Every year an increasing number of non-English speaking people move through South Dakota’s judicial system. These people require the services of language translation providers and are assigned translators by the counties that decide who translates for them. This leads to problems especially when the defendant is conversant in a language whose vocabulary does not have exact translation for certain judicial terms. Being experienced in a language does not automatically provide a language translator with expertise in translating judicial vocabulary.
Such problems have led a Supreme Court in South Dakota to form a committee that would be working towards creating a set of standards to serve as reference for courtroom interpreters across the state. However if such a system of statewide certification is adopted, it might create problems for smaller counties that do not have the resources to recruit and pay certified translators.
Translators need to be certified in order to work in federal courts. The process of certification can be difficult; for example Spanish interpreters require taking written and oral tests to get federal certification. These tests are organized regionally on an annual basis and can be taken one at a time, for example, this summer interpreters sat for the oral test and have the written test coming up next year.
Although the committee that is working on creating the standards for judicial translators is not responsible for providing suggestions on how law enforcement agencies might use translators; a committee member who is also a state attorney at Minnehaha County said that it might serve as a useful guide.