A pilot program in Sumner County General Session Judge James Hunter’s courtroom allows language interpreters to provide services from any location via an internet connection.
The first remote session was held for five cases this week. The interpreters worked via laptop using a video and audio feed of the court proceedings. The interpreter can see and hear the courtroom activities, while those in the courtroom can see and hear the interpreter. This equipment also provides audio that gives the attorneys or the judge the ability to switch to different modes of conversation during court hearings. This will allow for interpretations of confidential discussions between attorney and client; interpretations when witnesses are being questioned or the judge is talking to a party.
Additional equipment will allow for interpretation in the jail setting between client and attorney, and also in a designated area outside the courtroom for the interpreter to assist attorneys when consulting with clients and preparing for the hearing.
The program is expected to save travel time and costs for court interpreters and allow them to handle more cases in more jurisdictions.
Due to limited court credentialed interpreter resources available throughout the state of Tennessee, the Administrative Office of the Courts received funding from the Office of Criminal Justice Programs to launch the pilot project.
“There is an effort across the country to explore ways to share court interpreter resources and best practices,” said Tennessee AOC Court Services Director Mary Rose Zingale, who also serves as a liaison for the Council for Language Access in the Court to the Language Access Advisory Committee of the Conference of State Court Administrators.
The AOC has provided guidelines to help courts in determining which cases are appropriate for the remote program. Considerations include expected length of the proceedings. dockets, and number of defendants.
The pilot program is expected to last one year, with continuous monitoring of the process in the first three months and monthly monitoring through next September.