ridiculous," said Barton.

Money is certainly tight at the trial court.

Supreme Judicial Court Chief Justice Roderick Ireland recently talked to the legal community about "the multi-year hiring freeze" and "critical staffing needs."

Budget crunch or not, the National Association of Judiciary Interpreters and Translators calls team interpreting "the industry standard" with one interpreter providing relief for the other every 30 minutes.

FOX Undercover witnessed the interpreters switching off more frequently than that.

And court insiders tell FOX Undercover only Spanish speaking interpreters are demanding to use the team approach.

"You don't have two for any other languages. What kind of discrimination is this? What about the Croatians?" asked Barbara Anderson of Citizens for Limited Taxation.

Anderson calls Judge Locke a hero for speaking up in his courtroom.

"I think seeing a judge stand up to this, even in a moment of frustration sort of renews my faith in the judicial system. And I'd like to see more judges doing this," said Anderson.

The trial court would not let us talk to anyone from the Office of Court Interpreter Services.

In a statement the court spokesperson tells us, "For cases that are complex and lengthy in duration or that involve more than one party with limited or no English proficiency, a team interpreter approach may be used when resources allow -- currently, less than 1% of all cases that require interpreter services."

That from the same court spokesperson, Erika Gully-Santiago, who earlier told FOX Undercover's Mike Beaudet he was irresponsible to move forward with this story.

"Do you think it's irresponsible of us to do this story?" Beaudet asked Anderson.

"No. I think you stumbled on something that is probably like with almost all the stories you do, the tip of the iceberg," replied Anderson.

The trial court sent over a statement from Judge Locke. He did not comment on his scolding of the interpreters, but says court interpreters are among the hardest working of court staff  and that they play an essential, invaluable role in the court system.

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